Observations on the Bosnian Elections
by Noel Malcolm
1. Pre-electoral Conditions
a. The necessary conditions for the holding of elections in Bosnia-Hercegovina
were set out in the Dayton Agreement, Annex 3, article 1 (1):
'The Parties shall ensure that conditions exist for the organisation of free
and fair elections, in particular a politically neutral environment; . . . shall
ensure freedom of expression and of the press; shall allow and encourage freedom
of association (including of political parties); and shall ensure freedom of
In addition, the Dayton Agreement required full compliance with paragraphs 7
and 8 of the CSCE Copenhagen Document of 1990, which specify such conditions as
'political campaigning in a fair and free atmosphere' and 'unimpeded access to
the media on a non-discriminatory basis'.
b. These conditions were very evidently not met. Detailed reports compiled during the three months preceding the election noted this fact. The Council of Europe Political Affairs Committee reported on 27 June that 'Four freedoms - of
speech, of movement, of assembly and of media - are far from being evenly assured across the country.'1 On 14 August the International Crisis Group (an
independent organisation monitoring the political situation in Bosnia) reported
that the required conditions for free and fair elections had not been fulfilled
when the go-ahead for holding them had been given by the OSCE on 25 June, and
added: 'the prerequisite conditions have not improved since mid-June. On the
contrary, in many respects the conditions have deteriorated.'2 Most strikingly,
the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly issued a report in early September which listed
the twelve criteria for free and fair elections (four primary, eight secondary),
and gave specific reasons for thinking that each of those criteria remained
wholly or partially unfulfilled.3 The most serious failures concerned the freedoms of movement, assembly and expression through the media, particularly in Republika Srpska and in the territory under Croat control in western Bosnia-Hercegovina.
c. One particular problem was regarded by the Provisional Election Commission
(PEC) (chaired by Ambassador Robert Frowick) as so serious as to require
thepostponement of one entire element of the elections: the manipulation of
voter registration. Bosnian citizens were allowed to vote either (i) where they
had lived in 1991, or (ii) where they now lived, or (iii) where they 'intended'
to live in the future. It was found that this third option was exploited, overwhelmingly by the Serb politicaÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌìl authorities and agents of the ruling Serb
party, who coerced displaced and refugee Serbs into registering to vote in specific municipalities. The purpose, evidently, was to build up artificial Serb
majorities in places which had not had majority Serb populations before the war.
This was described by the OSCE Coordinator for International Monitoring, Mr van
Thijn, as a 'fraud' and 'a serious violation of human rights'.4 Ambassador Frowick stated that the Dayton guidelines had been 'seriously distorted'.5
d. However, although the municipal elections were postponed, the registrations
which had taken place in this fraudulent and coercive manner were allowed to
stand, and were used as the basis on which people voted in the other elements of
the election on 14 September. It is hard to understand how this procedure could
be justified. The argument apparently used by the PEC was that these fraudulent
registrations would affect the composition of the results only at the municipal
level; but this is plainly untrue. If a Serb from a town in Federation territory, who now lives in a refugee camp in Serbia, had been registered as a voter
in (for example) Srebrenica, and if that registration had been found to be coercive and fraudulent, the correct procedure would have been to require that voter
to vote where he or she had lived in 1991. (Of the three categories listed
above, the third must be ruled out in such a case because of the fraud, and the
second cannot apply; this leaves only the first.) Taking such corrective measures would indeed have altered the composition of the vote at the national level
2. The Conduct of the Elections
a. The general conditions in Bosnia-Hercegovina on 14 September were calm; there
were no major security problems; most polling stations opened more or less on
time and functioned properly during the day.
