Bosnian Serbs pass illegal 'holiday' referendum
Over 99 percent of voters back Jan. 9 as Republika Srpska 'Statehood Day', fuelling fears of independence push from Bosnia
Serbs in Republika Srpska -- one of two entities making up Bosnia and Herzegovina -- overwhelmingly passed Sunday’s controversial referendum on a “national holiday” in defiance of Bosnia’s highest court.
In results released on Monday, over 99 percent of voters in the Serb-majority territory voted to make Jan. 9 “Statehood Day” – fuelling fears the referendum could be a first step towards seeking independence from Bosnia, a country torn apart by violent ethnic conflict in the 1990s.
Bosnia’s Constitutional Court last November ruled that such a holiday would discriminate against the country’s Muslim Bosniaks and Catholic Croats, as it falls on a Serbian Orthodox Christian holiday.
The Peace Implementation Council -- an international body set up to oversee the 1995 Dayton peace deal in Bosnia -- earlier urged Republika Srpska to halt the referendum.
Final preliminary results from Sunday’s poll were released on Monday. The Republic Commission, which administered the referendum, said around 680,000 people out of a total electorate of 1.2 million voted 99.81 percent in favor of establishing the holiday.
A final report on the referendum will be submitted to the National Assembly of Republika Srpska; the results will be published within 30 days in the entity’s Official Paper.
President of Republika Srpska Milorad Dodik addressed a crowd in Pale town on Sunday, saying the referendum opened a new page in their "glorious history". Dodik also described Republika Srpska as a "state".
"Republika Srpska is a state. I have learned that there are three main criteria to call something a state; territory, effective government and a population that wants a state. What is missing in Republika Srpska? Nothing," said Dodik.
However, Republika Srpska’s Bosniak Vice President Ramiz Salkic on Sunday urged the Prosecutor's Office and the High Representative, Austria’s Valentin Inzko, to implement sanctions for the “disrespectful” referendum which ran in defiance of the Constitutional Court in Sarajevo.
"In this entity [Republika Srpska], there are people who are preventing the Dayton Peace Agreement implementation because they prevented the implementation of decisions of the [Bosnian] Constitutional Court," Salkic said.