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Friday, 24 November, 2000, 01:46 GMT
Bosnian Serbs elect hardliner
Mirko Sarovic, SDS
Mirko Sarovic secured 50.1% of the vote
A hardline Serb nationalist, Mirko Sarovic, has won the presidency of the Bosnian Serb Republic.

His outright victory with 50.1% of the vote was announced by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which oversaw the 11 November election.

Final results in the other contests in Bosnia-Herzegovina confirm the continuing strength of the nationalist parties among all three of Bosnia's ethnic groups: Serbs, Croats, and Muslims.

Milorad Dodik
Prime Minister Dodik came a poor second
Mr Sarovic heads the Serb Democratic Party, founded by the ultra-nationalist and former Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic.

The SDS has been described by a Balkan think-tank, the International Crisis Group (ICG), as "a party designed to commit war crimes".

The SDS says it has changed since its ultra-nationalist days and that it has nothing to do with Mr Karadzic.

But the ICG says Mr Karadzic still controls the SDS from behind the scenes.

Western disappointment

Western-backed Prime Minister Milorad Dodik came a poor second in the election with 25.9%.

His pragmatic, pro-Western forces in the government have had to shoulder the burden for the Bosnian Serb republic's economic ills.

And as early results came through on Tuesday a UN spokesman expressed regret at the strong nationalist showing.

Undersecretary-General Jean-Marie Guehenno told the Security Council that the UN had hoped the elections would help to "consolidate a sovereign and multi-ethnic Bosnia-Hercegovina".

Nikola Poplasen
Nikola Poplasen was sacked by the UN
"Regrettably, this has not yet been fully achieved", he said.

Under the Dayton accord, Bosnia's UN protectorate under Austrian Wolfgang Petritsch has the right to dismiss office-holders that refuse to co-operate with the peace plan.

The last president elected by Bosnian Serbs, hardliner Nikola Poplasen, suffered this fate.

Mirko Sarovic, who was then vice-president, was not invited to replace him.

'Democratic victory'

Reaction to the result in Yugoslavia was more positive.

A spokesman for President Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia was quoted by the Bosnian Serb news agency SRNA as welcoming the nationalist victory.

"After all sorts of manipulation by the international community and the installation of the unelected authorities, the people of the Serb Republic have finally acknowledged the policy of the SDS," spokesman Milorad Jovanovic said.

"This is a victory for a patriotic and democratic policy."

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See also:

15 Nov 00 | Europe
Bosnia poll sparks UN regret
20 Oct 00 | Europe
Row over Kostunica's Bosnia visit
14 Oct 00 | Europe
Bosnia war: Main players
09 Oct 00 | Europe
Serbs shown war crimes film
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