BOSNIA VOTES: SLOW RESULTS
SEPTEMBER 16, 1996
No results are available yet for the Bosnian elections, held over the weekend. The balloting has been surrounded by delays in the count, lost voter registrations, and low turnout by Muslims in Serb controlled territory. An Independent Television News update is followed by a Newsmaker interview with Ambassador Richard Holbrooke.
A RealAudio version of this NewsHour segment is available.
Sept. 13, 1996
Two retired State Department Yugoslav experts preview the Bosnian elections.
Sept. 13, 1996
An ITN background report on election preparations.
Aug. 6, 1996
Assistant Secretary of State John Kornblum discusses preparations for the Bosnian elections.
July 22, 1996
Richard Holbrooke discusses his efforts to remove Radovan Karadzic from power.
May 8, 1996
State Department ambassador-at-large Robert Gallucci discusses election preparations in Bosnia.
Browse the NewsHour's Bosnia Index
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: In the elections, Bosnians, Serbs, Muslims, and Croats went to the polls to elect leaders of a unified Bosnian state. Those living in the Muslim-Croat part of Bosnia chose a Muslim and a Croat for the newly created three-member national presidency. Those living in the Bosnian Serb area selected the Serb member. Both groups also chose national and regional legislators. We'll talk to Richard Holbrooke, architect of the Dayton Peace Accord, but first this report from Gaby Rado of Independent Television News.
GABY RADO: The counting of ballot papers is still going on nearly 48 hours after polling stations closed. That's partly due to the complex nature of the election, partly to political posturing which delayed the count. One gloomy statistic which did emerge, less than 15,000 out of a possible 200,000 refugees crossed the former front line called the I.E.B.L. This evening, the chief election scrutineer said at least there'd been no violence.
EDWARD VAN THIJN, International Election Monitor: But the feeling of relief is colored and complemented by disappointment and the limited number of I.E.B.L. crossings. In that sense, peace and silence went together.
GABY RADO: Earlier in the polling day, there were clear signs there would be a low turnout of Muslims prepared to cross into Serb-held territory. We encountered this group just outside the city of Tuzla, waiting nervously to go and vote near Bijeljina to the North. It is a region where brutal expulsions took place early in the war, and the fear had not gone away.
SPOKESMAN: (speaking through interpreter) They don't dare. If people cross to the other side, they might be taken out and beaten, therefore, they don't. It's not safe.
GABY RADO: Those who got on the bus were mainly middle-aged and elderly Muslims. Several of them told us their adult children would vote but only in the Muslim-Croat Federation as absentees. Reasons were varied. Younger men who'd been soldiers were afraid of being arrested by Serbs. As the bus got to the former front line, the passengers were searched, a chilling flashback to the time they were driven from their homes.
The men were even separated from the women, a former sinister practice in the war. Once the bus had arrived at the polling station, eight miles short of Bijeljina, there were inexplicable gaps in the voting register. Out of a total of 32 passengers, six were unable to cast a ballot because their names were not on lists. The Serb officials, themselves puzzled, tried in vain to find someone from the OSCE, the election organizers. This woman said she registered in exactly the same way as her husband but was not on the list.
"It was good for us who voted but not for those whose names were missing,"says her husband later, under the gaze of the Bijeljina police. Three and a half years ago, Channel 4 News filmed the expulsion of Muslims from Bijeljina, the moment when large groups were put on buses in the center of town, their silent, scared faces told their own story. Outside the bus we secretly filmed the bull dozers which were leveling a site where two days beforehand the town's main mosque had been dynamited, along with every other mosque in Bijeljina.
We also filmed some of the paramilitary group, the Panthers, allegedly responsible for the terror campaign. This weekend, we found the site of the mosque had been grassed over. A few yards away, among a crop of election posters was one of Lubija's savage, formerly Major Mouser, leader of the Panthers. He's now a senior candidate for a Bosnian Serb political party. Nearby, an angry group had gathered outside the town hall. There were Bosnian Serbs complaining they'd been left off the voting lists. They surrounded the mayor of Bijeljina, who was unable to help.
MAN: My name is--isn't down on the list, and I, I came now here to ask for my rights, but nothing.
GABY RADO: In fact, most of those in the crowd turned out to be refugees who'd come back to Bosnia on buses from Sweden. They were off the list because they hadn't registered abroad. They claimed they didn't know they had that right. This afternoon, the first results began coming in to the election headquarters in Sarajevo. Early returns gave predictably large majorities to leaders of the main nationalist parties.
