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P R E S S  R E L E A S E

For immediate release : 26 September, 1996

The Bosnian Elections

In its report published today, the International Crisis Group (ICG) reaffirms its earlier conclusion that general elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina should never have been held on 14 September. The minimum conditions prescribed by the Dayton Peace Agreement had not been achieved and events on the day amply bore this out. Despite the absence of violence at the polls and the continuing post-conflict situation, the elections on 14 September were not free, fair or democratic and in no way justify lifting sanctions on the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Republika Srpska.

Commenting on the report, Nicholas Hinton, ICG�s president said: "The validity of the elections is questionable. ICG has uncovered a serious discrepancy in the provisional results and asked for a recount. If this discrepancy is confirmed, the elections should be declared null and void. Until conclusive results are available, it is premature to declare anyone, or any party, a winner.

The results are encouraging only insofar as they show what might have been possible if the elections had been delayed and if the intervening period had been used to improve the conditions. Indeed, despite all the odds stacked by the ruling nationalists against the opposition parties, the fact that they won support indicates that, given the chance, a pluralist democracy is possible. That chance has been missed."

Given the shortcomings of the general elections, ICG believes it is irresponsible to call for municipal elections to be held in November. Apart from the serious organisational deficiencies which must be overcome to forestall further electoral engineering and to secure reliable results, measurable progress must be made towards establishing at least minimum conditions, starting with the repatriation of refugees and displaced persons and the detention and surrender to the Hague Tribunal of those who were responsible for driving them out. Otherwise, municipal elections will only serve to confirm the nationalists� grip on power at local level, and to ratify the ethnic cleansing perpetrated during the war.

Copies of the report are available online or from the ICG London office.

For further information call Nicholas Hinton or Charles Radcliffe on 0171-630-5673 or send e-mail here

The International Crisis Group is a private, multinational organisation created to reinforce the capacity and resolve of the international community to prevent crises arising from human causes. Members of the ICG board include former heads of state and government, foreign ministers, MPs and leading figures in business and the media. ICG is chaired by the former US Senate majority leader, George Mitchell.

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