Anger in Srebrenica as recount confirms election victory for Serb mayor

Anger in Srebrenica as recount confirms election victory for Serb mayor
By Denitsa Koseva in Sofia October 12, 2016

Bosnia & Herzegovina’s central election body confirmed the victory of the Serb candidate for mayor of Srebrenica, Mladen Grujicic, on October 11 after completing a recount of votes in the municipality. 

Grujicic’s victory, which has raised concerns about the legitimacy of the results, means the city will get its first non-Muslim mayor since the end of the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, when more than 8,000 Muslims were killed by the Bosnian Serb Army of Republika Srpska in the Srebrenica massacre.

The controversial result has been strongly opposed by the Bosniak Party of Democratic Action (SDA), a member of the ruling coalition at the national level and in the Muslim-Croat Federation, which wants the results of the October 2 local elections in Srebrenica to be cancelled due to what it says are violations of the integrity of the election process.

Although Grujicic’s victory has not yet been officially declared and some votes from abroad still have to be counted, the latest data on the Central Election Commission (CIK) website showed that he is leading with 63.82% support based on local votes counted. According to the results, the current mayor Bosniak Camil Durakovic gained only 35.98% support, and the final votes from abroad are not expected to change the situation. 

The result is puzzling since most people in Srebrenica are believed to vote along ethnic lines, and the 2013 census showed the population is 54% Bosniak and 45% Serb.

Durakovic has claimed that there was something wrong with the preliminary results as the number of votes supporting his opponent was 1,000 more than the number of votes supporting Serb candidates for the city council. His claim was followed by a recount in the town and ended with the final recount by the CIK.

The SDA says the process was compromised as special police forces were present during the recount by Srebrenica’s local election committee, which was in violation of Bosnia’s election legislation.

Following the announcement of the results by CIK, Durakovoc was quoted by Klix.ba as saying that votes from abroad have not yet been counted and they can still change the situation. “This [the counting of votes from abroad] is still going on and I think that nothing is final yet. We shall wait for CIK to confirm the final results,” Durakovic told media as quoted by Klix.ba.

However, Grujicic is certain that the votes from abroad cannot change the situation, as the CIK’s data showed that he is leading by around 2,000 votes.

“The mathematics showed that I have an advantage that cannot be reached. I expect also a certain number of votes sent via mail, around 200, and when it comes to ballots from absentees, I think that I will not have a single vote,” Klix.ba quoted Grujicic as saying. 

Grujicic sought to reassure citizens of Srebrenica, the site of the worst wartime massacre, that he would respect other ethnic groups, and said he would go to pay respect to the victims of the Bosnian war.

“I am absolutely ready to go to Potocari [a village near Srebrenica where the bodies of the Srebrenica genocide victims are buried]. I have accepted this candidacy because I wish that Srebrenica will move forward. I respect all the victims and sympathise with them. In Srebrenica virtually every family has lost someone, including me,” Grujicic said. He added that no changes will be made to the commemoration of the Srebrenica massacre anniversary on July 11.

Despite his pledges that the town will continue living in peace, The Women of Srebrenica, an organisation of women who lost loved ones in the massacre, said that the election of the Serb candidate has worried the families of victims.

“The current situation reminds us of Srebrenica in 1995. A lot of unrest was brought to the families of victims. We have realised that there were a lot of irregularities in the local elections and now we will try every possible way to submit an initiative to the respective authorities to repeat the election in our municipality,” Klix.ba quoted Esfea Alic, member of The Women of Srebrenica, as saying.

It was not clear when CIK will announce the final results from the local elections in Bosnia. Preliminary results showed that nationalist parties gained most of the votes. In the Federation SDA claimed to be the biggest party, winning at least 33 mayoral posts, including in eight of the nine cantons in Bosnia’s capital Sarajevo. In the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska, the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) led by the entity’s President Milorad Dodik, seems to have won more than 30 of the mayoral posts, one third more than in the previous elections in 2012.

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