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Bosnian election campaign ends

bosnia September 12, 1996
Web posted at: 11:20 p.m. EDT (0320 GMT)

From Correspondent Christiane Amanpour

PALE, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNN) -- Bosnians came by bus, they came on foot, wending their way by the tens of thousands past war graves and into a giant Sarajevo stadium to attend a rally for Bosnia's majority-Muslim ruling party on Thursday.

Thursday is the official last day of campaigning before Bosnia's first nationwide elections since the end of the war are held Saturday. The Bosnian candidates are required to maintain a campaign-free period for 48 hours before the elections.

izetbegovic

The Muslim-led ruling party in Bosnia had threatened to boycott this election, fearing that it could seal the partition of their country. Bosnia's rulers say they will go ahead with the September 14 vote, now that the international community has promised that it will not allow Bosnia to splinter into ethnically-based states.

"We'll have to trust America. I hope we're not making a mistake," Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic said at the Sarajevo rally.

Serbs hope for independence

rally

Over the hill in Pale, the Bosnian Serb stronghold, the ruling party there held its last rally. Biljana Plavsic, their presidential candidate, stepped up in July after Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic was forced to step down.

The election in Bosnia is not about 'the economy, stupid,' education or unemployment. It is about what shape Bosnia will take as it enters the next century, and beyond.

For Muslims, the election is a battle for the survival of Bosnia as a single state, while for the Serbs the elections are a way of achieving their wartime aim of breaking away and forming an independent nation.

plavsic

At the Pale rally, people didn't seem to mind that their other needs were not being discussed. "I don't know," said Milorad, a Bosnian Serb. "We just want our own state."

After months of calling for an independent Serb state, political leaders have now been reprimanded and fined for violating the Dayton accords which calls for a unified Bosnia.

"There will be no secession. Secession is not an option; secession is not in the cards," said peace coordinator spokesman Colum Murphy.

So at this last rally, Serb leaders veiled their remarks. Railing against outside pressure was left to some high octane guests, including one Sister Angelina, who challenged journalists to tell the truth about Serb suffering, and invoked a curse against Serb detractors. (18 sec/170K AIFF or WAV sound) icon

Once the entertainment was over, Serb political leaders made their first public plea for calm at the polls, eager now for the election to pass off without a hitch and finally win them the stamp of international approval.

Even if the elections go off peacefully, as leaders on all sides hope they will, the real work will come after the elections, in making joint institutions work together. It will take the continued commitment of all parties involved for at least the next two years before any real progress is expected to be seen.

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