SREBRENICA - Seventeen years after thousands of Muslims were massacred by Serb troops, the Bosnian city of Srebrenica is voting Sunday, October 7, to elect a new mayor from between Muslim and Serb candidates.
"This is not about the two ethnic groups," said Camil Durakovic, the Muslim candidate for mayor, Reuters reported.
"This is about two groups of the Bosnian citizens - those who recognize the genocide and those who deny it."
Voters were due to cast ballot Sunday to pick up a new mayor for Srebrenica for the first time since the 1995 massacre as part of the local election in Bosnia.
The vote pits Durakovic against Serb mayoral candidate Vesna Kocevic in Sunday's vote.
Durakovic, himself a massacre survivor, said Sunday's vote would be the most important one since the end of the war.
Srebrenica was a UN-protected Muslim enclave until July 11, 1995, when it was overrun by Serb forces.
More than 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered and buried in mass graves.
The Srebrenica massacre has been termed genocide by the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Tribunal.
Srebrenica is part of Bosnia's autonomous Serb Republic, whose president, Milorad Dodik, has repeatedly denied that genocide took place.
Srebrenica was overwhelmingly Muslim before the war, but refugee flight has tilted the balance and now Serbs form a majority of people living there.
Bosnia's international peace overseers intervened in previous elections to allow those Muslims who had not returned and were not registered in Srebrenica to still vote for the mayor and local council.
Reflecting a more hands-off approach, they have refrained from interfering this year, meaning many Muslims are disqualified from the vote.
Many Bosnian Muslims see the prospect of the Serb mayoral candidate winning as a threat to their efforts to keep the memory of the crime alive.
"That is something that is sacred for Bosniaks," Durakovic, who escaped the massacre as a 16-year-old boy, said, referring to Bosnian Muslims.
Muslims fear that the Serb candidate's victory would undermine their plans for the status of the memorial complex where more than 5,600 victims are interred.
"The memorial complex is a red line which must not be crossed."
Durakovic led a drive to register as many pre-war Srebrenica Muslims as possible.
He said each side now had around 6,500 voters.
Ordinary voters, Serbs and Muslims alike, spoke less of the past and more of needing jobs and prosperity.
The mayor and local council will be in charge of local economic development projects, education policy and care of schools and religious and cultural buildings, including the memorial complex.
"Change will come only with new generations, who will not be poisoned with hatred and who have not been through the war and suffering," said Miro Filipovic, a 58-year-old Serb locksmith.
Sixty-one-year-old Muslim carpenter Salih Jusic said he expected little to change."I'll vote for Camil (Durakovic), because he can fight to help the Bosniaks."