Moderate Bosnian candidate leads in presidential race

By Daria Sito Sucic

SARAJEVO (Reuters) – Moderate Bosnian candidate Denis Becirevic is leading the race for the Bosnian inter-ethnic tripartite presidency, preliminary results based on a partial vote tally showed on Monday.

Becirevic, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) member who was backed by 11 civic-minded opposition parties, won 55.78 percent of the vote over Bakir Izetbegovic, whose Bosnian nationalist (Bosnian Muslim) Party of Democratic Action (SDA) has been in power since the end of the war in 1996.

Izetbegovic, who according to the electoral commission obtained 39.31% of the votes, admitted defeat on Sunday evening.

Bosnian voters turned out to choose the country’s collective new presidency and legislators at the national, regional and local levels, in a contest between entrenched nationalists and economy-focused reformists.

Bosnia is going through its worst political crisis since the end of its war in the 1990s, caused by the separatist policy of the Serbian leaders and the threats of a blockade by the Bosnian Croats.

“It’s time for a positive turnaround in Bosnia,” Becirovic told reporters after declaring victory.

Electoral authorities said Monday morning that Borjana Kristo of the nationalist Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) won 51.36% of the vote for the Croatian member of the presidency and moderate Zeljko Komsic came second with 48.64% of the vote. votes, based on 54.73% of ballots counted.

On Sunday, Komsic declared victory after preliminary SDA results put him ahead of Kristo with 70.73% of the vote, based on 80% of the ballots counted.

Zeljka Cvijanovic, an ally of the pro-Russian Bosnian Serb independence leader, Milorad Dodik, won 51.65% of the votes counted in the race for the Serbian candidacy for the Bosnian presidency.

The commission said it would continue to update preliminary results daily starting Monday.

Bosnia comprises two autonomous regions: the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska and the Federation shared by Bosniaks, or Bosnian Muslims, and Croats, bound by a weak central government. The Federation is further divided into 10 cantons. There is also the neutral district of Brcko to the north.

The race for the post of autonomous president of the Republika Srpska between Dodik and Jelena Trivic, an opposition economics professor, still looked inconclusive, based on the parties’ rival results.

Komsic’s declaration of victory has been harshly criticized by Croatian political parties, who complain that the majority Bosniaks elect their member to the presidency. They threatened to block the formation of a regional government if Komsic won.

But barely an hour after the polls closed, Bosnia’s international peace monitor imposed changes to the electoral law, imposing strict release mechanisms and deadlines to safeguard the functioning of the Federation.

The election commission said turnout as of 7 p.m. (1700 GMT) was 50%.

(Additional reporting by Reuters TV and Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Jan Harvey, Alexander Smith, Nick Macfie, Diane Craft and Sam Holmes)

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