First national post-war elections under way in
Bosnian party claims irregularities
September 14, 1996
Web posted at: 2:50 p.m. EDT (1850 GMT)
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNN) -- Under the watchful eyes
of heavily armed NATO troops,
Serbs, Muslims and Croats made
their way to polling places across Bosnia Saturday to vote in
that country's first post-war national elections.
The elections, mandated by the Dayton peace accords, could
determine the shape of Bosnia for the future --
country remains reunified under the terms of the accords, or
whether the de facto partition that has divided the country
since the accords were signed is reinforced.
About 3 million people are eligible to vote for a collective
three-member presidency -- one Serb, one Croat and one
Muslim. Voters will also elect a joint parliament, separate
assemblies for the Muslim-Croat federation and the Bosnian
republic and regional governments.
But Bosnian Vice President Ejup
Ganic cautioned that the
heavily criticized elections were not necessarily the final
word on the fate of Bosnia.
"We understand that Serbs will be elected who will continue
with the same policy to divide Bosnia," he told CNN's
Christiane Amanpour, "but we will have them around the table
fighting with arguments instead of fighting with guns."
sec./159K AIFF or WAV sound)
Ganic acknowledged that the war-torn country was still
plagued by problems such as refugees unable to return to
their homes and war criminals not yet in custody, but he
called the elections "a step forward."
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But the SDA, the political party of Bosnian President
Alija Izetbegovic, challenged the results of voting in
the Serb-controlled sections of Bosnia.
In a letter to the United Nations, the SDA said election
invalid in the Serb entity and cited what he called new
evidence of technical irregularities.
The party called on the U.N. Security Council to review
the matter and
it has requested a meeting with the Organization for Security
in Europe (OSCE) Chairman Flavio Cotti and his
representatives in Bosnia, OSCE
mission chief Robert Frowick.
Voter turnout was reported light early in the day, but had
picked up by mid-day, Amanpour reported from Sarajevo. At
some polling places, long lines caused tensions among those
waiting to vote, and election officials called NATO troops
to temporarily close the polls until calm could be restored.
Officials said however, that everyone would be allowed to
vote, and if necessary polls would remain open past their 7
p.m. closing time.
Interior Minister Avdo Hebib told Reuters that a shot had
been fired from Serb territory in the direction of a polling
station near Sarajevo but there had been no casualties.
Elsewhere, busses carried refugees across the line between
the Serb republic and the Muslim-Croat federation to vote.
Early Saturday there were reports Serb police had closed some
crossing points, but Jeff Fischer of the OSCE said the
crossing points were temporarily shut down because of traffic
congestion, and quickly reopened.
NATO troops guarded the crossing points between the Serb and
Bosnian-Croat entities, watching over the thousands who
crossed the borders to vote.
But in many parts of territory that had been "ethnically
cleansed" during the long war for control of Bosnia, Muslims
appeared reluctant to return to vote, despite elaborate
security measures set up by NATO and OSCE. Reuters reported
that in Kladanj, where buses were prepared to transport some
8,000 Muslims to the Srebrenica area, only three men arrived
to make the trip.
"There are not even eight of us to fill up a single bus,"
said Mehio Avdagic. "This is a big, big shame."
The story was different in northern Bosnia, however, where
thousands of Serbs traveled by bus and train from Yugoslavia
to take part in the elections.
"Everyone's going to vote for their own family," said one
elderly Serb refugee, in reference to nationalist parties
that now represent the war's ethnic factions.
Amanpour, The Associated Press and Reuters
contributed to this report.
Pivotal Elections: Bosnia
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