Bosnian Serbs Vote to Keep National Day in 'Illegal' Ballot

Serbian Referendum Bosnia
Milorad Dodik, President of Republika Srpska, is pictured on an election poster ahead of a referendum on Statehood Day in Bosnia and Herzegovina, September 21. The referendum has stoked repressed ethnic tensions. Dado Ruvic/Reuters

Bosnian Serbs have voted to keep their national day in a referendum deemed illegal by the country's highest court, amid rising ethnic tensions.

Over 99 percent of voters in the autonomous Serb republic within Bosnia backed the January 9 "statehood day" holiday, Euractiv reported.

The constitutional court in Sarajevo, which ruled the holiday discriminated against the region's Bosniaks and Croats, had banned the referendum.

Serb Republic nationalist President Milorad Dodik said the vote would go down in history as the "day of Serb determination."

"I am proud of the people of Republika Srpska, of all those who came out and voted," Dodik said.

There are fears that the ballot could be the precursor to new calls for secession by the autonomous republic. The European Union called on the Serb Republic to cancel the vote, fearing instability.

Bosnia and Herzegovina was the frontline of a bitter ethnic war between 1992 and 1995. Western diplomats are therefore fearful of any issue that could reignite tensions between the country's different communities.