Republika Srpska referendum: Live Blog
 
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Republika Srpska referendum: Live Blog

Stay tuned for all the latest developments as Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity votes in a controversial referendum on its ‘statehood day’, defying a ban by the country’s Constitutional Court.

  • Voting for the disputed referendum in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s mainly Serb entity Republika Srpska kicked off at 7am this morning.

    The ballot papers at nearly 1,900 polling stations ask RS citizens whether they support the celebration of RS’s national day on January 9.

    Residents in the mostly Bosniak village of Kula, in the municipality of Gacko, blocked a polling station this morning, according to RTRS TV. Most polling stations, though, have so far reported no problems.

    By 9am, 4.96 percent of registered voters in the northeastern city of Bijeljina had turned out, according to RTRS, with 5,258 voters casting their ballots in the first two hours.

    In total, just over 1.2 million are said to be registered to cast a ballot.

    The plebiscite has been banned by the country’s Constitutional Court which ruled that it discriminated against non-Serbs, since January 9 is the day in 1992 that Bosnian Serbs declared independence from Bosnia. That event helped trigger the bloody war of 1992 to 1995. 

    Condemned by Western diplomats, analysts are concerned that the referendum violates the Dayton Agreement that ended the war and that it is a test balloon for a vote on RS secession.

    However, the Russian ambassador to Bosnia has spoken out to support it.
  • Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik has cast his ballot in the northern town of Laktasi, urging others to do the same. He told assembled media that people he had met spoke of their joy at voting in the referendum.
  • According to RTRS TV, the president of RS's referendum commission Sinisa Karan has announced turnout up to 9am of 6.31 percent, which represents 77,015 eligible voters. 

    The highest turnout seen so far, at 11.99 percent, was in the northeastern municipality of Sekovici. In Banja Luka, 7.48 percent of registered voters had come out to cast their ballot by 9am.
  • A voter casts her ballot in the eastern town of Srebrenica. Photo: Anadolu

  • The referendum was banned in Brcko District, so RS citizens who wished to vote were advised to go to polling stations in two nearby municipalities in RS.

    Serbian daily Blic reported that authorities provided free buses every hour and a half.​

  • President of Republika Srpska Milorad Dodik has called today a solemn and important day, according to local media.
  • Dragan Cavic, former RS president and current head of the National Democratic Movement, has insisted the referendum is legal and that the Constitutional Court's ban was politically motivated.
     
    Referring to talk about possible prosecutions over the banned referendum, Cavic is quoted by Serbian daily Blic saying: "Generally, I am not interested in stories about possible sanctions after the referendum."
  • RS citizens abroad took to Twitter to post about voting today. This tweet says: "#referendum in Linz (Austria)."
  • Serbian member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Mladen Ivanic turned out to vote in Banja Luka. Local press reported him saying he hoped that after tonight, it would be possible to focus on important things, "not humiliating each other".
     
    Photo: Anadolu
     
    Photo: Anadolu
     
  • Republika Srspka Vice President Ramiz Salkic has reportedly called for calm among Bosniaks living in the mainly Serb-dominated entity, because after today's vote is over everybody will have to continue to live together.
     
    "It is clear this is an unconstitutional referendum," local media quoted him saying, later adding: "All this will pass, and certainly will not have a significant impact on our lives here. We will continue to fight for our rights."
     
    He said he believed an earlier incident in the small village of Kula in which residents blocked a polling station was a sign that Bosniaks feel imposed upon.
     
  • 1,001 Republika Srpska citizens living in Serbia have turned out to vote, according to RS news agency Srna. Highest turnout was in Belgrade, where 441 people cast their ballot.
  • RS Prime Minister Zeljka Cvijanovic turned out to vote, saying it had been a successful vote, reports RS news agency Srna.
  • Sinisa Karan, who leads RS's referendum commission, told a press conference that turnout by 11am was 17.68 percent, representing 215,861 voters. In Banja Luka, 18.53 percent have cast their ballots.
  • According to local media, the RS Interior Ministry has announced that everything is going smoothly with no serious incidents. 
     
    This morning residents in the village of Kula, in Gacko municipality, blocked a polling station. The village is mostly inhabited by Bosniaks.
  • According to Srna, an RS news agency, the Ministry of Interior in RS has issued a ban on the transport of explosives within the entity until midnight tonight. It has also barred lorries of over 3.5 tonnes from RS roads.
  • This tweet reports large queues in the municipality of Donji Zabar as people wait an hour to cast their vote. 
     
