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Hard-Liners Fight For Win in Bosnia

November 13, 2000

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Bosnia’s biggest multiethnic political party urged a speedy count of votes from this weekend’s national election, in which several hard-line parties claimed strong showings or outright victories.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe expects to release preliminary figures Monday, but the final count could take weeks. Unofficial counts from the parties showed reformers doing well in Muslim areas and hard-liners claiming certain wins in Serb and Croat areas after the Saturday ballot.

Zlatko Lagumdzija, leader of the multiethic Social Democratic Party, noted that all the victory claims ``can all hardly be right.″

``I think the OSCE should do its best to come up with the real results,″ he added.

The 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement that ended the Bosnian war divided the country into a Muslim-Croat Federation and a Serb republic loosely tied together by a federal parliament, a three-member presidency and other federal institutions.

Voters in the two mini-states chose members of the federal parliament Saturday. In the Muslim-Croat Federation, voters selected their own regional legislature and officials in 10 regional cantons.

Bosnian Serb voters chose a president and vice president of their mini-state.

International officials who administer the country under the Dayton agreement had hoped the election would break the grip of nationalist, ethnic-based parties that have dominated the country’s politics since the war ended.

Those parties led their communities through the war and have resisted efforts to reconcile the Serb, Muslim and Croat people and forge a multicultural, unified state.

Preliminary, unofficial vote counts released Sunday by various parties indicated the reformers _ the Social Democratic Party of Lagumdzija and the Party for Bosnia-Herzegovina of former wartime Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic _ were running strong in Muslim areas.

It appeared the hard-liners would be unable to form a majority in either the national or the Muslim-Croat legislature, Lagumdzija said Sunday.

In Serb and Croat areas, the hard-liners seemed to be faring better. The Serb Democratic Party claimed its candidate, Mirko Sarovic, was ``almost certain″ to defeat Western-backed Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik for the presidency of the Serb mini-state.

With about half the Serb votes counted, Sarovic was leading with 59.3 percent, or 203,833 votes, to Dodik’s 29.7 percent, or 100,159 votes, according to the Serb Democratic Party, which was founded by indicted war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic. A third party accounted for the rest.

The Serb Democratic Party claimed it was leading in nearly all other races in the mini-state.

Dodik’s party would not confirm the figures. However, Dodik aide Slavko Mitrovic said he was ``not at all satisfied″ with the results. The figure does not include an undetermined number of Muslims and Croats who live outside the Serb republic but are authorized to vote there by absentee ballot.

In the Muslim-Croat Federation, the hard-line Croatian Democratic Union, known by its initials HDZ, claimed it was leading in five of the 10 cantons.

The party also organized an unauthorized referendum asking Croats if they back its campaign for an internationally recognized Croat mini-state, and claimed 70 percent support among Croats.

Party leader Ante Jelavic, who is also the Croat representative on the three-member collective national presidency, said that as far as Croats are concerned, international officials here ``are finished for the Croat people.″

The OSCE referred the referendum issue to an electoral commission to determine whether the HDZ or its individual candidates should face sanctions. Punishment could include a warning, fines or even banning the party or certain candidates from taking office.

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