Organizers call Bosnia elections a success
September 14, 1997
Web posted at: 3:05 p.m. EDT (1905 GMT)
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNN) -- International
organizers declared weekend municipal elections in
Bosnia-Herzegovina a success, saying nationalist hard-liners
had failed to disrupt the process of democracy spelled out in
the Dayton peace accord.
David Foley, spokesman for the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which organized and monitored
the vote, said "nationalists beyond democratic forces" had
failed to prevent the vote and that turnout had been high.
"To those who say there is no progress in Bosnia, to those
who say that ethnic divisions are as deep as ever, today the
people of Bosnia have given their answer; they say think
again," Foley said.
But opposition parties and independent media in the Bosnian
capital Sarajevo said the vote was a "farce" since it was
dominated by Muslim, Serb and Croat nationalists.
Media reports accused Western organizers of striking deals
with nationalist parties in order to avoid a boycott.
Vote counting was under way, but results will not be known
for several days.
The OSCE said it was generally pleased with how the voting
went, despite several irregularities that had to be
A L S O :
Graphic: Facts and Figures on Bosnia Local Elections
20,000 candidates running
About 2.5 million people were registered to vote for the 136
municipal and district councils at stake in the country's two
autonomous territories -- the Muslim-Croat federation and the
Bosnian-Serb republic. About 20,000 candidates were
competing for 4,830 seats.
Although 91 political parties were registered, three
nationalist parties representing the Muslim, Croat and Serb
communities were expected to dominate -- the Muslim Party of
Democratic Action (SDA), the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ)
and the Serb Democratic Party (SDS).
Most voters were expected to cast their ballots along ethnic
lines, and political parties were able to estimate election
results simply by identifying Croat, Serb and Muslim names on
the registration lists.
Results could overturn strict ethnic divisions
Experts said hard-liners were afraid they might lose some of
the territories captured in the war because of the procedure
allowing voting by refugees where they used to live. Some
400,000 people cast absentee ballots, and about 35,000 others
were expected to actually cross into opposition areas to
Some election observers predicted the Croat nationalists
could lose in Drvar, Glamoc and Bosansko Grahovo -- towns
along the country's western border with Croatia. They were
predominantly Serb before the war but were captured by Croat
troops at the end of the Bosnian conflict.
|Local and district administrations in Bosnia-Herzegovina play a vital role in implementing the 1995 Dayton peace accord that ended the Balkan war. Police, for instance, help
guarantee freedom of movement so there can be interethnic
contact among citizens. Observers fear if the elections fail,
ethnic tensions could flare up again and escalate into
Nationalist hard-liners in the Serb Democratic Party could be
defeated in some eastern towns, including Srebrenica, which
fell to Serb forces amid a suspected massacre of thousands of
Muslim men in the war's worst atrocity.
The Muslim Party of Democratic Action and allied parties,
which represent the largest ethnic community, were well
placed to make inroads into territory that was "ethnically
cleansed" during the war.
Dayton accord hangs in the balance
The NATO-led international stabilization force, known as
SFOR, maintained a heavy presence and vowed to take "firm
action" against anyone who tried to disrupt the vote.
International envoys say the elections are key to furthering
the 1995 U.S.-brokered Dayton Peace Accord, which was
designed to help rebuild the country's multiethnic character
after the devastating 3 1/2-year war.
Under the agreement, Bosnia-Herzegovina is made up of the
Bosnian Serb Republic and the Muslim-Croat federation. There
is a multiethnic collective presidency, but much
administrative power lies with local authorities.
Correspondent Mike Hanna and Reuters contributed to this report.