Date: Sun, 28 Jun 98 19:04:18 CDT
From: Greek Helsinki Monitor <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Bosnia and Herzegovina: 1998 IHF Report
On 13–14 September, local elections were held in Bosnia and Herzegovina although no preconditions for fair elections had been fulfilled. They had initially been scheduled together with parliamentary elections in September 1996, but had been thereafter postponed three times due to widespread fraud in voter registration.
The results of the elections showed that the currently ruling nationalist parties still had a strong hold in the respective regions, but that their influence was waning. The SDS in particular faced increasing opposition in RS where another ultra-nationalist party, the Serb Radical Party, gained support. Federation-based parties won mandates in 42 out of 61 municipalities in RS.
The ruling nationalistic parties used various methods of intimidation and media manipulation to ensure their electoral victory. At the same time, the HDZ and SDS kept open the possibility of boycotting the elections until the very moment when voting began.
The electoral process itself passed without significant difficulties. However, many individuals who had duly registered did not appear on voter lists and political propaganda was conducted at polling station, particularly in RS. The main problem, however, was the fact that not all refugees and displaced persons could vote in the locations where they had lived before the war.
The question as to whether the election results could be implemented still remained open as of the end of 1997. In many localities, opponents of the victors obstructed the inaugural meetings of newly-elected councils.
In May, the IHF protested the decision of the OSCE to proceed with municipal elections only in the Serb-controlled part of Brcko (RS), excluding the other part belonging to the Federation. It noted that the results of such a vote would destroy any possibility of restoring the city's pre-war multi-ethnic character.
In September, the IHF secretariat and Helsinki committees in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Norway issued a press-release stating that the preconditions for the elections had not been fulfilled because freedom of movement remained restricted; opposition parties had little or no chance to conduct their election campaigns and had unequal access to media; and most indicted war criminals remained at large. They criticized the decision of the OSCE to reinstate a number of candidates who had been removed from the lists for disrespecting electoral rules. The OSCE also overruled an earlier decision to disqualify the SDS in Pale because of its close connections with Radovan Karadzic, indicted for war crimes. This was in direct contravention of the Rules and Regulations of the Provisional Elections Commission.
In November, extraordinary elections were held in the RS for the People's Assembly (parliament). The SDS won 24 mandates but failed to win the majority. The Serb Radical Party won 15 mandates. The Croats (HDZ) did not receive a single seat, while the Coalition for Bosnia-Herzegovina, with 16 seats, became the second largest political group in the RS parliament. Biljana Plavsic's Serb People's Alliance won 15 mandates.
The results reflected the demographic outcome of ethnic cleansing in RS, also cemented by the electoral rules. Moreover, non-Serb parties were unable to conduct proper election campaigns to allow the electorate to make an informed choice.