Presidential and general elections in Bosnia-Herzegovina, 5 october 2002 nationalist movements take the lead in the polls

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Corinne Deloy,  

Fondation Robert Schuman,  

Helen Levy

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5 October 2002
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Deloy Corinne

Corinne Deloy

Author of the European Elections Monitor (EEM) for the Robert Schuman Foundation and project manager at the Institute for Political Studies (Sciences Po).

Robert Schuman Fondation

Fondation Robert Schuman

Levy Helen

Helen Levy

According to the weekly opinion polls undertaken by the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, an American NGO that specialises in observing elections and one of the rare organisations to carry out electoral polls in Bosnia, the nationalist parties there are poised to become the victors in the elections that are to take place on 5th October. According to the last enquiry published on Monday 23rd September at least two of the three seats for the Presidency of the Republic of Bosnia Herzegovina will be taken by the nationalists (Serb and Croat). The three nationalist movements, the Democratic Action Party (SDA) for the Bosnian Muslims, the Democratic Croat Community (HDZ) on the Croat side and the Democratic Serb Party (SDS) for the Serbs, have taken the lead in the opinion polls and are sometimes far ahead of the reformatory movements.

The nationalist advance also comes to light in the surveys of the elections that are to be held within each of the two entities that comprise the Republic of Bosnia Herzegovina: the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Serb Republic.

Within the Federation where the majority of voters are Bosnian Muslims, the SDA has 21% of the intention to vote followed by the Social Democrat Party (SDP) with 19% and the HDZ with 15%. Nevertheless the SDA and the HDZ do not seem able to win an absolute majority in the Chamber of Representatives and will be obliged to form an alliance with other reformatory parties.

As far as the general elections for the National Assembly of the Serb Republic are concerned, the Serb Democratic Party (SDS) are far ahead in all the opinion polls followed by the Independent Social Democrat Party (SNSD) with 25% of the intention to vote. Dragan Cavic, an SDS member, is the favourite in the presidential election for the Serb Republic.

It is obvious that even today in Bosnia Herzegovina voting depends on which community one belongs to rather than the act being a political choice even though some factors show that this state of affairs may change. The two main enquiries carried out by the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs in February and May 2002 revealed that unemployment and corruption were the two main themes that Bosnian voters (all communities together) would like included in the electoral campaign; the specific interests of each community come only fourth after emigration of the younger population. Likewise two political events that the Bosnians hold most dear is for their country to join the Council of Europe (67% of Bosnians are in favour) and to integrate the European Union (for 65% of them). Finally to the following question : "What is most important to you when you think about voting, is it for the person or a political party?", 63% of those interviewed answered : "that this party or person is able to improve the quality of my life", the membership of a candidate to one party or to a community lies in second place.

On the eve of the elections relations between the various communities are tense especially in the Serb Republic. After the national Yugoslav basketball team's victory in the world championships hundreds of Bosnian Serbs came out onto the streets to celebrate, and violently attacked the homes and shops belonging to non-Serbs. Some policemen were injured during these incidents. In addition to this a scandal erupted in the Serb Republic after the publication of a report by Bosko Ceko, an independent, who accuses the government of embezzlement. The United Nation's High Representative Paddy Ashdown expressed his disquiet about the upcoming elections. "You should worry about the future, about employment and justice not about nationalism and nationalist dreams" he declared during a speech before the MP's of the Serb Republic. He added "In 2006 reforms will either have put this country on the inevitable route towards stability, prosperity and belonging to Europe or it will be trapped in decline and find itself ostracised from the world for an apparently eternal period of time."

The elections on 5th October will be the first to be held under the control of the local Bosnian authorities (before that the elections were held under the authority of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe). They will also be the first in the election of representatives for a mandate of four years. The High Representative for the United Nations said that he would like the 5th October to be the day "when hope will triumph over fear, when Bosnia-Herzegovina will take a decisive step towards stability, prosperity and its European destiny." Let's hope that his voice is heard.

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