b. However, proper conduct at the majority of polling stations does not rule out
the possibility of serious fraud, either at a minority of stations, or during
the transport of ballot boxes and the counting process. The Election Appeals
SubCommission found at a polling station in Kozluk (Republika Srpska) 'organised
fraud with a level of planning that calls into question the integrity of the
vote at this station', and ordered that the results there be annulled. It
reached a similar conclusion when investigating a military polling station in
the Croat-controlled territory of the Federation.6 The arrangements for the
transport and safeguarding of ballot boxes after the completion of voting were
haphazard in some cases.7
In at least one case, there was strong evidence of tampering with absentee ballots. 'In Srebrenica a bundle of refugee ballot papers (identifiable as they had
had to be folded twice to fit into the envelopes) was found to contain nearly
40% spoilt papers. In nearly all cases there seemed to be a valid marking for
the SDA [Izetbegovic's party, which had candidates in Republika Srpska] but an
additional mark was present rendering the paper invalid. These additional marks
were in different pen/pencil to that which appeared to have been placed by the
voter. Despite clear evidence of tampering, the OSCE Supervisor had little
choice but to rule these invalid.'8
FINAL OUTCOME OF THE 14 SEPTEMBER 1996 ELECTIONS
|Party or Coalition Name
|Stranka demokratske akcije (SDA)
|Stranka za Bosnu i Hercegovinu (SBiH)
|Six other parties and coalitions
|Total valid votes cast for Bosniac candidates
|Srpska demokratska stranka (SDS)
|Demokratski patriotski blok RS (DPB)
|and Savez za mir I progres (SMP)
|Two other parties
|Total valid votes cast for Serb candidates
|Hrvatska demokratska zajednica (HDZ)
|Zdruzena lista BiH
|Two other parties
|Total valid votes cast for Croat candidates
|Total valid votes cast for all candidates
|Spoilt ballots cast in the Federation
|Spoilt ballots cast in Republika Srpska
|Total ballots cast
c. Fewer than 1000 international observers were present, as against an original
estimated requirement of 4000. Observers were given unsually detailed and specific instructions by the OSCE: each two-person team of observers was given a
list of polling stations to visit during the election day. Teams were also instructed to visit these stations on the day before the election, in order to
meet the polling station staff. This degree of organisation may well have been
counter-productive: under such a system, it would have been unusually easy for
local officials, party representatives, etc., to work out which polling stations
would not be visited at all on election day - thus facilitating any potential
fraud. In addition, 22 out of the 109 municipalities in Bosnia-Hercegovina were
not monitored by any international observers.9
d. The biggest single problem reported by observers on election day concerned
names missing from the register of voters. Estimates vary of the proportion of
would-be voters who were thus prevented from voting. One report, summarising the
findings of 38 British observers in different parts of Bosnia-Hercegovina,
noted: 'In some areas up to 20% of voters were found not to be on the reÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌìgister,
although in other areas this figure is estimated at below 5%.'10 Another report,
summarising findings from all over Bosnia-Hercegovina, concluded: 'Some observers reported that about 5% of voters were not able to cast their ballots . . .
others reported that the rate was between 10 and 15%.' 11 In Mostar the OSCE
Regional Director, Gen. Odendahl, put it at between 12 and 15%.12 In the Bihac
municipality it was estimated at 5-10%, although one polling station chairman
estimated it at 30%.13
The reasons for the absence of these names from the register remain obscure. In
many cases, people had checked that their names were present on the provisional
list before the election; their names then seem to have disappeared when theprovisional list was transferred to the computerised final list. Besides, the basis
of all these lists was the pre-existing register of voters from the 1990 election and the 1991 census; in many cases people who had been on those earlier
lists (and on many previous ones, having lived in the same place for decades)
found that they were not on the final list on election day. Clerical error, by
the computer staff employed by the Provisional Election Commission, must form a
large part of the explanation: the register was full of grotesquely mis-spelt
names. Since the main ordering method used was chronological order of dates of
birth, any equivalent numerical errors when copying out those dates would have
made many entries impossible to find.
e. One other particular problem should be mentioned: the restriction on the
freedom of movement, and freedom to vote, of those displaced Muslims and Croats
who returned to vote in their pre-war places of residence in Republika Srpska.
In many cases such voters were permitted (by the police and other officials of
Republika Srpska) to vote only in one specific polling station; such stations
were usually outside the main towns, and in some cases only a few hundred metres
from the Inter-Entity Boundary Line (IEBL). Many of those who chose to cross the
IEBL did so because they wished to see their old homes; under the electoral law
a voter was entitled to vote in any polling station in the municipality. In some
cases - for example, a group of 52 Muslim voters who wished to vote in the town
of Vlasenica - the anger and disappointment voters felt at being prevented by
the Serb police from entering their chosen destination were such that they returned to the Federation without having voted at all.14 (This was, of course,
their own decision; but it was a decision prompted by a breach of the electoral
law by the Serb authorities.) Where such voters did vote in such designated
polling stations, the fact that all their votes were known to be concentrated in
a single set of ballot boxes must also raise a serious question about the possibilities of subsequent tampering with those votes (cf. 2.2, above).
3. Discrepancies Between Voting Totals and the Electorate
a. Since the results of the election were announced, some commentators (notably
the experts employed by the International Crisis Group) have drawn attention to
serious discrepancies between the total number of votes cast and the assumed total number of the electorate, given that some information is available about the
number of eligible voters who did not in fact cast their votes. The argument put
forward by the ICG can be briefly summarised as follows.
