Serbs told to swap separatist dreams for election reality
Bosnia elections: Errors and intimidation
Tuesday 17 September 1996
In an unusual election report, Mr van Thijn praised the technical operations on polling day but denounced the hostile political climate in which the vote was held.
"In my opinion the elections were technically well prepared and carried out successfully under difficult circumstances," he said. "However, the general climate in which the elections took place was in some places below the minimum commitments" required by the organisers, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
The monitors' report included examples of electoral irregularities, such as "family voting" - one person casting several ballots on behalf of the household - and some intimidation of voters.
But the biggest problems, affecting thousands of voters, were errors in the electoral register, which meant that many people were not allowed to vote.
Most concern was expressed at the restrictions on freedom of the media, of movement and of expression in the run-up to the election, and Serb campaigning against the desire expressed in the Dayton agreement for a united Bosnia.
As a result, Mr van Thijn set as his condition for validating the elections a request that the ruling Serb party should agree in writing to change its constitution and the platform of independence from Bosnia.
This sits somewhat at odds with early statements from the Serb-held half of the country, where the leadership openly campaigned for partition: "First signs are that the Serbs overwhelmingly voted for Republika Srpska," Velibor Ostojic, deputy premier, said on Sunday.
Mr van Thijn is therefore asking the party to renounce the single issue on which it won the election.
The request was seen by some observers as the strongest critical statement Mr van Thijn felt able to make, given that the West is unwilling to see the Dayton peace process falter three months before Nato's peace force is scheduled to leave Bosnia.
With results for the three-man presidency in from 22 of the 109 municipalities, the three nationalist leaders were well ahead - as expected. Alija Izetbegovic of the SDA had won 82 per cent of the Muslim vote, Momcilo Krajisnik (SDS) 85 per cent of the Serb vote, and Kresimir Zubak (HDZ) 90 per cent of the Croat vote.
As one observer noted, the elections were seen by many as a continuation of the war by other means, the climate exploited by the three ruling nationalist parties.
The International Crisis Group, whose monitors worked under Mr van Thijn, issued a statement arguing that against a background of "adverse conditions, electoral engineering and disenfranchisement, these elections cannot be described as free, fair or democratic".
To some extent, Mr van Thijn agreed when asked to comment on the statement. "I didn't say that they were free and fair," he said.
One Western diplomat commented: "That was a man under tremendous pressure."
Mr van Thijn denied this interpretation. "Before certifying the elections we knew that the conditions [in which to hold a fair vote] were absent, but the pragmatic decision was that having an imperfect election was better than having no election because that would be the end of the Dayton agreement," he said.
As it is, the international community now has its work cut out to try to push the peace process forward. A first step will be bringing the three new presidents to New York for the United Nations General Assembly.
Diplomats hope that international flattery, followed by hard cash, will persuade the new leaders - particularly the Serb and Croat members - that their future lies in a united Bosnia.
World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas
Rumours that the star wants to move on to pastures new
TV presenter Fiona Bruce seemed a bit startled by the find during the filming of Antiques Roadshow
Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'
- 2 Ebola outbreak: What is bushmeat – and is it to blame for the disease that has killed thousands?
- 4 Russell Brand might seem like a sexy revolutionary worth getting behind, but he will only fail his fans
- 5 Michael McIntyre walks off stage after woman in the front row uses her phone
Ebola outbreak: What is bushmeat – and is it to blame for the disease that has killed thousands?
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: Olympic star must serve 10 years, prosecutor urges
Isis fighters 'crucify' 17-year-old boy in Syria
Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
Oscar Pistorius sentence: Athlete's wealth and notoriety provoke an overdue debate on South African prisons
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Sorry Judy Finnigan – Ched Evans is no less sickening than an alleyway rapist
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Workers 'could be forced to pay £5 a week' to get benefits
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
Amal Alamuddin calls for the return of the Elgin Marbles from Britain: 'Injustice has persisted for too long'
£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Ofsted said "A good larger...
£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: KS2 TeacherWould you like ...
£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Ofsted said The outstandin...
£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to have a b...