September 29, 1996 Vreme News Digest Agency No 260

Elections in B-H: 1990-1996

Post-war Calculations

by Ljiljana Smajlovic

It is not official yet, but it is obvious: the political forces that were in power when the war started in 1992 won the elections in Bosnia

Three national parties of Bosnia-Herzegovina (Serb Democratic Party - SDS, Party of Democratic Action - SDA and Croat Democratic Union - HDZ) won six years ago, won this year, and would have won the next year too had the voting accidentally been postponed. This probably is currently the only comfort to the supporters of united, multi-ethnical and multi-cultural Bosnia-Herzegovina who spent the whole summer appealing zealously and with substantiated arguments to Bill Clinton to prolong the Dayton deadline and postpone the elections for four, six or more months.

However, nothing is the same as in November 1992 in Bosnia, when the ethnic parties for the first time gained the mandate to support the interests of their three nations during the splitting of the country (Yugoslavia). The leaders of the SDA, SDS and HDZ terminated the pre-electoral rallies six months earlier by hugs, meaning literally, physically embracing each other. Putting the ideological similarities in the foreground, they appealed to their voters to help "brotherly" national parties when voting for the Presidency of B-H, in order to mutually defeat the communists and reformists. (At that time, all voters, regardless to their nationality, voted for all seven members of the collective chief of the state, electing two Serbs, two Croats, two Moslems and one from the category of "other" nations and nationalities. The victory was taken by the candidates of national parties: with a little help from Serbs and Moslems, Stjepan Kljujic won 100,000 votes more than his party HDZ. This means that along with all Croat votes, he won several tens of thousands of "brotherly" votes.)

The latest elections passed with no fraternization, not even the fake and pretended one. Instead of ideological similarities, former coalition partners saw enormous differences between them, impossible to overcome. Any comparison insulted them.

Voters from the territory of B-H Federation had to decide whether to give their votes to the Bosniak or the Croat candidate for the Presidency of B-H which right up front made senseless any pre-electoral coalition or any exchange of votes. Moslems and Croats voted for the representatives of their people. What the others did, i.e. Serbs, was not overly interesting to anyone since they represent a politically irrelevant force scarce in number within this entity.

The same can not be said, though, for the Moslems that voted on the territory of Republika Srpska (in absence or in person). Voters in Republika Srpska could only vote for the Serbian member of the B-H Presidency, as derived from the Dayton Constitution of B-H. This probably was the reason why quite a number of Moslems who escaped from Republika Srpska decided not to vote in their previous home towns. Many of them explained to the journalists that they did not wish to vote in RS because there they could not vote for Alija Izetbegovic directly, and " I want to vote for Alija, and if it is not possible to vote for him there, I shall not vote there..."

Having a situation as such, SDA decided to apply the strategy of "the lesser of the two evils", which came to be the only evident case of fraternization of the kind witnessed in 1990. SDA advised their electorate from the territory of RS to vote for Mladen Ivanic, the major opponent to Momcilo Krajisnik for the position of the chief of the Dayton Bosnia. There is also piece of evidence for this, in the form of the fly published by this party in order to help their supporters to manage the complicated voting procedure.

At the same time, this is the only brotherly help between Serbs and Moslems in the course of the latest elections. The difference is that Alija Izetbegovic did not help Radovan Karadzic as during previous elections when the SDS candidate Nikola Koljevic, racing for one of the two Serbian seats in the B-H Presidency, barely defeated the reformist Nenad Kecmanovic with the help of SDA votes. This time Alija has "helped" Milosevic, i.e. his candidate.

On the other hand, the Moslems directed to vote in Republika Srpska ensured the status of respectability to SDA. Its candidate Abid Djozic was the third in the race for the position of the president of RS (he had 101,588 out of the recounted 971,455 votes registered in RS). Biljana Plavsic won very convincingly with 639,675 votes, but Djozic won only 60,000 votes less than Zivko Radisic, Milosevic’s candidate and the president of the Socialist Party of RS, but he won two and a half times more votes than the popular ex-mayor of Banjaluka Predrag Radic (who won only 44,207 out of the recounted 971,455 votes). SDA was the third in the race for the representatives from RS in the B-H House of Representatives, wining 9.29% of votes and the fourth party by its importance in the Peoples Assembly of RS, where it won 6.5% seats.

Less than a hundred thousand votes used by the Moslems in the battle fields of RS was a brave and risky move of SDA. It was evident by the results of voting for the three-members Presidency of B-H. Moslem electorate is bigger than Serb, but Alija Izetbegovic beat tightly Momcilo Krajisnik in the race for the position of the President of B-H (the Dayton Agreement stipulates that this position wins the one of the three candidates who collects most votes). Izetbegovic won by some 40,000 votes (730,000 compared to 690,000 votes won by Krajisnik). The difference would have been much more comfortable and convincing had all of the Moslem refugees been given the opportunity to vote for their leader. This way 100,000 of them gave their vote to Mladen Ivanic, and they grin bitterly when the foreign journalists admire the thus far unknown political fact that Republika Srpska has "even 300,000 temperate Serbs that voted for the temperate Ivanic."