The total number of votes cast for the Presidency (including spoilt ballot papers) was just over 2,430,000. The number of voters who did not cast their
votes, in various categories of refugees and displaced persons, is known to be
at least 580,000. (This includes, for example, the category of those displaced
Muslims and Croats who registered to return in person to their former places of
residence, but in theÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌì event did not do so. There are several such categories,
and in each case the ICG calculation assumes the lowest possible number of non-voters consistent with the evidence available.) Combining those who voted and
those who were eligible to vote but did not do so, one reaches a total of
3,010,000. But according to all the official statements issued by the OSCE office in Sarajevo before and immediately after the election, the maximum number
of people eligible to vote in Bosnia was 2,920,000.15
House of Representatives of Bosnia-Herzegovina
|Party or Coalition Name
|Federation - Seats Allocated
|Zdruzena lista BiH
|10 other parties and coalitions
|Total valid votes cast in Federation
|Republika Srpska - Seats Allocated
|Seven other parties or coalitions
|Total valid votes cast in Republika Srpska
|Spoilt ballots cast in Federation
|Spoilt ballots cast in Republika Srpska
|Total ballots cast
b. Ambassador Frowick responded to these arguments by issuing a revised estimate
of the total electorate. He now argued that on the basis of the 1991 census, the
electorate would have been just over 3,500,000. On the assumption that approximately 250,000 people had died in the war, he now argued that the 1996 electorate was 3,250,000.16
This statement was based on a claim about the figures for 1991 which is demonstrably false. The correct figure for the electorate in 1991 cannot possibly be
3,500,000. When the elections were held in November 1990, the electorate was
known to be 3,144,353; on that occasion 2,339,958 people voted, representing a
turn-out of 74%.17 Thanks to its high birth-rate, Bosnia has a very different
demographic structure from most western or northern European countries. In countries such as the United Kingdom, less than 20% of the population is under the
age of 18; in Bosnia-Hercegovina, the figure is roughly 28%. The new figures put forward by Ambassador Frowick would imply that the Bosnian electorate in 1991
was 80.5% of the population; this is plainly impossible.
c. However, a proper use of demographic evidence does enable us to make an
estimate about the probable size of the electorate in 1996; and this estimated
figure, although not as high as the 3,250,000 put forward by Ambassador Frowick,
is certainly higher than the figure of 2,920,000 which he had previously used.
The total population of Bosnia-Hercegovina in 1991 was just over 4,377,000. If
there had been no war in 1992-5, this would have grown, on previous demographic
trends, by approximately 150,000 by 1996.18 However, the electorate would have
grown during the same period by approximately 200,000. The reason for this difference is that the birth-rate in Bosnia-Hercegovina has been declining gradually over the last 23 years: in the early 1970s there were roughly 77,000 live
births per year in Bosnia-Hercegovina, while by 1990 the figure had fallen to
66,000.19 What matters for the growth of the electorate, obviously, is the
birth-rate 18 years previously.
In the absence of war, therefore, the total electorate in 1996 would have been
approximately 3,344,000. From this figure, an estimated number of adults killed
in the war must now be subtracted. If we use Ambassador Frowick's estimate of
250,000, this yields a total electorate of 3,094,000. Some observers, however,
would argue that this figure of 250,000 was too high. In order to give Ambassador Frowick as much benefit of the doubt as possible, we might calculate instead
on half that figure. This would yield a total electorate of 3,219,000. Between
thisfigure and the minimum total of 3,010,000 (for votes cast and known non-voters: see 3.1 above) there lies, therefore, a margin of 209,000.
d. At first sight, this may suggest that the problem raised by the ICG has
disappeared. However, this margin of 209,000 represents only 6.5% of the total
electorate. We know that a significant proportion of the electorate were unable
to vote because of the absence of their names from the register: estimates of
this problem have ranged mainly from 5% to 15% (see 2.4 above). In addition, it
is known that a significant proportion of invalids in Bosnia-Hercegovina were
unable to vote, because there was no provision for 'mobile' ballot-boxes to
visit hospitals or the homes of invalids who lacked transport; and the proportion of invalids in Bosnia-Hercegovina is of course unusually high by international standards.
