BOSNIA ELECTIONSeptember 20, 1996
Sept. 16, 1996
Richard Holbrooke, architect of Bosnia's Dayton Peace Accord, discusses the outcome of the elections so far.
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.
June 3, 1996
With stumbling blocks like war criminals at large, and deep rooted ethnic hatred, the Bosnian elections look uncertain to our panel of experts.
May 8, 1996
State Department ambassador-at-large Robert Gallucci discusses election preparations in Bosnia.
Browse the NewsHour's Bosnia Index
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Bosnian election site. Includes updates on voting.
State Department summary of the Dayton Accord.
The results are in. Muslim leader Alija Izetbegovic won the most votes in Bosnia's presidential election, sparking street celebrations in Sarajevo today for the first chairman of the new three-man presidency. He narrowly beat out Serb ultra-nationalist Momcilo Krajisnik, who campaigned to withdraw the Serb half of the country from Bosnia. Croat nationalist Kresimir Zubak finished a distant third. Of the three, only Izetbegovic is in favor of a unified state. Does he have what it takes to keep this bloodied and divided country together?
Prior to the elections, our forum guest, Bosnian election advisor John Graham told the Toronto Globe and Mail, "This is the most complex election there has ever been. It's snakes and ladders, with a hundred times more snakes than ladders." But the reaction of international observers after the election was that it went much smoother than had been expected.
Our forum asks: How much has this vote done to erase Bosnia's past? What do we know about Izetbegovic; is he the right consensus builder? What can we expect from his Serbian and Croat nationalist counterparts in the presidency? What were the biggest difficulties, amongst the many that had to be overcome to get to the vote? And what personal stories does a Western election advisor bring back from such an experience?
John Graham is a former Canadian Ambassador and a specialist on election procedures in emerging democracies. He has been working with the OSCE as an Senior Election Advisor in Bosnia for the past six months. His answers to your questions are below.
A question from Steve Mataija of Toronto, Ontario
Can the international community truly say that these have been "free and fair" elections? Were there not many examples of pressure tactics and propaganda by all the various factions? I raise this because apparently a number of OCSE election monitors were "dismissed" when they raised issues/questions concerning the "free and fair" nature of the elections.
John Graham responds:
What is free and fair, and judged by what standards? It is not reasonable to apply North American or Western European measurements, especially in a country that has not had a developed democratic culture, has been accustomed to authoritarian government, has been devastated by four years of bitter ethnic war, and has had over half of its citizens displaced from their pre-war homes. A high percentage of voters exercised their franchise in a secret ballot and it is quite remarkable that no one was killed and that there were no serious incidents. In this context that is a big success. Pressure tactics and propaganda? Yes, and worse - in some areas there was blatant harassment and intimidation of the opposition.
Some observers were shifted from their areas because their previous association with their municipalities raised questions about their objectivity. I am not aware of OSCE monitors being dismissed because they raised questions about free and fair elections. This certainly did not occur in my area.
A question from Julie Kordic of Pittsburgh, PA
What effect will the elections have on the tenuous Croat-Muslim federation? My impression is that there has been little cooperation or integration between the Sarajevo Bosniacs and the Croat Herzegovinians since the signing of Dayton (i.e., witness Mostar and the Croat "mini-state" of Herceg-Bosnia) -- will the elections succeed in changing this? If so, how?
John Graham responds:
This is a basic question. You are correct in suggesting that there has been little cooperation or integration between the Bosniacs and the Croats within the Federation. Those opposition parties that attempted to attract an inter-ethnic vote did very badly and the Bosniac and Croatian ruling parties consolidated their grip on power. This will not advance the objective of ethnic unification within the Federation. Constructive leadership will be required and a hands-off policy by the government of Croatia in Zagreb.
A question from Juan Flaco of San Diego, CA
Considering your experience with elections in other "emerging democracies" you seemed to be surprised with the reported success of the Bosnian elections. Did we underestimate the people or was it simply the heavy international presence that "maintained order" ? Are we looking at a situation of never-ending years of international peace-keeping, as seems to be the case in Cypress, or can economic assistance in reconstruction provide a basis for a lasting peace? Do yousee a commitment on the part of the European community to support either option?
