On the cover of this week's Slobodna Bosna is what looks like a weather forecast—a map of Bosnia-Hercegovina with cartoon storms and clouds over most of the country except the two cantons where the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) leads the voting count from last weekend's general elections. The title on the cover is "Prognoza Nevremena," which can mean either "forecast: bad weather" or "prognosis: not the right moment."
Nationalist parties maintain support
As of 17 November about 97 percent of the votes have been counted. If the results show anything, it is that all three of the nationalist politcal parties who led the country during the grim 1990s still have the support of many citizens.
While the SDP has garnered the most Federation votes for the BiH Parliamentary Assembly (by a mere two-fifths of one percent), the nationalist parties have won in some other areas by much larger margins. The Serb Democratic Party (SDS), for example, appears to have walloped the moderate Serb parties in the major races for power—the Republika Srpska presidency and the RS National Assembly—and the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) leads in five Federation of BiH cantons.
Even the nationalist party that has lost the most support from its ethnic group, the Party of Democratic Action (SDA), is leading in the race for the Federation House of Representatives, albeit by less than one percentage point.
However, the three parties may not receive the number of mandates the voters have given them, just because of their campaign shenanigans, which varied from minor infractions of the election rules to serious violations.
HDZ inspire OSCE wrath
The BiH legislators have failed to pass an election law. Consequently, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe's (OSCE) Provisional Election Commission (PEC) drew up the rules for the general elections. These rules regulate everything from how legislative bodies are made up to how many minutes television news reports must devote to political parties, and the behavior of parties and politicians.
If a party violates the rules, the PEC and its decision-making board, the Election Appeals Sub-Commission (EASC), have the right to punish that party—and the EASC has been pretty busy this week.
The HDZ was the first party to feel the OSCE's election bodies' wrath. On Thursday, the EASC removed ten HDZ candidates from five different cantons that had seen the most "referendum activity" on election day.
The HDZ and several smaller Croat parties had called a Croat referendum for 11 November. Bosnia's international community argued that referendum as an extension of HDZ campaign activity and said the party would be sanctioned for going through with it because it violated the election rules for a period of silence on election day. No rallies, no campaigning, no advertising.
The party went ahead with the referendum anyway. Party President Ante Jelavić stated after the elections that the party no longer recognized the authority of either the OSCE or the Office of the High Representative. As a result the HDZ lost two in five cantons apiece—the same cantons where the HDZ happens to have a majority of the vote.
The party has said it will boycott all institutions unless the EASC changes its ruling, and unless the Provisional Election Commission changes its rule on how the Federation House of Peoples is elected.
Prior to October, the Federation's upper house was elected by members of the lower house, but those members had to choose someone from their own ethnic group. Now, lower house members can vote for any candidate, regardless of ethnicity. The HDZ felt disenfranchised by the rule and, in response, organized the referendum. It was, as the party advertised on a campaign poster, "Determination or extinction."
The EASC didn't see the situation in the same light. They said the HDZ deliberately supported the referendum even after being told that it would violate the election silence rule. They also removed three more party candidates for the party's violation of campaign finance rules.
Allegations of SDS electoral fraud
The SDS also received more than a slap on the wrist for its infractions of the rules. The PEC decreed Thursday that the party would lose half the seats it won in the Srebrenica Municipality elections, citing widespread election-day fraud.
Observers in the town reported to the OSCE that numerous people had tried to vote more than once, and six polling station supervisors reported large-scale frauds such as people trying to vote again with false ID cards. Many eyewitnesses also told the OSCE that SDS leader Momcilo Cvijetinović was intimidating voters inside polling stations.
The EASC had removed him from elected office in Srebrenica and had repeatedly warned the SDS that he was not a good influence in the town. Besides taking away SDS seats, the PEC also demanded that the SDS rid itself of any individual that the EASC had previously punished and asked the party to provide evidence in support of these dismissals by 24 November. If the party does not comply, according to the PEC, it will lose the other half of its seats in the municipal assembly.
The SDA has had only one candidate removed as of 17 November. The EASC struck Šefik Džaferović from the Zenica-Doboj Canton list because of a party pamphlet that violated the election rule dealing with how to help elderly or incapacitated people to vote. The pamphlet was titled "How to vote for the SDA."
"The OSCE receives a large number of questions about the various processes involved in the count," said OSCE Deputy Elections Head Kare Vollan. "The problem is when parties complain publicly first and ask questions later, because most, if not all, the questions they have are easily answered by the staff of the Counting Center."
The counting won't be over for the next few days, and it appears that the tension between the three nationalist parties in BiH and the international community has not yet run its course. It is apparent that nationality still divides the population, and the presence of the international community adds to already existing pressures. Perhaps the final results will merely reveal what is already expected: that another storm cloud may be brewing.
Breakdown of the preliminary election totals:
From the Federation:
SDP 27.3 percent
SDA 27.1 percent
HDZ 19 percent
Party for BiH 15 percent
From the Republika Srpska:
SDS 40 percent
Party of Democratic Progress 15 percent
Coalition SNSD-DSP 10 percent
FBiH House of Representatives:
SDA 26.8 percent
SDP 26.1 percent
HDZ 17 percent
Party for BiH 14 percent
RS National Assembly:
SDS 36 percent
Party of Independent Social Democrats
(SNSD) 13 percent
PDP 12 percent
Mirko Šarovič (SDS) 50.5 percent
Milorad Dodik (SNSD) 26 percent
Makeup of Federation Canton Assemblies:
The HDZ leads in cantons 2, 6, 7, 8 and 10.
The SDA leads in cantons 1, 4 and 5.
The SDP leads in cantons 3 and 9.
Beth Kampschror, 18 November 2000
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