e. To conclude: it is mathematically possible to reconcile the available statistics without resorting to the explanation that a fraud has been committed. However, this reconciliation is possible only by pushing a number of variables to
the extreme ends of their ranges: assuming that the number of missing names represented less than 6.5% of the electorate, accepting the minimum assumptions already built in to the ICG's calculation of figures for known non-voters in special categories, and using an assumption about the number of war-dead twice as
favourable to Ambassador Frowick's case than the figure he used himself. Even
then, we are required to assume that the turn-out, in all parts of the population other than the categories mentioned above, was almost precisely 100%. Most
observers who discussed the question of turn-out with polling station chairmen
towards the end of polling day got the impression that it had been in the region
of 70-75%. The final figures are theoretically possible; but on most reasonable
assumptions, they probably do include a significant proportion of fÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌìraudulent
4. Political Implications of the Elections: A Non-symmetrical Problem
a. Most commentators have observed that the results of the voting were a threeway victory for nationalist parties. The hard-line Croat party, the HDZ, triumphed over the smaller, more liberal HSS and Republican parties; the Muslim SDA
saw off the challenge of Silajdzic's new 'Party for Bosnia-Hercegovina'; and in
Republika Srpska there was a large-scale victory for the SDS (the party previously led by Radovan Karadzic, and which continued to display his portrait on
its election posters, contrary to express instructions from the Provisional
Election Commission). The initially surprising level of support for an opposition candidate for the Bosnian Presidency in Republika Srspka, Mladen Ivanic,
was largely the result of absentee voting by Muslims and Croats, who had been
advised by their own parties to vote for him; it did not represent significant
opposition to the SDS among local Serbs.20
House of Representatives of Federation of BiH
|Party or Coalition Name
|Zdruzena lista BiH
|Demokratska narodna zajednica (DNZ)
|Hrvatska stranka prava (HSP)
|Seven other parties and coalitions
|Total seats and valid votes
|Spoilt ballots cast
|Total ballots cast
b. Similarly, many commentators have written about the lack of conditions for
free and fair elections in terms which imply a broad three-way symmetry between
the areas controlled by the three 'ethnic' groups. In all three areas, it is
said, there was some degree of intimidation, suppression of opposition,
interference with the media and obstruction of freedom of movement. This may be
true; but it is not true to say that the degree of these things was the same in
each area. There was a clear qualitative difference between the level of freedom
of speech and association found in the area under the control of Sarajevo on the
one hand, and that found in both 'Herceg-Bosna' and Republika Srpska on the
Despite occasional incidents of violence, it was possible for a range of
opposition parties (Silajdzic's party, the five-party 'Zdruzena Lista' coalition, the Liberal party and others) to organise and hold meetings in the Sarajevo-ruled part of Bosnia. In Republika Srpska the two small coalitions of oppositiÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌìon parties found it difficult to operate outside the Banja Luka region (Banja
Luka having been the only place to have operated as an occasional focus of political opposition to Karadzic during the war). In 'Herceg-Bosna' the dominance
of the HDZ was even more complete. This non-symmetrical pattern between the
three areas existed also at the level of media activities. In the Sarajevo-controlled area, there was a major daily paper independent of the government and
broadly sympathetic to the opposition parties (Oslobodjenje), several critical
political magazines with wide circulations (especially Slobodna Bosna and Dani),
and independent television stations in several cities (especially Sarajevo and
Tuzla). In Republika Srpska there were no independent daily papers, just one
fortnightly and one weekly magazine in Banja Luka with small circulations
(Nezavisne Novine and Novi Prelom), two other small fortnightlies, and no significant independent television stations.21 In 'Herceg-Bosna' there was similar
pattern of HDZ control. 'The official Bosnian Croat media, which included HTV
Mostar, HR Herceg-Bosna and HR-Radio Postaja Mostar, never signed the Provisional Election Commission's electoral Rules and Regulations and made no effort
to open themselves up to the opposition during the electoral campaign, and did
so with complete impunity; no actions were ever taken by the Election Appeals
Sub-Committee or any other OSCE-run institutions.'22 The only major alternative
source of information was Croatian state-run television, which was no less
propagandistic than the local HDZ. (On the eve of the Bosnian election, Croatian
television chose to broadcast a special 'documentary' on the worldwide danger of
c. This non-symmetrical situation is also observable in the programmes of the
major parties. The SDS campaigned openly on a platform of eventual secession
from Bosnia-Hercegovina; Biljana Plavsic continued to campaign on this basis
even after the Election Appeals Sub-Commission had ruled that this was a breach
of the electoral rules and had imposed a fine on her party.23 The HDZ was more
prudent about what it said publicly during the campaign; but its long-standing
refusal to dismantle the structures of the 'Herceg-Bosna' parastate, and its
bitter resistance to Herr Koschnick's attempts to reintegrate the city of
Mostar, make evident its own preference for partition. In the area controlled by
Sarajevo, however, every Muslim and/or multi-ethnic party, including the SDA,
has always campaigned consistently for the re-integration of the whole of Bosnia-Hercegovina within its pre-war borders.
