Voters tested by a bewildering array of parties

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The Independent Online
There are so many parties running in this weekend's municipal elections that even well-informed voters stand little chance of distinguishing between them.

In a country with barely 2.5 million registered voters, there are a staggering 91 parties and almost 20,000 candidates.

A fine example of democracy in action, one might argue. But how is the average voter, confronted with as many as 46 names on the ballot form for his or her municipality, supposed to distinguish between the Democratic Party of Republika Srpska, the Serb Democrat Party, the Serb Democratic Alliance and the Serb Democratic Party of Displaced Persons? Or between the Citizens' Party, the People's Party, the Worker's Party and the New Worker's Party? It sounds like a Balkan rewrite of The Life of Brian.

It does not help that most parties have little or no media profile. One independent magazine based in Banja Luka, Reporter, has valiantly tried to compile information on the parties to help the voters.

Not all the parties have wanted to advertise their programmes or even their leaders' names. Some of the information that has been provided is downright bizarre.

There is a Serbian Worker's Party that supports the return of the monarchy, and any number of nationalist parties that support, at least in principle, the implementation of the Dayton peace accords.

As for the New Communist Party, it lists its basic aims as "socialism, human rights and the Dayton Agreement, Marxism and Leninism". Asked how it expects to do in the elections, it answered: "Average". What on earth is "average" in a crazy place like postwar Bosnia?