The turnout in Sunday's referendum in the Bosnian Serb entity, Republika Srpska (RS) was 55.75% and 99.91% voted "yes", the RS commission implementing the referendum said on Monday.
Based on the results, the commission established that the referendum was valid because a majority of citizens, 677,000, voted "yes", commission chairman Sinisa Karan told a press conference in Banja Luka, adding that these were preliminary data and that the final results would be adopted by the RS parliament.
Despite the Sarajevo-based Constitutional Court's recent ban on this plebiscite, voting took place at 1,885 polling stations in the entity and 28 abroad, with 680,116 people exercising their voting right. The referendum question was whether they supported that January 9 should continue to be celebrated as RS Day, although the Constitutional Court ruled last year that the date is unconstitutional as it discriminates against Croats and Bosniaks as constituent peoples in the entity.
According to a census compiled by the RS authorities for the referendum, there were 1,219,395 eligible voters, but the credibility of the census is doubtful as, according to the latest population census in Bosnia and Herzegovina, RS has 1,228,423 inhabitants.
Karan said the census compiled by the entity authorities was "the most relevant" and more precise than the Bosnian population census and voter register. "Those are citizens who, as of July 15, have residence in RS and are automatically eligible to vote," he said.
Bosniak officials in the RS authorities insist the data on the outcome of the referendum are forged, claiming that voting was irregular and that everything was done to make the turnout seem above 50%, which is required by law for a referendum to be declared valid.
RS Vice President Ramiz Salkic, who represents Bosniaks, said the referendum failed because of an insufficient turnout. "The results they are publishing are a matter of stretching and framing," the Fena news agency quoted him as saying. "It's all a big farce and a fraud," he said, calling on the international community to take resolute action against the organisers because the Bosnian Constitutional Court banned the referendum.
Salkic warned that, as soon as the results were announced, RS President Milorad Dodik and other Serb officials announced the continuation of the entity's separation from Bosnia. "They announced it clearly last night in their statements, that this is the first referendum and there will be more... Both domestic institutions and the Office of the High Representative must strongly react so that this separatism is stopped."
Dodik on Sunday evening expressed satisfaction with "the success of the referendum" and stated that one should not rule out a similar plebiscite to be held on the status of the entity when time ripened for such a move. Dodik said at a news conference that Sunday's referendum "has been about the Day of RS and not about its status."
An angry Dodik answered the question whether there would be a referendum on the secession of the entity, claiming that "when the time comes, we will talk about that topic." He also underlined that this was also regulated in the programme of his SNSD party.
Bosnia and Herzegovina's collective presidency chairman, Bakir Izetbegovic, who is the Bosnian Muslim leader, said on Sunday that 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".
Izetbegovic said the referendum was a notorious example of violation of the Dayton peace accords and that the Bosnian judicial authorities as well as the international community should respond to this insistence of the Bosnian Serb authorities on the referendum.
He also described Dodik's behaviour as irrational stubbornness.
Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) president Andrej Plenkovic, who is the Croatian PM-Designate hopeful, said recently he was against the disputed referendum on the entity's holiday because it could lead to a referendum on the Serb entity's secession from Bosnia and Herzegovina.
"I'm against that referendum. It could be the first step towards a referendum that would lead to the separation of RS from BiH, which isn't good. That's also the uniform position of the international community, Croatia and all key political stakeholders in the country," Plenkovic told reporters a few days ago.
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