d. Finally, a similar and related pattern of non-symmetry can be observed at the
level of the voters' decisions about where to register their votes. Here the
non-symmetry is between the Muslim-Croat Federation on the one hand, and the Republika Srpska on the other. Of displaced Muslims and Croats, now living in the
Federation but originally from Republika Srpska territory, 187,414 registered to
vote by absentee ballot in their original places of residence, and only 59,473
registered to vote where they now live. Among displaced Serbs now in Republika
Srpska, the proportions were the other way round: 78,196 chose to vote by absentee ballot, and 241,741 to vote in their new place of residence.24 A similar
non-symmetry arose in the case of voters crossing the Inter-Entity Boundary Line
to vote in person in their previous place of residence. Before election day, the
statistics suggested that as many as 150,000 Muslims and Croats were intending
to do this (because they had not made arrangements either to vote by absentee
ballot or to register where they now live), and 7,000 Serbs. On the day itself
it was estimated that the actual numbers crossing the IEBL were 13,500 Muslims
and Croats going into Republika Srpska and 1,200 SÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌìerbs going into the Federation.25 Where all the combined figures for 'Muslims and Croats' given above are
concerned, it can be assumed that Muslims formed the large majority. There were
also attempts by Muslims to return, on voting day, to municipalities now under
Croat control in western Bosnia-Hercegovina; these cases do not show up in the
figures given above, because they took place within the 'entity' of the Federation.
e. It is difficult to assess to what extent these non-symmetrical patterns indicate that the Serbs and Croats have a deeply held and freely adopted belief that
partition is the best way forward for themselves and their country. Of course
the coercive and fraudulent registration of Serbs to vote in particular municipalities of Republika Srpska (see above, 1c.) must have exaggerated the non-symmetry at the level of voter registration. However, the broad pattern outlined
above has been reflected also in several opinion polls conducted in the three
areas of Bosnia-Hercegovina during the last six months, in which people have
been asked whether they think it would be possible for them to live with the
other ethnic groups as their neighbours: consistently, majorities in Republika
Srpska and 'Herceg-Bosna' have answered that it would not be possible, and majorities in the Sarajevo-controlled territory have answered that it would.
This is at first sight a puzzling result: inhabitants of Sarajevo had suffered
much more during the war from the activities of Serb forces, for example, than
any inhabitant of Pale or Banja Luka had ever suffered from the actions of
Bosnian Government forces, and one might therefore expect the Muslims of Sarajevo to be more bitter and hostile. It is difficult to escape the conclusion that
these opinionpoll results are reflecting, above all, the degree to which the inhabitants of Republika Srpska were bombarded by their own side with misinformation and propaganda designed to incite and maintain extreme levels of ethnic hatred. Commentators and politicians in the West who have not sat through evening
after evening of war-time broadcasts from Pale Television simply cannot imagine
the nature of this process, which has operated now for a full four and a half
years. Even educated and intelligent people in Republika Srpska are convinced
that there was a huge hidden conspiracy by the Muslims to massacre them in their
beds and forcibly convert their children to Islam, and that these outrages were
only just averted by the 'defensive' action of ethnic cleansing launched by Serb
forces in April 1992. This is the psychological basis for present-day Serb support for the SDS and its separatist programme. It is to be hoped that the international community would expect any major constitutional and geopolitical
change, such as secession, to be based on a more stable foundation than artificially-induced ethnic paranoia.
f. One footnote of a more optimistic kind can, however, be added to this discussion of popular attitudes. The most encouraging aspect of the conduct of the
elections on 14 September was that there were no major incidents of violence, or
local intimidation by mass-protest, against those groups of displaced persons
who did cross the IEBL. Such incidents had been frequent during the previous six
months: the usual pattern was that any visiting group of Muslims would find
their route blocked by a group of local Serbs, under the approving gaze of the
local Serb police. It is clear that the SDS leadership wanted the election to
run smoothly (in order to produce a result that would validate their political
control). The fact that there were no such incidents on election day supplies,
therefore, negative but compelling evidence to support the view that most of the
previous incidents have involved 'Rent-a-Mob' crowds, orchestrated from above by
the local authorities. This conclusion offers some grounds for optimism about
the possibility of eventual re-integration, so long as ordinary citizens are
free fromÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌì manipulation from above. Indeed, several detailed accounts in the
Sarajevo media by journalists who accompanied groups of Muslims returning to
vote in eastern Bosnia confirmed that, when these voters were allowed to enter
the towns where they had formerly lived, the reactions of ordinary Serbs in the
streets and polling stations were within the bounds of normal behaviour: some
were friendly, some cold, and some awkward and embarrassed, but there was no
5. Reasons for Maintaining the Re-integration of Bosnia as a Policy Goal
a. Outside Bosnia, one frequently hears it said: 'They don't want to live together any more; partition is the only solution.' As I have indicated in the
preceding section, such comments misrepresent the situation in Bosnia. The truth
is that the largest component of the Bosnian population, the Muslims (who before
the war made up 44% of the population) do wish to continue to live in a re-integrated Bosnia-Hercegovina extending to its pre-war borders and including both
Serbs and Croats. They have voted for parties which support that aim. The SDA
may be in some sense a Muslim 'nationalist' party, but it is not a separatist
b. However, the general effect of the elections, by strengthening the political
position of the SDS in Republika Srpska and the HDZ in 'Herceg-Bosna", is to
make ordinary Muslims, and other Bosnian citizens too, less confident that reintegration is a real possibility. During the war, many became convinced that the
real policy goal of the international community was partition; and some essential aspects of the Dayton Agreement seemed to confirm this suspicion. There is
a real danger now of a vicious circle coming into operation, in which Bosnians
act increasingly on the assumption that their country will not be re-integrated,
and the international community, observing this, convinces itself that assisting
or imposing re-integration is a hopeless task. It is necessary for Western
policy-makers to remind themselves that a process of continuing disintegration
in Bosnia is not a tide on which they can comfortably float. There are strong
reasons for supposing that the re-integration of Bosnia is in the positive
interests both of Bosnia itself, and of the outside world.
