Bosnian Serbs Overwhelmingly Vote to Keep Banned Statehood Day
Voters in Bosnia-Herzegovina's entity of Republika Srpska have defied a ruling by the country's top court which bans celebrations in the region on January 09, according to local media.
In a referendum held on Sunday, an overwhelming 99.79% of voters have replied with a "yes" when asked whether or not to celebrate their annual "statehood" holiday, Balkan Insight reports.
“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," Republika Srpska's President Milorad Dodik is quoted as telling a crowd in the town of Pale.
Turnout is estimated at 56-60% among some 1.2 million eligible to vote.
Last year, Bosnia-Herzegovina's Constitutional Court banned the celebration of the "statehood day" on January 09, calling it "discriminatory" against citizens of the country who were not Bosnian Serbs.
The date is special to Republika Srpska as, 24 years ago on that date, Bosnian Serbs declared the foundation of its entity. However, non-Serbs in Bosnia have seen the development as one of the factors that triggered the devastating 1992-1995 war which claimed nearly 100 000 lives.
January 09 is also an Orthodox Christian holiday.
The poll was not backed by Serbia, which is seen as Republika Srpska's closest "ally".
Earlier, Dodik threatened to hold a referendum on secession in 2018.
Sunday's vote was "illegal and unconstitutional," Valentin Inzko, the High Representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina, is quoted by the BBC as saying.
The High Representative is an international official who oversees the country under the Dayton Agreement that ended the war in 1995. Under their mandate, officials holding that position are able to remove from office Bosnian politicians who threaten the observation of the agreement.
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