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Bosnia and Herzegovina

Srebrenica on edge as Serb candidate declares mayoral victory

Twenty-one years after ethnic Serbs killed thousands of Muslims in Srebrenica, the town looks poised to elect a Serb mayor. However, some media outlets have reported massive inconsistencies with the vote count.

Tensions were high in the city of Srebrenica on Monday as it looked more and more likely that the town in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina, known for the genocide of thousands of Muslims at the hands of ethnic Serbs, would now have a Bosnian Serb as mayor.

Mladen Grujicic was set to become the first Serb leader of the city since 1999. Although absentee votes had not yet been counted, he was far ahead of his Muslim opponent, incumbent Camil Durakovic. Grujicic said his election signaled that the people of Srebrenica "want changes."

At the height of the Bosnian war in 1995, the town became synonymous with tragedy after 8,000 Bosniak men and boys were murdered despite the presence of UN peacekeepers.

Srebrenica is located in the Republika Srpska, one of two constitutional entities (the other being the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina) that comprise Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

Although both ethnic groups are once again living side by side, local Muslims are by no means at ease with the prospect of a Serb as their mayor. This was exacerbated by overnight celebrations in the town square, complete with chants of "victory" and "Serbia."

Grujcic's ascendancy may not be smooth, however, as German news agency dpa reported later on Monday that massive irregularities had been found in the vote count.

Grujicic vows to honor massacre dead

But both Grujicic and the president of Serbia have said the election win would not diminish the significance of the genocide.

"I want us to turn the page in Srebrenica, to have a new life, to look ahead, to develop Srebrenica in all areas, to ensure that people stay here, regardless of their faith or ethnicity," said Grujicic.

He added that the town would continue to commemorate the mass murder, the worst in European history since the Holocaust.

Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic echoed Grujicic's sentiments. "A crime occurred at Srebrenica, and the fact that a Serb will lead the municipality does not mean that we in Serbia will forget what happened during the war," he said Monday.

From 1992-1995, Bosnia and Herzegovina was torn apart by a bloody ethnic conflict between ethnic Serbs, Croats and Bosniak Muslims.

More than 100,000 people died before a peace deal split the country into two semi-autonomous regions linked by a weakened central government in Sarajevo.

es/cmk (AP, AFP, dpa)