Almost 5,800 polling stations in Bosnia-Herzegovina opened their doors today, at 7 am (5.00 GMT), so that some 3.4 million citizens with voting rights elect the three members of the Presidency, and the deputies of the Central Parliament and the two autonomous parliaments.
The voters can deposit their ballot until seven o'clock in the afternoon, in those elections in which the president of the autonomous Serbo-Bosnian entity and the assemblies of the ten cantons that make up the Muslim-Croat Federation, the other component of the country, are also elected.
Approximately 7,500 candidates from 53 parties and 36 coalitions, as well as 34 independents, run for the elections.
They are the eighth elections since the end of the war, which from 1992 to 1995 left some 100,000 dead.
The nationalist discourse and divisions that have marked post-war Bosnian politics, and slowed down reforms, have also dominated this election campaign.
For the three posts of the Bosnian Collegiate Presidency, the country's collegial leadership, – reserved for one Muslim, one Serb and one Croatian – there are 15 candidates.
The candidate with more options for the Muslim post of that leadership is Sefik Dzaferovic, of the nationalist Democratic Action Party (SDA), the largest formation among Muslim Bosnians.
In the campaign, the Croat nationalist Dragan Covic, leader of the Croatian Democratic Union BiH (HDZ BiH), has provoked tension, by demanding to separate the Muslim and Croatian votes in the Federation.
Analysts believe that this position may cause part of the Muslims to vote for their opponent, the center-left Zeljko Komsic of the Democratic Front (DF), which advocates a concept of a country of citizens and not of ethnic groups.
There is also tension between the Bosnian Serb candidates, especially between the nationalist Milorad Dodik, president of the autonomous republic of Serbia, the Republika Srpska, and the moderate Mladen Ivanic, current member of the State Presidency.
In the Republika Srpska itself, a tough dispute for the local presidency is expected between the current prime minister, Zeljka Cvijanovic, a collaborator of Dodik, and Vukota Govedarica, leader of the moderate Serbian Democratic Party (SDS).
The first preliminary results are not expected until several hours after the closing of the polls.