Prague, 18 September 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Western press commentary focuses today on the outcome of elections last weekend in Bosnia and asks whether Muslims, Bosnian Serbs and Croats -- the three principal ethnic groups of Bosnia-Herzegovina -- will succeed in setting up common institutions.
LONDON DAILY TELEGRAPH: The threat of an outright Serb boycott of the new constitution looms large
In an analysis in today's edition, Robert Fox and Sarajevo correspondent Julius Strauss write: "The main Muslim candidate, outgoing President Alija Izetbegovic, was leading in the race to be Bosnia's next president." The article continues: "Mr. Izetbegovic's strong performance surprised most observers and organizers of Saturday's nationwide elections, the first since independence for Bosnia after fours years of war and ethnic terror." The writers quote a Sarajevan as saying yesterday: "I feel we are right back where we began in 1992, when these divisions in Bosnia led to war." The writers conclude: "With Mr. Izetbegovic in the chair, the threat of an outright Serb boycott of the new constitution, and with it the Dayton peace plan, still looms very large."
WALL STREET JOURNAL EUROPE: The international community failed to enforce Dayton
Patrick Moore heads the Balkan research group at the Open Media Research Institute in Prague. In today's edition, Moore comments on international intentions to build institutions that "can bring the country together instead of driving it apart." Moore writes: "This all sounds very nice and certainly is in keeping with the Dayton agreement, but how can it be done? The fact is that to do so will be difficult if not impossible, precisely because the 'international community' has failed from the day that Dayton come into effect to show the nationalists that it is ready to enforce the Dayton treaty and to do so unambiguously. The result of the foreigners' waffling, dodging and equivocation is that the nationalists are more firmly in the saddle than ever in Bosnia, a point that is likely to be all the more evident as the election returns are confirmed.."
FRANKFURTER RUNDSCHAU: The West will have to commit itself extensively to Bosnia
In a commentary today, Rolf Paasch contends that the West will have to commit itself extensively in Bosnia. Paasch writes: "Otherwise all the effort was in vain." He writes: "Only with such a concentrated commitment, can the newly elected common Bosnian institutions be forced to work. Only with improved cooperation of NATO and nongovernmental organizations, of OSCE and UNHCR, can the reconstruction of a destroyed infrastructure and a democratic culture be realized. Only with such a central institution -- mainly supported by Western governments -- can the expected small wars between seperatistic claims and multi-ethnic necessities be won."
WASHINGTON POST: Washington must play a reduced and more discreet role
The paper editorialized yesterday: "In any event, the whole situation is changing. The elections of America's choice have now been held and will soon be internationally certified. Bosnia is moving into a phase devoted to its own political self-discovery. With its allies, Washington must stay engaged, but in a reduced and more discreet role and with a different emphasis." The editorial says: "(This) means replacing the soon-to-depart NATO peacekeepers with some kind of international presence to prevent Bosnia from slipping back into hostile jostling or war". The newspaper concludes: "There should be no illusions about what can be accomplished, but there can be no excuses for not doing what can be done."
POLITIKEN: The international community did not promote law and order
An editorial in today's edition of the Danish newspaper says: "The world's practitioners of realpolitik could reject (common) criticism as idealistically utopian if the election's results reflected the real power relations in Bosnia. But they don't. For months, the military power in the republic has belonged to IFOR, NATO and the international community. Those who have the responsibility for that power -- the United States and the European Union -- did not use it for anything but to implement the cease-fire. They did not promote what was the election's raison d'etre -- to guarantee law and order. In this way, they skipped by the basic principles to which all parties to the Dayton accord had agreed"
FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG: How long should one have waited until conditions are free and fair?
In a signed editorial in today's edition, Matthias Rub says: "If the elections of the 14 hadn't taken place, then there wouldn't be any election for the foreseeable future. But how long should one have waited until all conditions for fair and free elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina were met? Bosnia-Herzegovina -- like most of the countries of the region -- doesn't have a democratic tradition and possesses only a rudimentary civil society. The symbolic effect must not be underestimated." The editorial continues: "With the elections on Saturday, a new legislative term is beginning, maybe a new era. Common institutions can be built up, no matter how brittle they may turn out to be."
LONDON GUARDIAN: Ethnic cleansing has succeeded
Jonathan Eyal is director of studies at the Royal United Services Institute in London. In a news analysis in today's edition, Eyal writes: "Americans have a tradition of believing that any disease, however severe, can be cured with a good election and a new constitution. In the case of Bosnia, however, both instruments served little practical value. The republic had a constitution almost identical to the one which the United States wants to enforce today, complete with a rotating presidency. This did not prevent Bosnia from breaking up, and recreating a similar legal scheme." Eyal concludes: "The outcome (of the elections) may have been inevitable. But is a travesty to suggest that it is either honorable or just. The truth remains that ethnic cleansing has succeeded, and territorial changes accomplished by force still work, even in Europe."
DIE TAGESZEITUNG: The "not war" in Bosnia won't last long
The German newspaper describes today in an editorial the political meaning of the elections: "Ethnic cleansing and other war crimes were successful. The division of Bosnia will be sanctioned. Precisely this development was planned in the Dayton agreement. The goal, which its architects assert was to maintain the Bosnian state as a whole, wasn't seriously pursued. That's why it is only logical that these architects -- first of all Richard Holbrooke -- praise the elections as a success." The newspaper continues: "The peace -- or in better words, the not-war -- in Bosnia won't last long under these circumstances. The conditions for the return of the refugees -- which the German interior ministers will consult about again (tomorrow) -- haven't improved after these elections."