US and Europe ignore Bosnia poll warning

Group monitoring elections believes conditions for free and fair contest will not been met

A climate of fear and ruthless, clashing nationalism is jeopardising the chances of staging free and fair elections in Bosnia, according to an internal analysis by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). However, OSCE officials are expected to bow to US and European pressure and reluctantly declare that the elections should go ahead by 14 September, as stipulated by last year's Dayton peace agreement.

The OSCE was charged under the Dayton accord with preparing elections intended to provide Bosnia with multi- national, democratic institutions. However, the OSCE analysis indicates that, far from stitching Bosnia back together, the elections, if held as early as September, may consolidate the country's division into Muslim, Serb and Croat sectors.

Representatives of about 40 countries will meet in Florence tomorrow to review progress in implementing the Dayton terms. The US and major European powers are expected to propose a September election, with the OSCE fixing a precise date later this month.

A summary of the OSCE study concludes that three vital conditions for free elections are not yet in place: a politically neutral environment, freedom of movement, and freedom of association. Independent media are thin on the ground, especially in the Serb and Croat areas, and it is impossible to phone between the Muslim-Croat federation and the Serb-controlled Republika Srpska.

The OSCE analysis states that in the Serb, Croat and mainly Muslim areas, civic institutions, such as police, courts and local government structures are dominated by one nationalist party - respectively, the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and Muslim-led Party of Democratic Action (SDA). It is especially critical of the HDZ, contending that "in Croat- controlled federation territory ... the ruling HDZ has effectively ensured that the climate of fear prevents the evolution of a political alternative".

According to the study, the borders between the Muslim-Croat federation and Republika Srpska have become more open since the war ended, but most Bosnians do not enjoy freedom of movement. The Serb, Croat and Muslim sectors have different vehicle number plates, which encourages police roadchecks, and the Bosnian Serbs have sabotaged United Nations efforts to set up bus services between the Muslim-Croat and Serb zones.

The OSCE analysis estimates that only a small proportion of Bosnia's 2.6 million refugees and displaced people have returned home to areas where they would be in an ethnic minority. Non-governmental observers say this makes it unlikely fair elections can be held in areas from which large numbers of people have been expelled.

It also suggests that Bosnia's three-way partition along national lines is steadily becoming a fact on the ground. This trend has been underlined since the end of the war by the movement of tens of thousands of Serbs out of Sarajevo, which is under Muslim-led government control, and their replacement by Muslim refugees who originally lived in areas such as eastern Bosnia which are now under complete Serb domination.

OSCE officials are known to be angry with the US and European governments for insisting the elections should go ahead, in spite of the likelihood that they will be seriously flawed. Some officials were shocked when Robert Frowick, the head of the OSCE's Bosnian mission, appeared to cave in to US and European pressure by ordering his staff not to highlight negative developments in Bosnia in their reports.

Other senior international officials, such as Antonio Cassese, the Italian head of the UN war crimes tribunal, have alsocast doubt on the wisdom of holding elections in September. He said that if the Bosnian Serb leaders, Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic, remained at large, free elections "will not be possible in an environment polluted by war criminals".

But the US State Department spokesman, Nicholas Burns, said this week that the Dayton accords "do not say that the conditions [for the Bosnian elections] have to be pristine or Jeffersonian".

Richard Holbrooke, the former US diplomat who brokered the Dayton peace, said that if elections were not held while Nato troops were stationed in Bosnia, they might never be held at all.

Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
booksWell it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
News
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
people
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
music
Sport
footballManchester City 1 Roma 1: Result leaves Premier League champions in danger of not progressing
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

SEN Teacher - Hull

Negotiable: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education are recruiting for spe...

Foundation Teacher Cornwall

£23500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Early Years and Founda...

General Cover Teacher - Grimsby

Negotiable: Randstad Education Hull: Qualified Teachers needed for Supply in t...

KS2 Teacher required from October

£90 - £120 per annum: Randstad Education Hull: Key Stage 2 Supply Teacher requ...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?