Of the four separate votes taken, the first outcome to become clear will be for the new chairman of the collective Bosnian presidency. Alijah Izetbegovic has been head of state in Bosnia during the entire period of the war. He is, however, facing a personal challenge from a former prime minister. And that may give the leading Serb candidate, Monchula Krajnic, the chance of coming out top because of a split Muslim vote. The man nicknamed Mr. No due to his rejection of a unitary Bosnia may become its first official peacetime president.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Now to Richard Holbrooke, who played a major role in putting the election plan together in the Dayton Accords, and who was in Bosnia this weekend monitoring the process. Thank you for being with us, Amb. Holbrooke.
RICHARD HOLBROOKE, Former Assistant Secretary of State: My pleasure, Elizabeth.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: First, do you have any update on the voting results, and particularly for the three member presidency?
AMB. HOLBROOKE: Well, I think the report you just showed was excellent and quite accurate. The voting is going slowly. Undersecretary Tarnoff and I just finished talking to Amb. Frohlich. They've closed down the county for the night. He really doesn't know which way it's headed, and I really don't have any numbers to add to what you've just said.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: You heard the monitor on the--in the piece say--I think he said he expressed both relief and disappointment in the results. How would you express your view of it now?
AMB. HOLBROOKE: It was quite extraordinary to be there yesterday and the day before yesterday and watch people voting, and I was struck by this piece from Bijeljina by a point somewhat different from the one being made by the commentator. He was concerned about the difficulties. What struck me is that so many Muslims went back to Bijeljina to vote in an election in which the only choice in Bijeljina is for the Serb member of the three-person presidency. If I were a Muslim, I would think to myself, well, maybe I ought to stay in the federation territory and vote between Izetbegovic and Salijdic or other Muslims, so I differ slightly with the conventional journalistic interpretation of the last few days when your commentator said only 15,000 of a possible 200,000.
In fact, IFOR, the military command, was expecting 40,000 “max.” They got fifteen to twenty thousand. That couple that made that effort at great risk to their lives to come back, where the woman couldn't vote, it was the symbolism of it. They knew that they were choosing between two Serbs. So I don't--I don't share that point. My only concern, Elizabeth, is whether or not Amb. Frohlich, the man in charge of the elections, and his team, in the end decide the election meets the standards that the OSCE has set. And on that point, Amb. Frohlich is quite rightly being very, very careful tonight. Both sides are going to make charges of fraud; they already have, and we're just going to have to sort ‘em out.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And his decision about whether to certify the results of the elections has real consequences, doesn't it, because--explain how that works with the sanctions.
AMB. HOLBROOKE: There are several sets of consequences. Under the UN Security Council Resolution No. 1022, passed immediately after Dayton, sanctions against Yugoslavia, that is Serbia and Montenegro, were suspended but not lifted pending an election which would be deemed free and fair. So that process cannot begin, in other words, going to full lifting of sanctions until the election is over with, and we in the United States consider the election package ongoing right now. It's still a process, and so that's the No. 1 thing. Amb. Albright is monitoring that aspect of the situation very carefully. Secondly--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Let me just interrupt you. Explain how it will work. There are various challenges. The ruling Muslim Party under Izetbegovic has said that they challenged the results in the Serb-held part of Bosnia. Were all the challenges being heard and investigated to this could take weeks, or how will it work?
AMB. HOLBROOKE: The, the challenge you're referring to was a generic letter put in by Izetbegovic's party before the polls closed. It contained no allegations. I spoke to the government people about it yesterday. Izetbegovic wanted to go to great pains to make clear it was a party document, not a government document. We do not consider that an official protest. It is really a place marker in case the election appears flawed. The other side has not made any formal charges yet but they reserve the right to do it.
Amb. Frohlich has 72 hours to make the initial determinations. If he then decides that he needs more time, you know, basically, Elizabeth, it's like the United States, many elections in the U.S. go into recounts which take quite a long time. I remember a few years ago the governorship in Maryland wasn't resolved for many, many months. I don't think that will happen in Bosnia.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. I interrupted your train of thought. Go ahead.
AMB. HOLBROOKE: The second point on sanctions--on the certification is even more important, in my view, than full lifting of the sanctions against Yugoslavia. And that is the actual certification installation of the three people in the presidency, a Croat, a Muslim, and a Serb.
