bosnia report
No. 19 June - August 1997
Using Elections to Achieve a Final Division
by Kasim Begic

I resigned because I became convinced that the electoral procedure adopted for the September 1997 elections was essentially the same as that adopted for the 1996 elections and would therefore lead to the same outcome. Annex 3 of the Dayton Accords laid down the general rule that people should vote in the municipalities in which they had lived in 1991; but it did allow for the possibility that, in exceptional cases, the Provisional Electoral Commission could allow people to vote where they now live. During one hundred and twenty meetings of the Commission I argued the view that such a right must remain exceptional; but I did not get very far, so had to resign. I was particularly disappointed that my warnings about the danger contained in the fact that Form P2 was to be used again for the municipal elections found little response from the political parties in Sarajevo - those in opposition as much as those in power. I hoped that my resignation would have some effect anÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌTd that, if we acted collectively, the municipal elections could at least provide the basis for having truly democratic general elections in 1998.

The problem lies in non-implementation of the Dayton provisions. In a situation where there existed freedom of movement, personal security and respect for property rights, and the return of refugees and deported people, there would be no need for anyone to vote in another municipality. The absence of these conditions, however, has legitimized abuse of the right to vote. By not ensuring implementation of the Dayton provisions, the international bodies have in effect permitted certain local parties to continue to pursue their original aims - directed at secession and the break-up of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Last year at least there was some talk of creating conditions for democratic elections, but this year even that has gone.

Why did I not resign already last year? This was because the international community, acting through the OSCE, imposed on us a false dilemma: those who were against elections being held by a specified date were allegedly against Dayton. Carl Bildt, by contesting the legitimacy of the existing B-H authorities and arguing that only elections could create legitimate institutions for Bosnia-Herzegovina, played an important role here. I argued publicly then that elections should be postponed until proper, democratic conditions had been created for them. This argument was accepted at least for the municipal elections, which were postponed in order, we were told, to ensure such conditions. I hoped that this promise would be kept, at least in the sense that those who failed to respect the electoral rules and agreements would be identified, and punished in line with the provisions specified in Annex Three, which gave a crucial role to the OSCE in deciding whether proper conditions existed or not. This hope has not been fulfilled. This time there is not even minimal pressure to ensure conditions for free, fair and democratic elections

The electoral procedure can consequently be described as little more than an instrument for the final partition of Bosnia-Herzegovina, in that - in the absence of proper conditions - it serves only to legitimize political parties that have always argued for Bosnia's partition. We have already seen how the 1996 elections have in effect left Karadzic in charge of implementing the Dayton Agreement on one half of Bosnia's state territory, thus only encouraging renewed talk of our country's partition. Moreover, they have reduced the Bosnian state to a parliament that does not meet and a Council of Ministers that does not function. Both the High Representative Carl Bildt and his deputy Michael Steiner should be held responsible for this outcome.

It should be recalled that in December 1993 the international community was already ready to divide Bosnia-Herzegovina in the ratio of 33% for the Bosniaks, 17% for the Croats and 49% for the Serbs. This is a little different from the situation we have got now. One wonders whether it was necessary to undergo another two years of horror in order to arrive back - by way of the non-implementation of Dayton and the dysfunctional authority invested in the international military presence and the High Representative's office - at the state of affairs of the winter of 1993. First they returned us, politically speaking, to the situation of 1991, when the SDS and the HDZ started redrawing the map of Bosnia; then the international community came up to legitimize the 1993 quantitative proportions, by recourse to undemocratic, unfair and unfree elections.

There is no doubt that the SDA itself also bears some responsibility for this outcome. So too, though do the opposition parties. When opposition leaders on trips abroad argue that 'the national parties are responsible for the war,' ie. blame all of them equally, they merely give an alibi to the international community's rhetoric of 'three warring factions.' It is true. of course. that the Sarajevo governmentÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌT has made a whole number of decisions that have run contrary to Bosnian state interests. The very acceptance of anti-Bosnian forces as negotiating partners set the Bosnian government on the road to collaborating with them in some way or another. But one must recall also the international pressure under which the Bosnian side has been operating, directed at reaching a solution on the basis of the 33:17:49 partition scheme.

However critical we may be of the SDA, it is necessary to distinguish between it and the Bosnian government, which is a function of the whole of Bosnia-Herzegovina. All the parties that stand by such values as a single Bosnia, a free and democratic country, tolerance, the affirmation of individual and national rights, market economy (ie. all the values which the pro-Bosnian parties do share) must find their expression and validation through the B-H state institutions. If the electoral process comes to be reduced to a struggle not for these common values - ie. over which party or coalition of parties would better institute a rule of law under which they could be achieved - but instead for the spoils of office, then the elections will amount to little more than the final act of Bosnia-Herzegovina's dissolution. Our country has survived not least because the territory under the control of the Army of Bosnia-Herzegovina has been different from those ruled by the SDS and the HDZ. However, as time goes by, the difference between the three parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina is diminishing, thus providing ammunition for those who favour our country's partition.


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