Elections In Bosnia ‘Won't Solve Any Of The Problems’

By Maurice Williams, Militant, Vol.60 no.34, 30 September 1996

The September 14 elections in Bosnia have been broadly acknowledged as “unlikely to solve any of the problems” there, as the Wall St. Journal put it. Rather they set the stage for more instability and imperialist intervention in the region.

“It seems that the vote is but the beginning of the beginning of the West's engagement,” John Fawcett, a political analyst with the International Crisis Group, told the Washington Post. The International Crisis is one of the organizations that is monitoring the implementation of the Dayton agreement patched together last November by the Clinton administration.

A three-member presidency involving a seat for each ethnic group was elected. Bosnian president Alija Izetbegovic, a Muslim, will chair the leadership body for a two-year term. Kresimir Zubak, the president of the so-called Muslim-Croat federation, who vowed to during his campaign to unite Croatians in Bosnia with the regime in Zagreb, will be the Croatian representative on the presidency.

Momcilo Krajisnik, the speaker of the Bosnian Serb parliament, will assume the Serb seat. Krajisnik worked closely with chauvinist Serb leader Radovan Karadzic during the four- year war in Yugoslavia and stated in the past he would refuse to swear allegiance to the Bosnian constitution.

“We are concerned about the unique decision making process here,” the New York Times quoted an unnamed diplomat as saying. “Everything has to be decided six times, with increasing pressure, tension, and emotion.” The voting was supervised by U.S. diplomat Robert Frowlick, who heads the Sarajevo mission of the 55-nation Organization for Security and Economic Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Some 100,000 personnel, including NATO troops, administered the process.

The 60,000-strong NATO occupation force, including 20,000 U.S. GIs, is scheduled to begin withdrawing December 20. NATO officials, however, have begun drafting plans to prolong the occupation for another two years, the New York Times reported September 11.

Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon asserted that Washington was not involved in discussions on “any follow-on force.” Bacon said U.S. defense secretary William Perry stated “that if follow-on force is needed, this job could be done with air power stationed outside of Bosnia.”

`Veneer of a united Bosnia’ With the Clinton administration eager to claim its policy on Yugoslavia a success, “the Bosnian elections hold significant implications for Mr. Clinton as he runs for a second term,” the Christian Science Monitor noted.

“U.S. officials say that as long as Bosnia does not fall apart completely,” wrote John Pomfret of the Washington Post, “the veneer of a united Bosnia will be maintained.”

Bosnian prime minister Haris Silajdzic, a candidate for the presidency, stated that the “election seems to ratify and approve” the military conquests of Karadzic's forces.

“This election is not about secession,” admonished Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. emissary who rammed through the Dayton agreement. “This election is about creating central institutions of a single Bosnia-Hercegovina,” he added.

The balloting, however does legitimize the current setup that flows from the accord and “lay groundwork for final break up of Bosnia,” declared the Wall Street Journal.

The Dayton accord spelled out the partition of Bosnia along the lines carved out on the ground since 1991 by warring factions of the former Stalinist ruling bureaucracy. It separated the Yugoslav republic into a “Serb Republic” and a “Bosnia-Croat federation,” which were divided into British-, French-, and U.S.-controlled sectors.

The “trouble-free election” touted by Holbrooke is supposed to codify joint institutions to cobble Bosnia back together with a three-member collective presidency with a Serb, a Croat, and a Muslim representative; a national parliament; two federal parliaments; a constitutional court and a council of ministers. New elections in two years will choose leaders to the presidency who will serve four-year terms.

“I don’t see how these joint institutions will be physically constituted or installed,” a United Nations official in Grebak, Yugoslavia, told the Times. “The whole thing is schizophrenic and absurd, like everything else here.”

The election campaigns were marked by nationalist rhetoric from leaders of warring gangs as they consolidated their grip on power under the imperialist occupation force. “We will get united Serbia on the diplomatic table,” said chauvinist Serb leader Biljana Plavsic, candidate for president of the Republika Srpska, the Bosnian Serb entity, on state television September 11.

Arm twisting by officials of the OSCE pressured Plavsic to apologize for making inflammatory nationalist speeches. “The SDS (Serbian Democratic Party) deeply regrets any statements which have suggested that the Serb Republic is an independent state,” she said September 13.

According to London's Financial Times, the Party of Democratic Action (SDA), which holds power in Sarajevo, challenged the elections in the Republika Srpska, alleging that the number of Serb voters exceeded the number of Serbs living in Bosnia before the war.

“This is not peace, but the absence of war,” declared Bosnia president and SDA leader Alijia Izetbegovic at a September 1 rally of 10,000 people. “When the Serbs signed the Dayton agreement they were required to let our people go home, and if they do not abide by this agreement I will make sure that their Republic of Srpska is abolished.”

Many of Bosnia's 1 million refugees declined to return home to vote, the Wall Street Journal reported. Some 2.3 million people were displaced by the war and more than 200,000 people killed.

Despite the divisions that have been reinforced by implementing the so-called peace accord, solidarity among working people in Yugoslavia has not disintegrated. Perica Simonovic, a Bosnian Serb, played his accordion at a September 4 campaign rally in Orasje for the SDA, the leading Muslim nationalist political party. “Among the average people there is real harmony,” said Mustafa Hadzispahic, local head of the SDA. “Average people didn’t start the war,” Mijo Galgic told the Times, as he pointed to trenches from which he fought. “We just had to fight in it.”