High turnout in Bosnia election

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The Independent Online
Voters in Bosnia's first post-war elections picked through the complex ballot forms in bright sunshine yesterday. Despite international fears of traffic jams, disruption and violence, most of the country had voted peacefully by late afternoon.

The turnout was between 60 and 70 per cent according to Robert Frowick, mission chief of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is organising the elections. "That is a very high turnout, well beyond what any of us imagined," Mr Frowick said, adding that the polls were almost entirely free of abuse. Almost 3m people were eligible to vote for a national three-man presidency, a national parliament and assemblies in each half of Bosnia - the Muslim-Croat Federation, and the Srpska Republic - in an election expected to go almost entirely along ethnic lines.

For one group of voters, yesterday's poll offered a first chance to return to the home towns they fled in 1992, when the separatist Serbs launched their war of independence. "I'm excited, I've seen many former friends and colleagues," Sulejman Hodzic, an agricultural engineer, said as he waited outside a polling station in the Serb-held town of Foca. He and 83 fellow Muslims came by bus from the government-held enclave of Gorazde to vote in their pre-war cantons. "After four and a half years, I'm back," said Sefko Termiz, hailing a Serb policeman he knew, to the latter's discomfort. "We can't see much of the town," he said, pointing to distant roofs. "I'm disappointed the Serbs haven't spoken to me."

Mr Frowick said that according to preliminary figures an estimated 20,000 Muslims had crossed the ethnic divide to vote in their former homes in the Bosnian Serb republic, while some 4,000 Serbs had crossed in the other direction to vote in the Muslim-Croat federation.

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