Srebrenica tension rises as Bosnian Muslims snub vote

Srebrenica tension rises as Bosnian Muslims snub vote
Srebrenica parties representing Bosnian Muslims have vowed to boycott local elections on Sunday as political tensions soar.
2 min read
20 February, 2021
Srebrenica massacre victims' relatives protest in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina [Anadolu]

Parties representing Bosnia's Muslim community in Srebrenica, the eastern town where they faced genocide in the 1990s, are vowing to boycott local elections Sunday as political tensions soar.

Sunday's vote is a repeat election after local authorities said the original vote in November, won by ethnic Serb parties, was marred by fraud.

Srebrenica Mayor Mladen Grujicic, an ethnic Serb in power since 2016, won around 70 percent of the ballots in the first vote.

But the result was scrapped after authorities found irregularities such as a person voting several times with different identity documents, and cases in which large numbers of ballots were found in polling sites before voting officially began. 

Now the parties of Bosnian Muslims - also known as Bosniaks - plan to boycott the new election because authorities will only order a re-cast of local ballots and not absentee votes. 

According to Bosniak politicians, many refugees living abroad since the war were unable to vote in November because they received their mail-in ballots too late.

"We have decided not to participate in these elections and invited people who support our political actions to do the same," said Camil Durakovic, a former mayor who was running as a candidate for the city council.

The tense situation could leave Srebrenica without elected representatives for the first time since it was rocked by violence during Bosnia's 1990s war.

Towards the end of the conflict in July 1995, Serb troops captured the area and massacred some 8,000 Muslim men and teenage boys in a matter of days. 

The killings were deemed a genocide by international justice, though Bosnian Serbs, including the outgoing mayor Grujicic, reject that label. 

Grujicic has accused rivals of putting pressure on the electoral commission to re-do the vote. 

"Some cannot accept that the situation in Srebrenica will change" and "that Bosniaks will also vote for a Serb candidate," he said. 

Srebrenica now lies in the Serb-dominated half of Bosnia, a legacy of the US-brokered peace deal that left lasting divides between Bosnia's Serb, Muslim and Croat communities.

According to the 2013 census, Srebrenica's population has fallen to just over 13,400, including 7,200 Bosniaks and 6,000 Serbs.

But even fewer people are believed to actually live full time in the impoverished city. 

Agencies contributed to this report.

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