Controversial nationalist Dodik sworn in as Bosnian-Serb president
After a disputed election victory Bosnian-Serb separatist Milorad Dodik has been sworn in as president of Republika Srpska, Bosnia’s ethnically Serb enclave, pledging to boost relations with Russia and China.
Dodik told the inauguration ceremony on Tuesday that Bosnian Serbs “have our Serbia, our Russia and our partners in Hungary, China” while Germany and the UK were working against the community’s interests.
Dodik was elected president of Republika Srpska on October 2 after serving as the ethnic Serb on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s tripartite presidency alongside a Bosniak and Croat representative.
Bosnian-Serb opposition parties protested in early November against the results, accusing the state election commission of ignoring vote-rigging in the election for the president and vice-president.
Opposition parties requested a recount, alleging widespread fraud at the polling stations and rallied in the enclave’s capital, Banja Luka, and filed court complaints requesting another poll.
“[Dodik’s rival] Jelena Trivic was brutally stolen from,” said Milan Radovic of the Serb Democratic Party. “We have to fight [to ensure] that such a brutal theft verified by an … institution should not happen ever again.”
Dodik faces western sanctions for advocating the separation of the Bosnian-Serb republic from Bosnia.
Russia backs Dodik, leading to suspicions across Europe that the Kremlin is trying to destabilise Bosnia and divert attention away from the invasion of Ukraine.
Bosnian-Serb separatism was key to the 1992-95 Bosnian civil war, which left more than 100,000 people dead and displaced millions and left a weak, divided, corrupt country.
The 1995 Dayton Peace Accords created the Serb and Bosniak-Croat enclaves within Bosnia.
Bosnia’s overall falling population is seen as evidence of the divided country’s deep problems.
Bosnia’s most recent census in 2013 registered an overall population of 3.5 million, a huge fall from the pre-war number.
There are fears the authorities have failed to grasp the scale of the population decline.
It is estimated that more than 500,000 Bosnians citizens left between 2013 and 2019 and an estimated 170,000 left last year.
The current population is estimated at around 2.7 million which is expected to have fallen below 2.5 million in next year’s census.
Milorad Dodik with his ally Vladimir Putin in 2016. Putin is accused of meddling in the former Yugoslavia republics to create instability. Picture credit: Wikimedia