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Next test for Bosnia: Enforcing election results

voting September 15, 1997
Web posted at: 5:00 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT)

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNN) -- As votes were being counted in Bosnia-Herzegovina's elections Monday, organizers said the implementation of the results could be a daunting task and would likely determine the region's political stability.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which had organized and monitored the weekend polling, declared the vote a success. OSCE spokesman David Foley said that 70 percent of the electorate had participated in elections for over 100 municipalities.

Even though final results will not be known until later in the week, it was generally expected that the votes had been cast along ethnic lines -- an assessment that prompted local media to criticize the poll as a farce since hard-line nationalist parties were merely trying to shore up their power.

"The acid test of the election will be implementing the results," said Duncan Bullivant, spokesman for the international High Representative to Bosnia-Herzegovina, Carlos Westendorp.

Duncan Bullivant on the election....
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A similar statement came from Kris Janowski, spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees: "Essentially the implementation of the election results is possibly the last and biggest chance to piece the country back together as one in a multi-ethnic sense and to really ensure the return of refugees and displaced people."

The restoration of such multi-ethnic pre-war communities was the underlying idea of the 1995 Dayton peace accord, which formally ended the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, and under which the weekend elections took place.

But the situation in the Bosnian city of Drvar, for example, highlighted the problems that the implementation of multi-ethnic democracy could entail.

Before the war, Drvar was mainly populated by Bosnian Serbs. During the armed conflict they were expelled when Croats took control of the city. But during the weekend elections, many Serbs returned to cast their ballots in their former home city, in line with the complex voting procedures.

Once all votes are counted in Drvar, the result might well be that it will have a mixed-ethnic city council.

The OSCE said newly elected municipal governments would have to meet strict criteria before the OSCE certified them between now and the end of the year.

If a municipal council failed to meet within 30 days after final voting results were announced, the OSCE could dissolve the council.

Westendorp, the international High Representative to Bosnia, said authorities that refused to abide by election results could lose out on economic aid.

Political analysts said the election might produce "governments-in-exile" with municipal councilors unable to enter towns which are now controlled by rival ethnic authorities.

Correspondent Jacki Shymanski and Reuters contributed to this report.


Related stories:

Related sites:

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  • NATO - official site
    • Operations IFOR & SFOR provides information relating to NATO's role in bringing peace in the Former Yugoslavia
  • OSCE: Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina - providing information about the OSCE's activities, particularly as they relate to the elections scheduled for September 14, and to assist refugees to vote
  • Croatia/Bosnia-Herzegovina - from CARE
  • BosniaLINK - the official Department of Defense information system about U.S. military activities in Operation JOINT GUARD, the NATO peacekeeping mission in Bosnia

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