The Latest: Muslim candidate in Bosnia urges EU integration

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BANJA LUKA, Bosnia-Herzegovina — The Latest on Bosnia’s general election (all times local):

1:45 p.m.

The pro-Russian leader of Bosnia’s Serbs says he expects a “big victory” at Sunday’s election, which he said would be in the interests of the Serb mini-state in Bosnia.

Milorad Dodik said Sunday if he is elected to the three-person Bosnian federal presidency that would pave the way for “important tasks” to be carried out for Republika Srpska, the Serb-run part of Bosnia.

Dodik advocates more autonomy and an eventual separation of Serbs from Bosnia, which also has a Muslim-Croat regional government. The two regions were established in the peace accord that ended Bosnia’s bloody, divisive 1992-95 war.

Sunday’s vote is for all levels of governance.

Dodik, who must leave his position leading the Serb mini-state due to term limits, is a key Balkan ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. His victory would mean stronger Russian influence in the divided Balkan nation.

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1:15 p.m.

A Bosnian Serb opposition candidate for the three-person Bosnian presidency says he’s optimistic he will beat hardline, pro-Russian Serb leader Milorad Dodik in Sunday’s election race.

Mladen Ivanic, who currently holds the Serb seat in the joint presidency, said upon casting his ballot Sunday that “I wouldn’t run if I didn’t believe I could win. Of course I expect victory.”

Ivanic is from the opposition Alliance for Victory group, made up of several opposition parties, which hopes to deal a blow to Dodik’s long-ruling coalition in the part of Bosnia governed by Serbs.

Up for election are positions in both the Serb-dominated and Muslim-Croat regions. The complex network of institutions stems from the peace accord that ended Bosnia’s bloody 1992-95 war.

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11 a.m.

A leading Muslim candidate for Bosnia’s three-person presidency says he is confident of a victory and expects the country to move forward after the election.

Sefik Dzaferovic said upon casting his ballot Sunday “I expect massive support from all citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina.” He says Bosnia needs “stability, economic prosperity and (EU) integration.”

He says politicians in Bosnia must start working “as early as tomorrow … to form governments at all levels and begin fulfilling the above-mentioned goals.”

Dzeferovic is from the Muslim Party of Democratic Action, or SDA. If he wins, Dzaferovic will replace the party leader Bakir Izetbegovic in the Bosnian presidency that also has a Serb and a Croat member.

Bosnia consists of a Serb regional government and a Muslim-Croat one tied loosely by central institutions, including the presidency.

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8 a.m.

Bosnians were voting Sunday in a general election that could install a pro-Russian nationalist to a top post and cement the ethnic divisions of a country that faced a brutal war 25 years ago.

The ballot is seen as a test of whether Bosnia will move toward integration in the European Union and NATO or remain entrenched in rivalries stemming from the 1992-95 war.

Some 3.3 million people are eligible to vote for an array of institutions in Bosnia’s complex governing system, which was created by a peace accord that ended the war that killed 100,000 people and left millions homeless.

The country consists of a Serb regional government and a similar Muslim-Croat entity joined in a central government. Voters are casting ballots for the three-person Bosnian presidency, the Serb president, and the two entities’ parliaments and cantonal authorities.

The main focus is on the race for Bosnia’s three-member presidency, because of the candidacy of hard-line Serb President Milorad Dodik, who advocates eventual Serb separation from Bosnia. Dodik is a key Balkan ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his victory would mean stronger Russian influence.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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