Any worthy comparative analysis of the elections of 1990 and 1996 must first of all give an answer to the question whether greater or lesser ethnical homogenization of the electorate was achieved this year or in the elections six years ago. However, the problem is that the electorate remained unknown in many aspects even to those who ordered, organized and paid the elections. Not even the Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe, under whose wing the Bosnian elections of September 14th happened, has the idea of the dimensions of the B-H electorate. The Bosnian party asserts that 250,000 of its citizens were killed in the war, but this assertion was sometimes denied, and sometimes proven. The elections were started with the idea that the registration of voters might show the number of voters with the right to vote after the war. It was only known that in 1990 there were 3,144,353 registered voters and that for the Parliament of B-H voted 2,339,958 voters.

Seven days after the elections and six days after the leaders of the international community greeted the elections, which passed surprisingly calmly according to many estimates, a scandal happened. It turned out that the experts from the OSCE had an assumption of the number of people that might vote. They assumed in advance that B-H’s electorate numbers now around 2.9 million citizens, and that 2,341,000 might vote. It seems that the experts from both entities made the calculations the same way, because the expectations of the OSCE were not only fulfilled but surpassed. According to the estimates of independent monitors and the UN controllers themselves, 103% out of the number of voters which OSCE set as the possible maximum voted.

Under current conditions, it is not possible to find out the dimension of the electorate, so the suspicions abut the elections will probably be tough and long-lasting. On Sunday, three days before the previously set deadline for the official announcement of the results of the elections (it should have been September 25th), OSCE gave hints that the recounting and the subsequent control of the ballots could last longer than previously planned, admitting numerous mistakes and the duplicating of the records.

As for the homogenization, it is conspicuous that SDS and SDA have convincing and in percentage very close majorities in the representative bodies. SDS won 60% of votes for the National Assembly of RS, and SDA in the corresponding House of Representatives of the B-H Federation has the majority of 57%. SDS won 59% of seats for representatives from the area of Serb entity in the House of Representatives of B-H, and SDA won 55% of seats for the representatives of the Federation of B-H. It seems that SDA and SDS have equal political power, each within its people. The electoral victory of Alija Izetbegovic over his opponents (the closest to him was Haris Silajdzic with 123,734 votes) is more convincing than the victory of Momcilo Krajisnik over his Serb opponents. (Ivanic is closer to Krajisnik than Silajdzic is to Izetbegovic.) Both Izetbegovic and Krajisnik have, however, won more votes than their parties (SDA won 677,500 votes in the elections for the House of Representatives of B-H compared to Izetbegovic’s 740,000; while Krajisnik won 100,000 votes more than SDS in the race for the same office, or 690,373 compared to 575,870 votes for SDS).

HDZ won 17% of the electorate in 1990, which was exactly the share of Croats in B-H’s population. Now HDZ has 24% of the electorate of the Federation, but the territory is now reduced and has less citizens, with increased Croat population. Before the war, Sarajevo had 5% of Croats. HDZ has won 5% of votes on September 14th in the canton of Sarajevo.

The story from 1990 has repeated itself as far as the civil opposition is concerned. The civil parties were better accepted in the cities than in the villages, but nowhere greatly. The Association of Communists - SDP won 274,000 votes in 1990 in the entire territory of B-H. The Joint List, coalition of five parties that together with SDP includes the former reformists (now called UBSD), and the Croatian Peasant Party, Republican Party and Moslem-Bosniak Organization, now won 100,000 votes in the elections for the House of Representatives of B-H, or 7.14% of votes.

The three pre-war national parties won in the first post-war elections, but only one of them still with its pre-war leader. Stjepan Kljujic parted form HDZ by his own free will, and Radovan Karadzic parted from SDS thanks to Carl Bildt, helped a little by Richard Holbrooke and the Tribunal from Hague, at least nominally. Karadzic is today the man whose name Momcilo Krajisnik does not dare to mention in public, but his face is smiling from all facades along the road Zvornik-Pale. Only Alija Izetbegovic remained where he was before the war. He still has something in common with Karadzic. They both are the objects of mythology amongst their people. The face of Alija Izetbegovic can not be seen on the posters in Sarajevo (those malicious say it is because the Prophet does not have his pictures taken). There are only posters with his statements and handwriting ("Both East and West support us," signed "Alija Izetbegovic").

No matter whether they have old or new leaders, the parties have not changed their disposition. They could not preserve peaceful Bosnia six years ago. Everything seems the same today, except that nothing is in Bosnian hands any more. All state affairs will be crucially influenced by foreigners authorized by the international community. There will be as much of Bosnia as the Americans desire, i.e. as much pressure on the three sides and two entities as the Americans are ready to put.