    The referendum has been barred in the Brcko District, so those eligible to vote have been encouraged to visit polling stations in two nearby municipalities. Donji Zabar is one of them. RS authorities have reportedly provided free transfers by bus for those wishing to vote.
  • So far, turnout figures announced by RS authorities have been a touch stronger than those in Bosnia's presidential election of October 2014. 
     
    By 11am in that election, turnout was 14.2 percent across the whole country, and 16.2 percent in Republika Srpska. 
     
    Today's referendum has seen 17.7 percent of the 1.2 million eligible RS citizens cast their votes by 11am. 
     
    The next press conference to announce turnout is set for 2pm.
  • Srna news agency reported queues to vote of up to 50 metres in the Serbian city of Novi Sad. RS citizens living abroad are able to vote in Serbia, Russia, Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and France.
  • The latest turnout results are out. Local media report that 372,280 people showed up to cast ballots before 1pm - that's 30.48 percent of registered voters. The highest figure was seen in the eastern municipality of Kalinovik, where the figure was 50.91 percent.
     
    Local media report that President of the National Assembly of RS, Nedeljko Cubrilovic, has spoken out to say that tensions over the referendum - which has been banned by the country's Constitutional Court - are unnecessary and that sanctions will only worsen the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. 
     
    RS President Milorad Dodik earlier today said that peace was prevailing in the mostly Serb-dominated entity and that he expected no unpleasant incidents today. Dodik, too, scoffed at the prospect of sanctions. 
     
    "If anybody wants to arrest somebody, let them arrest the entire referendum," he said, according to news website Klix.ba.
     
    In the meantime, youth activists in Sarajevo expressed their concern over the increasing warlike rhetoric that has been associated with the referendum in a petition on Change.org.
     
    Called the Sarajevo Declaration of Peace, it says the main priority for any policy in Bosnia should be keeping the peace.
     
    "Every person and every group should have the right to choose their own customs, language, faith, loyalty and holidays, but with full respect for others and without offending or limiting any other individual or collective in their rights," says the petition.
     
    Casting a ballot. Photo: Anadolu
     
  • Mayor of the eastern town of Srebrenica, Camil Durakovic, who opposes the referendum, has told local media it is only a "small survey" and said the estimated 700,000 euro cost to the entity budget is a heavy price to pay.
     
    Mayor of Srebrenica Camil Durakovic. Photo: Anadolu
     
  • RTRS TV reports that turnout at four polling stations in Austria by 1pm was about 1,200 people, according to head of the RS representative office in Vienna, Mladen Filipovic.
  • The president of Republika Srpska's Socialist Party, Petar Djokic, has hailed today's referendum as an example of freedom of expression, adding that it was an achievement in democratic development and maturity.
     
    According to local media, he said RS citizens had been "forced" to act to protect their right to their public holiday, "and I am convinced [the result] will be for January 9," he added.
     
    Others, though, expressed grave concerns about the vote on Twitter.
     
  • Turnout at 3pm was 39.65 percent, or 484,328 people, according to the referendum commission. The highest figure so far was seen in the western municipality of Kupres, at 64.66 percent.
     
    As a point of comparison, turnout in Bosnia's October 2014 general election by 3pm was 36.6 percent across the whole of the country, with 40.4 percent turnout in Republika Srpska.
  • The words of former RS President Blijana Plavsic have gained traction across regional media today.
     
    The former politician, who pleaded guilty in 2003 to a count of crimes against humanity and served a prison sentence, said she did not usually go out to vote for parties but that today's referendum was an act of defence. 
     
    "I think everyone knows this is an act of defence of RS," she said, adding that she had helped create RS. She also said she believed the matter was "not within the jurisdiction" of the Constitutional Court.
  • Vice president of NGO Women of Srebrenica Nura Begovic has called the referendum a blow to victims and their families, according to news website Klix.ba.
     
    Srebrenica, where more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys were massacred in 1995 by Bosnian Serb forces, now falls under RS territory. 
     
    "Today was very difficult. We know that all this is happening for election purposes because in this way, to call a referendum, Milorad Dodik collects political points," said Begovic, according to Klix.ba.
     
    She added that the Women of Srebrenica would never accept January 9 as RS's national day.
  • 150 RS citizens have voted in the referendum from Russia, according to press agency Srna. The RS's representative office in Moscow will be open until 8pm local time.
  • RS President Milorad Dodik has used an event for his party, the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), to speak up for the referendum in strong terms once again.
     
