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Bosnia: A Guide To The Elections

  • Kitty McKinsey



Prague, 12 September 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Following are facts about Saturday's elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina:

THE COUNTRY

Bosnia-Herzegovina, one of the six republics in the former Yugoslavia, is made up of two entities under the Dayton peace accords that put an end to the 43-month war that raged from 1992 to 1995. A Muslim-Croat Federation controls 51 percent of the territory and is inhabited mostly by Muslims, who now prefer to be called Bosniaks, and Bosnian Croats. The Serb entity, Republika Srpska, covers 49 percent and is home mostly to Bosnian Serbs.

THE ELECTION

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) is conducting the election, which will be heavily monitored by international observers. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Central European Time Saturday.

ELIGIBLE VOTERS

Anyone 18 years or older who was listed in the 1991 census is eligible to vote, whether they now live in Bosnia or not. Estimated number of eligible voters: 2.9 million. Some 640,000 Bosnian refugees living abroad had the chance to cast their ballots last week.

THE GOVERNMENT



The Dayton agreement calls for a national government, with limited powers, for all of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Under it will be separate governments for the Muslim-Croat federation and the Serb republic.

The national government will have a three-member presidency consisting of a Croat, a Muslim and a Serb. The one who gets the most votes will be chairman and will serve as president of the country for two years until new elections are held. There will be a two-chamber legislature: an appointed 15-member upper house divided equally among Muslims, Croats and Serbs and a lower house with 28 members from the federation and 14 from the Serb region.

The Muslim-Croat and Serb governments will each have their own president and legislature.

WHAT WILL BE ON THE BALLOT

IN THE MUSLIM-CROAT FEDERATION:

Two members -- Muslim and Croat -- of the national presidency, to be chosen from eight candidates.

28 members of the national House of Representatives.

140-seat federation House of Representatives.

Members of lower-level provincial assemblies.

IN REPUBLIKA SRPSKA:

One Serb member of the national presidency, to be chosen from eight candidates.

14 members of the national House of Representatives.

Serb republic president

140-seat Serb republic assembly

WHAT WON'T BE ON THE BALLOT

Municipal officials. International monitors called off elections for these posts because of harassment and violence in some cities and reports that refugees were being told where to vote.

WHO'S RUNNING

A total of 55 parties are registered to compete in the elections at various levels. Not all are campaigning at the national level. The most important parties are:

IN THE MUSLIM-CROAT FEDERATION:



The Party for Democratic Action (SDA), whose supporters are mostly Muslims, and whose leader is the incumbent Muslim president, Alija Izetbegovic.

The Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) which draws its support primarily from ethnic Croats in the western and southwestern part of the country, called Herzegovina; it is particularly strong in the Herzegovinian regional capital, Mostar.

The Party for Bosnia-Herzegovina, headed by former prime minister Haris Silajdzic, who is challenging Izetbegovic for the Muslim post on the three-per-nation presidency. Silajdzic is running as a secular Muslim opposed to what he says are Izetbegovic's nationalist policies.

The Joint List for Bosnia, which unites five opposition parties -- the Social-Democratic Party (SDP), the Union of Bosnian-Herzegovinian Social-Democrats (UBSD), the Muslim-Bosniak Organization (MBO), the Croat Peasant Party (HSS) and the Republican Party (RS).

IN REPUBLIKA SRPSKA:

The Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) which ruled the Bosnian Serb territories throughout the war and whose leader, Radovan Karadzic, was forced to step down by the international community because he is an indicted war criminal. It is campaigning -- in violation of the Dayton Accords -- for secession from Bosnia and union with Serbia, and has been fined $50,000 by the OSCE for its nationalist separatist campaign.

The Party for Peace and Prosperity (SMP), a coalition of five opposition parties -- Party of Independent Social Democrats (SNSDR), the Socialist Party (SP) headed by Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, the Yugoslav Alliance of leftists (JUL), the Social Liberals (SLS) and the New Radical Party (NRS).

The Radical Party (SRS) headed by ultra-nationalist Serbian paramilitary leader and politician, Vojislav Seselj.

The Party for Serbian Unity (SSJ) headed by one of the most notorious Serb warlords, Arkan (real name: Zeljko Raznjatovic), who is accused of leading his forces in some of the worst atrocities of the war.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Whether voters line up primarily behind ethnic parties. All three ruling parties -- the SDS, SDA and HDZ -- have campaigned for voters to retain the status quo and give priority to the concept of "narod," or nation. Their opposition is campaigning for a unified secular state.

Potential violence on election day as voters are bused across the inter-entity boundary line to cast ballots. The OSCE has identified 12 hotspots where it says election-day violence is possible.

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