Bosnian Serbs defy courts, approve controversial holiday

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sept. 26 (UPI) — Bosnian Serbs overwhelmingly approved a referendum for a statehood holiday, after courts banned the proposal.

Initial results of Sunday’s referendum indicated more than 99 percent of voters approved the proposal, which calls for a Jan. 9 holiday. The vote was conducted in Republika Srpska, or the Serb Republic, a heavily Serb region in the republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The country’s Constitutional Court ruled the holiday is discriminatory against non-Serbians.

The holiday falls on the anniversary of the 1992 declaration of independence of Bosnian Serbia, which launched a civil war of genocide and ethnic cleansing in which more than 100,000 people were killed.

“Today we have written one more page of our glorious history and shown that we are people who fight for freedom,” Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik said Sunday in the town of Pale. “This was more than playing heroes, more than anger, this was for the people. That is why I have to announce here that today’s referendum has succeeded.”

Bakir Izetbegovic, chairman of the Bosnian presidency, called the referendum an “illegal act.”

Bosnian politicians called for a boycott of the referendum, which they believe could be a precursor to secession of Serbia from Bosnia and Herzegovina. About 1.2 million people were eligible to vote, and early estimates said 55 to 60 percent of the voting population went to the polls.

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