BANJA LUKA, Bosnia – An overwhelming 99.8 percent of voters declared their support for the Jan. 9 holiday of Republika Srpska Day during a referendum held Sunday in Bosnia’s predominantly Serb region, according to the regional government.
Watch a report from outside the Republika Srpska presidency on referendum day:
Bosnian Serbs supported their annual republic day in defiance of the Bosnian Constitutional Court, which slapped a ban on not only the holiday, but also on Sundays’ referendum. The Bosnian Serb leadership said the referendum was needed to counter the politicization and anti-Serb bias of the Constitutional Court, which includes international judges.
Critics, however, cast the vote as a test run for a referendum on secession from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik, who hailed Sunday’s vote as a victory, has threatened to call a referendum on secession.
Balkan Insight reports the referendum commission president said turnout Sunday was between 56 and 60 percent.
Of about dozen voters polled by FreeManPost, not one said he/she voted “no.” A couple people said they declined to vote and opposed the referendum, but the rest said they voted “yes” — in support of Republika Srpska Day — and all of their friends and relatives who voted did the same.
One Banja Luka woman told FreeManPost she was voting yes because Bosniaks and Croats are trying to take control of all of Bosnia and push the Serbs out.
“We need to stay united because the Bosniaks and the Croats are trying to kick us out. They are trying to make it all Bosnia,” she said.
Bakir Izetbegovic, the Bosniak member of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency, reportedly said Sunday that the international community would hold Republika Srpska accountable for conducting the referendum.