Bosnia election fraud hidden by OSCE figures

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The Independent Online
The Balkan tradition of rigging elections has received a new lease of life from a most unexpected source - the Organisation of Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Apparently, in a belated and unconvincing effort to demonstrate that Bosnia's elections on 14 September were not riddled with fraud, the OSCE has changed its estimate of the size of the Bosnian electorate. The effect has been to conceal evidence that hundreds of thousands of ballots were illegally cast.

Before the elections, the OSCE put the total electorate at 2.92 million. But according to calculations supplied by a respected monitoring organisation, the International Crisis Group (ICG), about 259,000 Bosnian war refugees did not register to vote.

Another 381,000 who registered did not cast ballots. The maximum number of people who voted should, therefore, have been about 2.3 million.

However, according to preliminary final results issued last Monday, almost 2.62 million people cast ballots for Bosnia's three-man collective presidency. The OSCE abruptly announced that it was changing its estimate of the total Bosnian electorate to 3.2 million.

Even this would imply a turnout of 81.8 per cent in the presidential vote, well above the 74 per cent who voted in Bosnia's last pre-war election in 1990.

"A comparison of figures suggests the turnout on 14 September was a mathematical impossibility," the ICG said in a report. "We have no evidence to suggest [major] fraud, but the discrepancies cast serious doubt on the validity of the elections."

Western officials who closely followed the election said they estimated that at least 200,000 votes had been fraudulently cast. They said the perpetrators were officials and supporters of the ruling Muslim, Serb and Croat parties, who either stuffed ballot boxes or falsified counts in order to secure victory for their parties.

The Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA), Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) and Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) each scored thumping victories in the respective areas of Bosnia under their control.

In the Muslim case, the fraud was sufficient to ensure that Alija Izetbegovic squeaked through to win the chairmanship of the three-man presidency. Without the fraud, this important post would have gone to Momcilo Krajisnik, the Bosnian Serb nationalist who campaigned on a platform of rejecting the Dayton peace settlement and uniting his region with Serbia.

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