Poll threat to Serbs' dream of ethnic purity

Bosnia's main Muslim party was set to regain control of the crucial Serb- held town of Brcko following this weekend's municipal elections, a victory that is sure to trigger a major confrontation with Brcko's Serb community and send shockwaves throughout Serb-held Bosnia.

According to diplomatic sources, the voter registration numbers in Brcko municipality slightly favour the Muslims and their nationalist party, the SDA. A Muslim victory would have dramatic consequences, as Brcko lies in the narrow corridor linking the northern and eastern halves of the so-called Republika Srpska, the Serb-controlled half of Bosnia. Its status has been in dispute ever since the end of the war, and is currently under the control of an International Supervisor.

The two days of voting might spill over into today and results are not due to be published until later this week.

Brcko is now occupied entirely by Serbs, many of them refugees from other parts of the former Yugoslavia. A Muslim victory would put pressure on the Serb refugees to leave the town and further squeeze the Republika Srpska's precious corridor. Whoever wins, there is sure to be an ugly confrontation between the evenly balanced numbers of new municipal councillors.

Brcko is one of a number of municipalities where the pattern of ethnic purity established by the ceasefire and the signing of the Dayton peace agreement two years ago promises to be upset by the elections.

Serbs are almost certain to take control of Drvar, a town in western Bosnia now held by Croats, and are likely to put in a strong performance in the neighbouring town of Glamoc, the diplomatic sources said.

In Serb-held eastern Bosnia, scene of some of the worst atrocities against Muslims of the war, the SDA is looking strong in such towns as Foca and Visegrad.

The elections, which have been run entirely by the international community, have been deliberately weighted to give a stronger voice to refugees who were forced to leave their homes during the war. Voters could choose to vote either in their 1991 place of residence or in their new homes. They did not need to fear returning to a hostile area for the election itself because they were free to opt for an absentee ballot.

It is far from clear how ethnically anomalous election results can be enforced.

In Mostar, where test-case elections were held in June 1996, progress in persuading the rival Muslim and Croat factions to work together in the same city hall have been painfully slow and the city remains deeply divided.

Diplomats are vague about how to avoid creating lots of mini-Mostars all over Bosnia. They hope to put pressure on the politicians through the threat of economic sanctions, but are not sure how to sway ordinary citizens, who mostly oppose a return to multi-ethnic living. The elections passed off remarkably quietly at the weekend, with one report of violence. But events in the town of Drvar gave a taste of the possible problems to come.

About 1,000 Serbs, organised by the Banja Luka-based party For Drvar, decided to return to their former home town to cast their ballots, but were held up for hours - first by Croat police who tried to slow them down on the road, and then by Croat election officials who deliberately chose to put them through the voting process as slowly as possible.

International authorities were forced to provide blankets and tents for the Serbs on Saturday night, and set up a mobile polling station yesterday to help them exercise their democratic rights.

A spokesman for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Johan Verheyden, called the Croats' behaviour "despicable" but vowed to keep the polls open long enough for all the Serbs to vote as planned.

Sarajevo - A Bosnian opposition party member was shot and wounded around midnight on Saturday while on the way to inform authorities he was being harassed by the SDA, Reuters reports.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee