Bosnia ruling parties call for snap election

AFP , Sunday 9 Feb 2014

Two parties in Bosnia's ruling coalition on Sunday called for early polls to defuse mounting anger over corruption and unemployment that has sparked violence not seen since the 1992-1995 war.

The move came as 1,000 people gathered in front of Bosnia's tripartite presidency building in downtown Sarajevo, demanding the resignation of rulers they blame for their economic woes.

The Social Democratic Party said in a statement it was necessary "to stop the violence, restore security for citizens and urgently organise early elections."

Bakir Izetbegovic, one of the nation's three presidents and leader of the Party of Democratic Action, joined the call for polls to take place before the scheduled October date.

"I believe that people want a change of power. I believe that within three months we should offer citizens a chance to choose who they trust, because it's obvious that this isn't working anymore," he told a local television.

Protesters took to the streets for the fifth day running Sunday but the gatherings were peaceful.

Several hundred people have been injured since Wednesday, when protests broke out in the northwestern town of Tuzla and turned violent before spreading to several other towns, including Sarajevo.

Protestors set fire to the presidency building and several other institutions, in scenes that brought back memories of the violence that tore the nation two decades ago.

The riots were triggered by anger over rampant corruption in the political class and its failure to reverse a downward economic spiral that means nearly one in two Bosnians is unemployed.

In Sarajevo Sunday, the protesters blamed their leadership for grinding poverty and demanded change across the board.

"We demand government changes at all levels," Belkisa Kovacevic, an unemployed woman in her 50s, told AFP in front of the presidency.

"We are hungry. Is it a sin to ask for a bread," she said.

The crowd then marched down the city centre to a police station to demand the release of 10 people arrested on Friday, when the Sarajevo violence peaked.

Most of those wounded in the unprecedented riots were police officers, according to emergency services.

The international High Representative for Bosnia, Valentin Inzko, even raised the prospect of sending in European Union soldiers if the unrest intensified.

"If the situation escalates, we will possibly have to think about EU troops. But not right now," he told the Austrian Kurier newspaper on Sunday.

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