National Assembly of Republika Srpska
|Party or Coalition Name
|Srpska radikalna stranka (RS)
|Zdruzena lista BiH
|Srpska stranka Krajine
|Srpska patriotska stranka
|Seven other parties and coalitions
|Total seats and valid votes
|Spoilt ballots cast
|Total ballots cast
c. First, hundreds of thousands of people who have been driven out of their
homes wish to return to them and, if necessary, rebuild them. If Bosnia is not
reintegrated, many of these people will remain in temporary accommodation, living in tents or sleeping on the floors of sports halls, for years, perhaps decades, tocome. They do not wish either to live like this, or to build new houses
in areas which are strange to them. This is both a practical problem and a moral
d. Secondly, the principles of elementary justice involved here also have international ramifications. Throughout the war, Western governments and international bodies have proclaimed that they will not accept ethnic cleansing or the
conquest of territory by force. Any move towards secession by Republika Srpska
would be based on plebiscites in which the electorate had been artificially altered by ethnic cleansing. For Western governments to accept such a process
would both set a dangerous precedent and undermine their own credibility.
e. Thirdly, even if these objections to secession were ignored, the practical problems, in terms of increased instability, would be enormous. Two forms of
instability can be expected: intra-Bosnian, and regional. Within Bosnia, it is
likely that a unilateral move to secession by Republika Srpska would be resisted
with force by the Federation. The hard core of the Bosnian Army during the war
consisted of Muslim men who had been 'cleansed' from eastern or northern Bosnia
and were fighting to return to their homes. Such people would certainly fight to
stop a partition of Bosnia; and they and their families would form the core of a
strong movement of political support for any leader who adopted an uncompromising anti-partition policy. Even in the north-western town of Bihac, which would
not be directly affected by the loss of eastern Bosnia, I found that every young
man I spoke to said he would be willing to engage in another four years of war
to stop the partition of Bosnia.
The internal instability caused by partition would not stop there, however. If
partition were in fact accomplished along the present Inter-Entity Boundary
Line, it is highly likely that political conflict, leading probably to fighting,
would develop between the Muslims and Croats in the remaining Federation territory. HDZ politicians would consider only two long-term policy goals: either the
absorption of the whole Federation into a greater Croatia, or the secession of
'Herceg-Bosna'. Both options would be unacceptable to the great majority of Bosnian Muslims, who do not want to be ruled from Zagreb and know that a landlocked
and divided rump third (or quarter) of Bosnia-Hercegovina would simply not be a
viable state territory.
The regional instability caused by partition would involve a new phase of political rivalry and hostility between Serbia and Croatia. Following the secession of Republika Srpska, Belgrade would try hard to mount 'spoiling operations'
to interfere with Zagreb's projects in the remaining half of Bosnia-Hercegovina.
If the present IEBL did eventually become a Serbian-Croatian frontier, this
would mean in effect that most of the complex and (by that stage) extremely bitter intra-Bosnian political disputes would now become issues between the two
states, and be magnified at inter-state level. Serbian control of the Banja Luka
region (which has long been a military centre) would also cause grave concern to
Zagreb, since it would represent a Serbian military bÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌìulwark at precisely the
most vulnerable point on Croatia's underbelly. And, finally, the possibility
should not be excluded that the annexation of Republika Srpska by Serbia (or the
Serbian-Montenegrin Federation) would cause serious political instability there
too - both because of struggles for power between the Bosnian Serb politicians
and those in Belgrade, and because such an injection of intolerant Serb
nationalism would render a peaceful settlement in Kosovo even more unlikely.
