Pro-Russia Serb leader Milorad Dodik declared victory Sunday in the race to fill the Serb seat in Bosnia’s three-member presidency, deepening ethnic divisions in the country that faced a brutal war some 25 years ago.
Dodik said he was projected to win 56 percent of the vote in the election and his main opponent, Mladen Ivanic, 44 percent. The projection was made with 85 percent of ballots counted, he said.
“The people have decided,” Dodik said.
Preliminary official results are expected Monday. After polls closed, Dodik and Ivanic both said they were in the lead.
The presidency also has a Muslim and a Croat member. Dodik advocates eventual separation of Serbs from Bosnia. His election deals a blow to efforts to strengthen the country’s unity after the 1992-95 war.
The ballot was seen as a test of whether Bosnia will move toward integration in the European Union and NATO or remain entrenched in rivalries stemming from the 1992-95 war.
More than half of Bosnia’s 3.3 million eligible voters cast ballots, election officials said. Voters chose an array of institutions in Bosnia’s complex governing system, which was created by a 1995 peace accord that ended the war that killed 100,000 people and left millions homeless.
Election officials described the voting that took place as “extremely fair” despite several incidents.
The country consists of two regional mini-states — one Serb-run and a Muslim-Croat entity — with joint institutions in a central government. Along with the Bosnian presidency, voters were electing the Serb president and the two entities’ parliaments and cantonal authorities.
The campaign was marred by divisive rhetoric and allegations of irregularities that fueled tensions.