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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

zetbegovic Leading Race for Presidency

SARAJEVO -- Bosnia's Moslem President Alija Izetbegovic on Tuesday led a race to head the country's new inter-ethnic presidency in elections sweeping wartime hardliners back to power with big majorities.

Izetbegovic, Serb leader Momcilo Krajisnik and Bosnian Croat candidate Kresimir Zubak built up unassailable majorities within their communities for the presidency's three seats.

With around half the votes counted from Saturday's elections, Izetbegovic was likely to have the highest individual score, which would give him the senior role in the presidency and make him effective head of state.

The voting confirmed that the challenge of more moderate candidates in all three ethnic groups had failed to make a significant impact.

Despite Krajisnik's reputation as a hardline Serb separatist, Western diplomats and Bosnian Serb sources said they expected him to cooperate in the new power-sharing government designed to reintegrate Bosnia after 43 months of war.

Izetbegovic had 404,435 votes compared with 250,361 for Krajisnik with roughly half of 109 municipalities reporting, according to returns counted by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE.

More Moslem than Serb votes had been tallied by mid-afternoon, but Krajisnik was handicapped in his bid for the main seat on the presidency by having a smaller electorate.

Moslems accounted for 44 percent of the pre-war population compared with 33 percent Serbs and 17 percent Croats.

The incomplete count gave Izetbegovic 80 percent of the Moslem vote while his former prime minister Haris Silajdzic had 13 percent.

Diplomats said Izetbegovic looked capable of fending off any late surge by Krajisnik because Silajdzic was doing more poorly than expected, averting a split of the Moslem vote.

Krajisnik hovered around 79 percent of the Serb vote while his more moderate rival Mladen Ivanic trailed with around 19 percent.

In the race for the Croat slot in the presidency, nationalist Kresimir Zubak was cruising to victory with 88 percent to 10 percent for moderate Ivo Komsic.

The chairman of the presidency will be Bosnia's chief representative in foreign relations but the tripartite body is to govern by consensus according to the Dayton peace agreement.

U.S. envoys, threatening indefinite international sanctions, wrung pledges from Serb SDS leaders last week to join Moslems and Croats in a federal governing structure.

Izetbegovic's SDA party, though Moslem nationalist in tone, professes support for restoring a tolerant multi-ethnic Bosnia.

Zubak's Croat nationalist HDZ party, which rules much of west Bosnia, opposes reintegration and could well gang up with the SDS against the SDA within the new joint government.

Results from voting for an inter-ethnic Bosnian parliament and regional Moslem-Croat and Serb assemblies were not expected from the OSCE, which supervised the elections, until later this week.