Republika Srpska (RS) Vice President Ramiz Salkic on Friday called on Bosniaks in RS, the Bosnian Serb entity, not to participate in a referendum on Sunday, and on those organising the vote not to open polling stations in areas with a Bosniak majority population in order to avoid incidents and acts of provocation.
Salkic told reporters in Banja Luka that Bosniaks in RS should not vote in the referendum organised by the entity authorities because it did not concern them and was unlawful. "The referendum was declared unconstitutional and if Bosnian Constitutional Court decisions are not respect, that is an automatic breach of the Dayton peace agreement, which also means jeopardising peace and instability."
He called on the RS authorities not to install polling stations in Bosniak-populated areas "because all Bosniak political parties, national institutions and eminent individuals have clearly said that this referendum isn't ours and that we don't want it. We will consider the setting up of polling stations in Bosniak areas as an act of provocation by the authorities."
Salkic called on international organisations in Bosnia to assume their share of the responsibility and ensure respect for the constitution and Bosnian laws.
The referendum will be held in the Serb-dominated part of Bosnia and Herzegovina on Sunday in which voters in that entity will decide whether they want January 9 to continue to be marked as an entity holiday, and referendum plans have caused the biggest political crisis in the country since the end of the war in 1995, eliciting warnings about possible armed conflicts.
On 15 July the Serb entity parliament decided to hold the referendum in response to a ruling by the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina of November 2015 under which marking January 9 as Republika Srpska Day is not in line with the country's constitution because it discriminates against Bosniaks and Croats living in that entity.
When adopting the decision on Republika Srpska Day, the Constitutional Court bore in mind that January 9 was evocative of a day in 1992 when a part of Serb deputies in the then parliament of the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina unlawfully declared a republic of the Serb people in Bosnia and Herzegovina requesting "territorial demarcation" in relation to Croats and Bosniaks and the integration of the Serb-dominated territory with Serbia. It was an act of secession that was a prelude to the war in the country.
Under the Constitutional Court ruling, Bosnian Serb authorities were to align the entity law on holidays with the ruling, however, the entity parliament decided, acting on a proposal from the ruling SNSD party led by Milorad Dodik, to organise a referendum, challenging the Constitutional Court's jurisdiction even though its rulings are final and binding.
The Bosnian Serb authorities are determined to hold the referendum even though the Constitutional Court on September 17 made a temporary ruling banning the referendum.
Polling stations are expected to open at 7 am and close at 7 pm Sunday. The results of the vote must be announced within 48 hours from the vote at the latest, but they are likely to be known already on Sunday evening.
The most influential Western countries have condemned plans for the referendum, repeatedly calling on Bosnian Serb authorities to cancel it.
Officials of Serbia, too, have distanced themselves from the vote.
Russian Ambassador Petr Ivantsov was the only one to support the Serb entity, saying that for his country it was a people's inalienable right to organise such a vote.
However, after a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Thursday, Dodik could not say that he had received unambiguous support for the referendum from Putin, noting only that the matter had not been discussed beyond the statement that it was a people's right.