John Graham responds:
Yes. I am surprised and pleased that their elections passed so peacefully and with a high turn out. A lot of credit must go to the Bosnian citizens who worked in Election Committees, Registration Offices, Polling Stations and Counting Centers, for long hours with poor remuneration. The role of the international community was also indispensable. The IFOR visible presence created a deterrent for many who might have disrupted the elections and a more secure environment in which people felt reasonably safe to cast their ballots. The OSCE was also heavily involved in preparing, supervising and policing the conduct of the campaign, the elections and the ballot counting. So the answer is both that some of us underestimated the desire of the overwhelming majority to vote in peace and that the extensive international presence, including the muscle of IFOR, gave them the confidence to do so.
A Cyprus situation, God forbid. I hope not and you are correct in suggesting that economic reconstruction will help. The European Community is committed to help as are many other nations and international agencies. About S5 billion has been pledged over a five-year period. In the short term, international economic assistance will not resolve the problems of ethnic cleavage. The healing and adjustment process will take a long time and it will be essential to have a commitment from the international community to provide a more secure environment in which this cm take place. In the meantime, growth of internal trade and business contacts can help build bridges between the groups.
A question from John Kolman of Fairfax, VA
It is my understanding that the actual ballot people used to vote was an incredibly complex one. During your time as an observer, did you perceive any problems with voters understanding the ballots?
Also on the NewsHour they showed people who had been unable to vote because their names were not on the lists. How much of this did you see and have their been any explanations for these problems?
John Graham responds:
There were four ballots: one for the rotating Presidency (Bosniac, Croat and Serb)- one for the House of Representatives of Bosnia and Hercegovina- one for the House of Representatives of the Federation; and One for the Cantonal Assemblies. The print on the ballots was too small, but this does not appear to have been a major problem. If there had been serious difficulties with understanding the ballots the numbers of spoiled ballots would have been greater. The principal difficulties stemmed from the complexity of the elections process. Without much doubt this was the most complicated election in history. The voting options available to the voter had to accommodate the tragic reality that over one half of the citizens of this country are no longer living in the homes and municipalities where they had lived before the war.
Exact estimates are not possible at this state, but it is quite possible that about 5% of the voters in the area were not (initially) able to vote because their names could not be found on the voters list. Steps were taken to remedy some of these problems on election day through use of the previous voters list. The earlier voters list had been based on streets and localities within municipalities while the new list was ordered according to ID numbers.
A question from Justin Jones of San Francisco, CA
Are the various factions willing to transfer various functions to the federal state? There is little indication of this from the Bosnian Serbs.
John Graham responds:
Apart from stopping the war, one of the objectives of the Dayton Agreement was to create a context in which reintegration could take place. This has been a disappointment. The campaign of the ruling party in the Republika Serbska has been criticized for strong advocacy of separation from the nation of Bosnia-Hercegovina, Within the Bosniac-Croat Federation some steps have been taken to encourage greater unification. The Croat "state" of Herzog-Bosna which was created during the war as a focus for Bosnian Croats has been officially dissolved and steps taken to develop a unified structure of the Bosniac and Croat armed forces. However, deep mutual suspicion remains and both Croat and Bosniac ruling parties have consolidated their hold on power in the Sept. 14 elections. Many Croats would prefer union of their Bosnian territory with Croatia.
Additional questions and comments:
John D. Powers of Atlanta, GA
Presuming that all cease-fires hold, and that the electedgovernment does not collapse, what is the next step inreestablishing political infrastructure?
Would this be an opportune time to reestablish low levelgovernment?
If so, how would a new system be approved, by the Bosnian people, by their new national government, by internationalauthorities, or by some combination thereof.
It seems to me that creating a system of local authoritiesmight be better in a country that has recently mobilizednational resources in genocidal warfare. Would a federal,regional, or local government system be more advantageousto stability and justice?
In any case, is there sufficient infrastructure andpolitical or social will to establish any lower systemat this time?