Nationalists do well in Bosnian elections

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The Independent Online

Counting began yesterday in Bosnian elections expected to put a multi-ethnic party ahead in the country's Muslim-Croat section but to show continued strong support for nationalists among its Serbs.

Counting began yesterday in Bosnian elections expected to put a multi-ethnic party ahead in the country's Muslim-Croat section but to show continued strong support for nationalists among its Serbs.

Zlatko Lagumdzija, head of the multi-ethnic Social Democratic Party (SDP), said that, with 30 to 40 per cent of votes counted, it had outstripped all three nationalist parties in the third Bosnia-wide election since the 1992-95 war. He said: "SDP is party number one according to the number of votes won in the country as a whole and in the Muslim-Croat Federation of Bosnia and Herzogovina within it."

But the nationalist Serb Democratic Party (SDS) predicted an easy victory in the Serb republic. The peace agreement that ended the war divides Bosnia and Herzegovina between the Muslim-Croat federation and the Serb republic.

The international community, with 20,000 Nato-led peacekeepers deployed in Bosnia, had hoped the election would prove a blow to nationalism .

The SDS president, Dragan Kalinic, addressing reporters in Banja Luka - de facto capital of the Serb republic - said: "Even now I can say victory is certain", referring to the presidential vote. He added that the SDS was "probable" winner of the parliamentary poll.

He said that with 455,185 votes counted, representing 53 per cent of voters registered in the Serb area, 59.4 per cent chose the SDS candidate while the Western-backed Bosnian Serb Prime Minister, Milorad Dodik, gained 29.7 per cent. More moderate rivals of the SDS said the party could not be sure of an outright win.

An SDS victory in the republic would be a blow to Western officials trying to stabilise the Balkans, who have been cheered by the fall of authoritarian regimes in Belgrade and Zagreb that had fuelled the Bosnian conflict. (Reuters)

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