Serbs told to swap separatist dreams for election reality

Bosnia elections: Errors and intimidation

As the first results from Bosnia's imperfect elections were flashed on to television screens at the $1.2m (pounds 780,000) media centre in Sarajevo, Ed van Thijn, head of the election monitoring mission, announced that his team would recommend the polls be accepted as valid - if the ruling Serb Democratic Party renounced its separatist dream.

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.

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

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions