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Balkan Report: December 3, 1997

3 December 1997, Volume 1, Number 19

Will Milosevic Tilt the Bosnian Balance? Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic is putting pressure on the Bosnian Serb branch of his Socialist Party to forge a post-election coalition with the hard-line Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) of Radovan Karadzic, the independent BETA news agency reported on November 29.

Journalists in Banja Luka added, however, that the Socialists have not yet decided what to do. The results of the November 23 parliamentary elections will be announced in about a week's time. One wing of the Socialists is politically close to European Social Democratic parties and does not want to do Milosevic's bidding.

The Socialists' decision could be crucial for the political future of the Republika Srpska. Preliminary election returns suggest that neither the SDS nor the Serbian People's League (SNS) of Republika Srpska President Biljana Plavsic will have an absolute majority in the new legislature. Most observers had been expecting that Vojislav Seselj's Radicals will join with the SDS, while the Socialists will help Plavsic. The balance of power, according to many analysts, would then lie with the Muslim, Croatian, and non-nationalist deputies.

But if Milosevic succeeds in pressuring the Socialists into a pact with the SDS, the SNS and the non-Serbs could find themselves relegated to the opposition. Plavsic has said she will resign if her party is defeated.

Schumacher Tells RFE/RL that Dayton Will be Implemented. The international community, however, has been hoping that Plavsic's party will do well in the elections. It wants her to stay in office and make good on her pledges to help implement the Dayton agreement.

Hanns-Heinrich Schumacher, a German diplomat and deputy to the High Representative Carlos Westendorp, told RFE/RL on November 29 that he hopes and expects that the SDS and the Radicals will fall short of an absolute majority. He added, however, that it remains an open question whether any Republika Srpska leadership will work with the international community.

Schumacher said, in fact, that the Bonn conference on Bosnia, which is slated for December 9 and 10, will have to note that the only real progress made on implementing the Dayton agreement since the conference in Sintra, Portugal, in May was the holding of elections in the fall. The diplomat added that the Serbs have been obstructing any agreement on joint state symbols, travel documents, or a common currency.

He told RFE/RL that the biggest challenge at the moment is to ensure that those local officials elected in the fall take office by December 31 as scheduled. And looking beyond June 1998, Schumacher feels that any new peacekeeping force will require a more flexible mandate to implement the Dayton agreement in the face of what he called "difficulties on the ground."