    He insisted at the event in the eastern town of Sokolac that it is not up to the chairman of the Bosnian tripartite presidency, Bakir Izetbegovic, to decide the birthday of Republika Srpska.
     
    Serbian daily Blic quoted Dodik saying: "We defend our day, the national day of the Republika Srpska, and do not bother anyone. The 9th of January has been a holy day for Republika Srpska for many years. We now affirm that it will not be up to Bakir Izetbegovic and foreigners to determine the date of creation and the birth of our Republika Srpska."
     
    Milorad Dodik earlier today. Photo: Beta
     
  • Fresh turnout stats have been released by RS authorities. According to them, turnout by 5pm was 51.17 percent, or 624,190 people. The highest turnout was recorded in the northeastern municipality of Donji Zabar, at 73.23 percent.
  • Serbian film director Emir Kusturica said the referendum on RS's national holiday is a crucial vote for the citizens of Republika Srpska.
     
    "It is not only a defence of Republika Srpska's holiday but also a defence of our culture and all that we could not give up - Andric, Njegos Kocic, Ducic, Beckovic, Popa Crnjanski, Dragoslav Mihailovic [Serbian writers] ... and many others," said Kusturica after voting in Visegrad.
     
    Filmmaker Emir Kusturica. Photo: Medija centar Beograd
     
  • Polling stations are now closing in the Republika Srpska referendum. They have been open since 7am.
     
    Head of RS's referendum commission Sinisa Karan said the day had gone off without any reported irregularities. Further reports on turnout will be made at 9pm, when the first indications of the result might also be known.
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina's collective presidency chairman, Bakir Izetbegovic, who is the Bosnian Muslim leader, said on Sunday that Bosnian Serb entity president Milorad Dodik and others engaged in the holding of the unlawful referendum on the entity's holiday would have to face the consequences of that "anti-constitutional and illegal act", Croatian HINA news agency reported.

    Izetbegovic said that the referendum held on Sunday was a notorious example of the violation of the Dayto peace accords.

    Izetbegovic told the press that the Bosnian judicial authorities as well as the international community should respond to this insistence of the Bosnian Serb authorities on the referendum.
  • The first results have just come in. Votes from just over 30 percent of polling stations have been counted (that's 154,019 votes) showing 99.8 percent in favour of "yes".
  • Turnout has been estimated at between 56 and 60 percent, according to referendum commission president Sinisa Karan.
  • After polling stations closed a triumphant Dodik addressed a crowd of more than a thousand at an election rally in the town of Pale for his party, the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, SNSD.
     
    According to local media, supporters cheered and sang as they awaited his appearance.
     
    “Today we have written one more page of our glorious history and we said that we are people who fight for freedom … for the rights of the Republic. I’m proud of the people of RS, proud of all of those who voted - and all those Serbs who did not come to referendum today should be ashamed.

    “This was more then playing heroes, more than anger, this was for the people. That is why I have to announce here that today’s referendum has succeeded,” said Dodik.
     
    After he spoke, fireworks were set off. A concert was planned for later on featuring the Serbian rock group Tropico.
     
    President of RS Milorad Dodik on stage. Photo: Anadolu
     
    Supporters. Photo: Anadolu
     
    Dodik addresses the crowd. Photo: Anadolu
     
    Crowds. Photo: Anadolu
     
  • Unnecessary referendum in Republika Srpska heightens nationalist tensions in Bosnia. One step could lead to another. balkaninsight.com/en/article/rep…

  • “January 9 has been confirmed [as Statehood Day holiday] by Republika Srpska citizens who were not ready to denounce that date,” Milorad Dodik, president of Republika Srpska, said tonight in the entity's parliament. 

    He said the Serbian people had demonstrated political maturity and determination, and that they will "respond in this way" to any attempt to humiliate Republika Srpska.

    Dodik was welcomed in Parliament by Zeljka Cvijanovic, the entity’s Prime Minister.
     
    Photo: Anadolu
     
  • According to the referendum commission president Sinisa Karan, partial results from 71.09 percent of votes returned showed 99.79 percent of voters casting their ballots in favour of "yes".
     
    Sinisa Karan addresses the press. Photo: Anadolu
     
  • Serbian news agency Tanjug reported that Faris Vehabovic, a Bosnian judge at the European Court of Human Rights, said after the referendum in Republika Srpska that the state Prosecutor's Office in Sarajevo must now take legal action against those who violated the constitution.
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