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Bosnia: OSCE Says It Will Respect Bosnian Voters' Choice

Prague, 18 September 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The spokeswoman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's office in Sarajevo says that the OSCE will respect the results of the past weekend's elections in Bosnia, whatever they may be.

Spokeswoman Nicole Szulc told RFE/RL in a telephone interview on Wednesday (Sept.16): "The people have spoken in this country (Bosnia) and the OSCE will respect what they said --regardless of what they said."

Szulc was responding to charges that the OSCE yesterday had canceled publication of preliminary results in the elections for political reasons. Some Bosnian political parties and independent groups monitoring the elections said the early results favored hard-line nationalists both in Republica Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation, the two parts of Bosnia set up by the 1995 Dayton peace accords.

One such independent association, the International Crisis Group, said yesterday that the OSCE, in the words of its legal counsel Sandra Coliver, "won't release the results because they don't like them." The group predicted that the elections would turn out to be nothing more than an ethnic census, because Bosnian election laws provide no incentive for candidates to appeal to voters outside of their own election bloc.

Szulc responded by calling the Independent Crisis Group "an independent group with (its own) agenda." She went on: "Their agenda has mostly been to criticize the OSCE and indeed the rest of the international community at about every turn.....I respect their work very much, but I reject any suggestion that we would not report the elections results exactly as they are."

Szulc also said that it would take from four to seven days more for the OSCE to publish final results of the elections. That contrasted with a prediction on the OSCE's web site today that official results might be released as early as Friday.

She said one major reason for the OSCE's delay in providing final results was that the election was what she called "hugely complicated," with four separate categories of voters, many of them out of country.

Bosnians voted Saturday and Sunday for three members of a joint presidency as well as a national parliament and parliaments for each half of Bosnia. Some other offices were also on the complicated and lengthy ballot.

Szulc was asked about criticism on Monday of the OSCE's organization of the elections by members of a European Parliament observer group. The EU parliamentarians said that the OSCE had severe problems with voter registration that had strained the voters' patience.

Szulc answered: "In the first place, unfortunately, the European Parliamentarians were not sufficiently briefed on the complexities of this (electoral) process....The second thing is, apparently the European Parliamentarians...don't seem to understand that we got into this country (Bosnia) in the course of the summer probably 115,000 refugees, who were virtually deported from countries like Germany (and) sent back into Bosnia --people who were already registered to vote out of county by mail and suddenly found themselves here without a polling station to go to....It was left to the OSCE to find a way to...find a way to enfranchise those voters who were eligible to vote."

Szulc added that the OSCE believes that, in her words, "everyone who wanted to vote, did (vote)." In fact, she said, the voter turnout was higher than the organization had hoped for, about 78 percent of the eligible electorate.