SARAJEVO (AFP) — The ruling Croat, Muslim and Serb nationalist parties led in the race for mayors in most municipalities in the country's local elections held on Sunday, the electoral commission said.
More than three million Bosnians were eligible to elect 140 mayors and local councils in 149 municipalities after a campaign marked by widespread nationalistic rhetoric and a near-absolute neglect of local issues.
The Independent Union of Social Democrats (SNSD) of Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik scored the best with their candidates elected mayors in 32 municipalities, head of the electoral commission Suad Arnautovic told reporters.
The result represents a major strengthening of the party on local level since in the last local elections, held four years ago, when it won in 15 municipalities.
The Muslim nationalist Party of Democratic Action (SDA) was the most successful in the Muslim-Croat Federation by winning in 28 municipalities, Arnautovic said.
The Party for Bosnia-Hercegovina, led by the Muslim chairman of Bosnia's tripartite presidency Haris Silajdzic, won in four towns only.
The nationalist Croat Democratic Union (HDZ) scored the best in mainly Croat municipalities by winning posts of mayors in 15 towns.
Multi-ethnic Social Democrats won in nine municipalities with their mayors being re-elected in the northern town of Tuzla and in two out of four Sarajevo municipalities.
The result are partial and preliminary, Arnautovic stressed, adding that results from 25 municipalities have not yet reached the commission's headquarters.
The commission did not provide the percentage of the votes counted nor results for municipal councils.
The final results have to be announced within the next 30 days.
Turnout was 55 percent, higher than in previous 2004 local elections, and higher than analysts predicted.
In rural areas turnout was rather high while in cities it was slightly over 40 percent.
Since the 1992-1995 war, Bosnia consists of two semi-independent entities -- the Muslim-Croat Federation and the Republika Srpska. They are linked by weak central institutions while each has its own government.
The election campaign reflected the tense political situation since the 2006 general elections which propelled into office two key figures -- Silajdzic and Dodik.
Their once-moderate parties are now seen as the most hardline in the ruling coalition that also includes Croat and Muslim nationalist parties that led the 1992-1995 war.
The country is still recovering from the devastating conflict that left at least 100,000 killed and displaced 2.2 million -- over half the population.
Under the peace deal, foreign peacekeepers have been deployed here to provide security and a representative of the international community supervises implementation of its civilian aspects.
But the numbers of foreign troops have been gradually reduced as security improves.
On Wednesday, European Union defence ministers backed a plan to phase out the EU's peacekeeping operation in Bosnia but set no date for doing so. The EU Force (EUFOR) currently has 2,100 troops deployed here.
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