General elections news
The international body organizing the November 11 general elections in Bosnia-Hercegovina told the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) this week to take down some of its campaign posters and stop running one of its television ads or face the consequences.
The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe's (OSCE) Election Appeals Sub-Commission decided on 6 November to ban the HDZ's "Determination or extinction" poster and a party ad showing plundering Muslim warriors on horseback, on the grounds that they provoke ethnic hatred. The EASC also told the party to stop calling for illegal ways to get their political goals, ie through "extra-institutional measures" and removed an HDZ candidate from the Zapad-Hercegovina Canton Assembly list.
The nationalist HDZ has been butting heads with Bosnia-Hercegovina's international community since the beginning of October, when the OSCE changed the rules for electing the Bosniak-Croat Federation House of Peoples. The House will still be elected by the Federation's canton assemblies, but the difference now is that assembly members can vote for whomever they want, regardless of that candidate's ethnicity. The HDZ, which stands to lose the most from the rule, reacted by forming a "Croat National Assembly" on 28 October. They also announced an all-Croat referendum to be held on election day.
On Friday, HDZ President and BiH Presidency member Ante Jelavić said Croats would boycott Federation institutions and create their own if the OSCE continued its "genocidal election formula." Croats, he said, will create their own legislative body out of the Croat National Assembly.
International organizations in BiH have repeatedly stated that creating separate Croat institutions violates the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords and that the HDZ is merely trying to keep itself in power.
Other parties in trouble this week included the BH Patriotic Party, for advertisements saying, "We are for the Republic of BiH," which does not exist according to Dayton, and the Serb Democratic Party and the Party of Democratic Progress, for taking large donations that violated the campaign finance law.
This general elections campaign, according to this week's announcement from the Helsinki Human Rights Committee and the NGO coalition Elections 2000, is the "dirtiest ever" in BiH since the end of the war. They cited the "outrageous" abuse of children (probably alluding to the recent high school student protests in Brčko, which were said to be organized by the banned Serb Radical Party and the Serb Democratic Party) and the participation of religious leaders in the campaign.
The dirty campaign could probably be attributed to the fact that the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) stands to clean house in Federation institutions, according to a poll published in a Sarajevo weekly Thursday.
A National Democratic Institute poll published in Slobodna Bosna asked 3600 Bosnians (1200 from each ethnic group) how they planned to vote. The future of the 140-seat FBiH Parliament, according to the poll, shows the SDP winning 57 mandates, the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) winning 26, the HDZ and the Party for BiH both winning 19, the New Croat Initiative taking six and 15 seats remaining.
Slobodna Bosna said the poll showed a "bad count for the HDZ." The magazine stated that in the Republika Srpska, everything depended on whether Mirko Šarović (SDS) or Milorad Dodik (Independent Social Democratic Party, SNSD) won the Republika Srpska presidency. If Dodik wins, said Slobodna Bosna, he would probably form a Republika Srpska government with PDP leader Mladen Ivanović in mind.
Reactions to the ICG's report
Last week's International Crisis Group (ICG) report naming 75 people allegedly guilty of war crimes who are walking free in the Republika Srspska led to many reactions in this part of BiH. Republika Srpska Vice President Mirko Šarović said the whole report was biased, because of who published it. He told RTRS that the ICG had a negative position on the Republika Srpska and that "it's well-known who they are lobbying for," but did not go into details.
The report listed the suspects' alleged crimes on the basis of witness statements and documents from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Its conclusions were grim for the Serb Democratic Party (SDS). Given that most of the suspects either are or were SDS functionaries, the ICG recommended a ban on the party because of its well-known wartime activities and the influence that party founder and indicted war criminal Radovan Karadžić still has on the SDS.
Oslobodenje said the most common reactions of Republika Srpska politicians were, "I'm not guilty," and "I don't know from where could my name be associated with war crimes." Božidar Vučurević, an SDS leader and Trebinje's wartime mayor, said, "If someone points a finger at me, that person should stop doing that senseless thing and call Muslims and Croats from Trebinje to ask them about Božidar Vučurević's behaviour."
SDS functionaries also denied the report's statement that many alleged war criminals were now working as police or soldiers in the Republika Srpska. Another wartime mayor and SDS leader, Milan Tupajić, said that all police and soldiers in the Republika Srpska were organized in accordance with the constitution. But the paper said that not all Republika Srpska authorities denied the report's validity.
On the other hand, Party of Democratic Progress (PDP) leader Mladen Ivanić said the report came from well-documented sources and that it gathered the names of "many people who really have to answer for the war crimes of which they are accused." "The Republika Srpska cannot ignore the existence of The Hague Tribunal any longer," said Ivanić, who concluded that one of the Republika Srpska's new National Assembly's priorities will be defining relations towards the Tribunal.
Banja Luka paper Nezavisne Novine published a translation of the report in daily installments. Thursday's selection asked, "Who commanded the Teslić paramilitary unit 'Miće'?" (As a side note, Nezavisne published a series in September 1999, investigating Miće's alleged atrocities in the northern Bosnian towns of Teslić and Doboj. Nezavisne Editor-in-Chief Željko Kopanja received numerous death threats, and the next month he lost both legs in a car bombing.)
The paper said the document was translated without editorial comments and that "this report has agitated the local political public and provoked a number of reactions among political parties, leaders and international organizations."
And in other news...
- Jadranko Lučić, one of the suspects in the March 1999 car bombing assassination of Deputy Interior Minister Jozo Leutar, turned himself in to the Sarajevo Canton Court on 5 November. He said he was innocent and had nothing to lose by turning himself in.
- The European Investment Bank will loan Bosnia EUR (euro) 60 million euros (USD 51.24 million) to reconstruct the electricity network and restore connections with the rest of Europe. Bosnia's power system was heavily damaged during the war and has still not been completely repaired. The agreement, signed Tuesday, earmarks EUR 35 million to the Federation and EUR 25 million to the Republika Srpska. The loan is repayable in 15 years with a five-year grace period.
- Several hundred Republika Srspka pensioners demonstrated in Banja Luka for several days this week demanding their late pensions. They blocked traffic and brandished signs saying, "Return to us what is ours." Pensioners also demonstrated in Bijeljina, Janja, Mrkonjić Grad, Srspsko Sarajevo, Bratunac and Srbinje. There are 170,000 pensioners in the entity, and they have only received five of their monthly pensions this year. The average pension is KM (convertible mark) 100 (USD 44).
- The RS government decided Wednesday to allocate KM 12 million (USD 5.3 million) for pensions, but the pensioners took to the streets again Thursday, when word got out that they would only receive half of their May and October pensions. Republika Srpska healthcare workers announced they would halt their strike between 9 and 14 November, because of the elections. Entity railroad engineers ended their strike this week, upon receiving their late salaries.
Beth Kampschror, 10 November 2000
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