f. Some commentators point to the example of the population exchange between
Greece and Turkey in the 1920s, and suggest that this offers a model of a
'stable' solution for Bosnia. The differences between these cases, however,
greatly outweigh the similarities. Most of the people who were 'transferred' betweenGreece and Turkey moved long distances (in some cases, more than 1,500 km),
and had no further contact with their former homes. Bosnian refugees are in many
cases living less than an hour's drive from their former places of residence;
for the rest of their lives, if they remain refugees, they will be constantly
reminded of the proximity to their former homes, through local television and
radio, and the coming and going of human traffic and goods. A more apt comparison would be not between Greece and Turkey, but between the Greek and Turkish
areas of Cyprus. But again there are differences: the degree of upheaval has
been far greater in Bosnia, and Bosnia is not a country that is insulated from
surrounding states and populations by the sea. Partition, in Bosnia's case, will
be not a 'solution' but a guarantee of much greater problems to come.
6. The Need for a More Active Policy of Re-integration
g. Addressing a meeting in London one month after the election, the High Representative, Mr Carl Bildt, defended the decision to go ahead with the Bosnian
elections on the grounds that they were necessary 'to bring us into the fourth
and final phase of implementation of the Peace Agreement this year - the setting
up of the common institutions. Without setting up these institutions, the country would remain partitioned in every reasonable sense...'27 Unfortunately,
the common institutions of the new state of Bosnia-Hercegovina are no guarantee
that Bosnia will not remain in a state of de facto partition. The Dayton constitution, which is now being introduced, may in fact promote partition, in two
ways: first, through its overall structural arrangements, and secondly, through
the susceptibility of the common institutions to a strategy of blocking, disruption and boycotting.
h. The Dayton constitution gives most important powers to the entity governments, not the common Bosnian government. The common government has competence
in only a short list of reserved areas, the most important of which are monetary
policy, commercial policy and foreign policy. There is no provision for the creation of a common Bosnian army; and vital areas of domestic policy, which may
affect the chances of long-term integration - such as education policy, and
policy towards the electronic media - remain in the hands of the entity governments. In addition, the 'ethnic' characterisation of the two entities is itself
a force for ethnic partition, and the rule forbidding Muslims or Croats from
representing Republika Srpska in the Bosnian Presidency, and forbidding Serbs
from representing the Federation, is in direct conflict with both the CSCE 1990
Copenhagen Declaration and some of the international human rights documents annexed to the Dayton Agreement itself.
It is important to understand that if the Dayton Agreement's formal pledges to
maintain and reintegrate the Bosnian state are taken seriously and put into effect, there must come a time when many elements of the Dayton Agreement itself
will have to be changed or abandoned as a result. Before the war, the territory
now occupied by Republika Srpska had a population which was 48% non-Serb. If all
refuÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌìgees returned to their homes and that proportion were restored, it would be
absurd to maintain a political structure which characterises that part of
Bosnia as a peculiarly 'Serb' entity.
i. As for the capacity of the common institutions to be blocked or boycotted,
this is already evident from the Dayton constitution. The 15-person House of Peoples, the upper house of the common parliament, must have a quorum containing at
least three Muslims, three Croats and three Serbs. No legislation can be passed
without the approval of both houses of this parliament. A simple boycott by any
ethnic group in the upper house, therefore, will prevent any legislation from
being passed. Any decision of the Presidency can also be blocked: if any member
of the Presidency declares that it is destructive of the vital interest of his
'entity', and if he is supported by the members of his ethnic group in the entity parliament, the measure must be abandoned.29 A long campaign of blocking
and boycotting measures is to be expected; already, on 5 October, the Bosnian
Serbs boycotted the opening of the new Bosnian parliament (on alleged security
grounds), and representatives of the HDZ boycotted the inaugural meeting of the
Sarajevo regional council.
j. It is quite clear that this constitution is not going to function at all un-
less the international community takes new measures to twist the arms of
recalcitrant Bosnian political leaders. Mr Bildt also hinted at this in his
speech, when he said: 'the Follow-On High Representative [i.e. a putative
successor to Mr Bildt] must have a greater role in the coordination of economic
assistance, primarily in order to make certain that political and economic
conditionality can be exercised...'30 The term 'conditionality' here is a
euphemism for arm-twisting. Economic armtwisting, by penalising non-cooperation
through the withdrawal of aid and investment, will certainly be important. But
new, more strongly defined powers of political arm-twisting will also be re-
quired. Mr Bildt or his successor should have the power to dismiss any offi-
cials, including elected ones, if he regards their actions as contrary to the
basic aims and spirit of the Dayton Agreement. (The spirit of the Agreement must
be treated as outweighing its letter; it is essentially a political document
rather than a legal one, and, as I have suggested above, if its spirit is fulfilled, the letter will have to be changed anyway.) It will also be necessary to
exercise more direct control over such areas of entity-government activity as
education policy and the control of state-run media. Here the letter of Dayton
can be respected, insofar as these areas remain technically under entitygovernment control, but over-ridden, by introducing strict principles and standards
with which those entity-governments are obliged to comply.