When that happens, then, as your commentator just pointed out, the knitting together of the central institutions of the government will really begin. Up till now, the military parts of the Dayton Agreement have been 100 percent implemented, and I would emphasize implemented with no loss of a NATO or American life from hostile action, an absolutely astonishing, trouble-free performance by the brilliant NATO and other troops in the field in Bosnia whom I saw again yesterday and the day before. But that was the political--that was the military part of the agreement. The civilian part, the political arrangements have gone quite slowly, as you know, and as you have reported. Freedom of movement is not satisfactory. The refugees have not been allowed to return. The war criminals are still at large.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And the organs of government in the federation have not been--
AMB. HOLBROOKE: The organs of government in the federation are inadequate, but that's not the Dayton program. That's a separate program. Amb. Kornblum, the assistant secretary of state for the region, who was with me in Bosnia yesterday, is returning at Sec. Christopher's direction to Sarajevo tomorrow. That is one of his main issues as well. But let me stress in regard to the central institutions that a central government, a national assembly, a single currency, a central bank, uh, a prime minister, a finance minister, foreign minister, all of these can only follow Saturday's elections.
So we hope that the elections will mark a historic turning point towards building a central government for a country composed of two entities, entities which a year ago today were still killing each other on the battlefield. I remember, I was in the region a year ago today. The war was raging, tens of thousands of people are alive today who would otherwise be dead or wounded, but now we have to turn from an absence of war to a true peace.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do you expect the Bosnian Serbs to be part of a unified government, or do you expect them to try to obstruct it?
AMB. HOLBROOKE: Key question. Congressman Steny Hoyer, Congressman Murtha, and Congressman King, Congressman Muscaro, were all with me on this trip as members of the President's delegation, and we focused very heavily on this. In Banjaluka, two days ago, we asked Mrs. Plavsic, the president of the Serb entity, specifically that question. She pledged in public that the Serb winner in the election, if it was Krashnick, from her party, the man your piece just mentioned, will come to Sarajevo for the three person presidency, that is a key pledge. Now, words don't mean much in that part of the world, but you've got to start with words and then hold ‘em to it.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: In some ways, do you see this as a whole new stage necessitating a whole new round of negotiations just with a different subject?
AMB. HOLBROOKE: Yes and no. The Dayton Peace Agreements are the framework for the future. But they were a framework with a primary focus on the first year. We all anticipate that the parties to Dayton, including the contact group countries that witnessed it, must reconvene sometime later this year to fill in the gaps, to clean it up, to reposition it, to strengthen the international police task force. There's also going to be international assistance required, but the next phase is not going to be remotely as complicated as what we went through last November.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: You announced a meeting of President Izetbegovic and President Milosevic of Serbia to be in Paris in about three weeks. What do you want to happen there? What do you hope will happen there?
AMB. HOLBROOKE: By the way, I suspect it'll be less than three weeks. I just said three weeks because it's up to the French to make the arrangements, and we didn't want to step on their decision making in this regard. Both Izetbegovic and Milosevic, both of whom I met with yesterday, said they wanted to meet, and it was very interesting, Elizabeth, President Milosevic in particular stressed economic cooperation.
We talked a lot about reopening the old rail lines. He said that the only hope for the region was a strong economic relationship between Belgrade, Sarajevo, Zagreb, and now Banjaluka. We hope the Serb entity within Bosnia will move its capital from that mountain village of Pale, which is to me the symbol of, of aggression against the people of Sarajevo to the plains in the North at Banjaluka, which is a reasonable capital, sort of a state capital in American terms, and the--I hope the emphasis in Paris is on economic cooperation and bridge building between the two communities.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And--
AMB. HOLBROOKE: In fact, real bridge building--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Very--
AMB. HOLBROOKE: A lot of bridges remain to be fixed.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And very briefly before we go, what does all this mean for the withdrawal of NATO and U.S. troops in December?
AMB. HOLBROOKE: The IFOR mission was envisaged at one year. They are going to make that deadline easily. They have completed their mission. I met with Gen. Joulwan, the Supreme NATO commander, yesterday in Brussels on my way home, and he emphasized that. Some follow on international security, follow on presence, will be required; a strengthened police will be required; everyone understands that you can't just go from sixty thousand forces to zero without an implosion. It would be irresponsible.
Uh, nobody has thought about the details yet, except in a theoretical planning sense, because we have to wait and see how these elections really turn out, what follows, and so on, but I'm utterly confident that the President's original pledge for the completion of the IFOR mission in a year will be maintained.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Ambassador.
AMB. HOLBROOKE: Thank you, Elizabeth.