k. Such changes are best introduced while the international community has its
own military force still in place in Bosnia. At the same time, a more active
policy of arresting indicted war criminals would also assist the reintegrative
process in Bosnia; the idea of collective guilt (which animates collective hostility) will not be exorcised unless individual responsibility is both identified and punished. Military men, who would naturally prefer not to attempt such
measures, like to say that the arrest of war criminals might endanger 'stability'. These are the same military men who say that the attempts of refugees to
return to their homes are threats to 'stability'. The truth is that it is for
politicians, not major-generals, to judge what will promote genuine political
and social stability in the long term; and it is of vital importance, for Bosnia
and for Europe, that they make the right judgement now.
This report was commissioned by the European Union. The tables are taken from
the Addendum to the 22 September 1996 ICG Report on Elections in Bosnia and
Herzegovina (They were bÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌìased on the 'Final Official Results' published by the
OSCE System Development Group on 7 October 1996. The figures for spoilt ballots
were taken from the 'Retabulation of Election Results from 14 September 1996',
published by the OSCE on 27 September 1996.)
1 Implementation of the Dayton Agreements, Statement by the Rapporteurs (Mr Bloetzer and Mr van Linden), AS/Pol (1996) 23 rev., paragraph 3.
2 ICG, Bosnia Report no. 14 (14 August 1996), p. 4.
3 OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina 14 September 1996L Briefing Report, by M. Singer, D. Christensen, J. Taivalantti (Sept.
4 Reuters report, 9 August 1996.
5 'Statement by Ambassador Frowick on Postponement of Municipal Elections',Sarajevo, 27 August 1996.
6 ICG, Bosnia Report no. 16 (22 September 1996), p. 47, citing EASC Judgments on cases 96-140 and 96-122, issued on 18 September.
7 The report to the CIM by Long-Term Observer for the Bihac and Bosanska Krupa municipalities, for example, described conditions in the counting centre at
Bihac as 'chaotic' (A.-M. Steeman, report for 12-15 September, p. 1). The report
compiled by Electoral Reform International Services ('Short-Term Election
Observation Report to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office'), representing 38
British observers, noted frequent 'confusion' among staff at the counting
centres (p. 13).
8 Election Reform International Services report (above, n.7), p. 14.
9 'BH. izbori ispravni' (report of press conference by Eduard van Thijn),
Oslobodjenje (Sarajevo-Frankfurt edn), 18 Sept.
10 Election Reform International Services report (above, n. 7), p. 22.
11 ICG, Bosnia Report no. 16, p. 47.
12 Press conference, 16 September.
13 Report by A.-M. Steeman (above, n. 7), p2.
14 ICG, Bosnia Report no. 16, p. 51; 'Izborni aparthejd' (report of press
conference by UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski), Oslobodjenje (Sarajevo edn), 16
15 ICG, Bosnia Report no. 16, pp. 55-8.
16 Press Statement by Ambassador Frowick, 27 September.
17Suad Arnautovic, Izbori u Bosni i Hercegovini '90 (Sarajevo, 1996), p. 104; L.
Smailovic, 'Poratno sabiranje', Vreme, 28 September 1996, p. 21.
18 See the analysis by the demographer Murat Praso, calculating a 'projected'
growth of 122,000 between 1991 and 1995, published in Most (Mostar), no. 93
(March-April 1996), and in Bosnia Report (London), no. 16 (July-October 1996).
19 Information from the graphs of births and deaths printed to accompany the
'Etnicka Karta Bosne i Hercegovine' published in Sarajevo, 1991.
20 'Glasanjem za Ivanica Bosnjaci iz Republike Srpske izabrali su Izetbegovica!'
(interview with Halid Genjac, chairman of SDA central council), Slobodna Bosna,
22 September 1996.
21 See ICG, Bosnia Report no. 13, 'Electioneering in Republika Srpska' (August 1996).
22 IDG, Bosnia Report no. 16, p. 32.
23 Ibid., p. 41.
24 Ibid., pp. 36-7.
25 Ibid., pp. 49-50.
26 See for example the long article 'Jedino je nada ostala', Oslobodjenje
(Sarajevo edn), 16 SepÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌìtember 1996.
27 Carl Bildt, address to the Royal United Services Institute, London, 10 October
1996, p. 5.
28 Dayton Agreement, Annex 4, art. 1, para. 1 (b), and art. 1, para 3 (c).
29 Ibid., art. 5, para. 2 (d).
30 Address (above, n. 27), p. 11.