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

For immediate release : 10 September, 1997

Municipal Elections in Bosnia hold out little hope of progress

The International Crisis Group (ICG) publishes today a report on the forthcoming municipal elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The 24-page report, entitled Beyond Ballot Boxes: Municipal Elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina, is an analysis of the entire electoral process from voter registration to the installation of municipal councils.

According to ICG, the ruling nationalist parties received complete electoral registers more than two weeks before the poll and have since then been calculating the likely outcome in key municipalities. They are well aware that they will not receive any support from voters of other ethnic backgrounds. By examining the clearly distinguishable names of Bosniac, Serb and Croat voters, the nationalists are able to determine their likely levels of support in each municipality.

In those areas where the nationalist parties see their grip on power threatened by the elections, they are threatening the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) with a boycott in an attempt to extract concessions and bend the results in their favour.

Releasing the report, ICG President-designate Alain Destexhe said: "This weekend's municipal elections in Bosnia hold out little hope of progress. Voters are heading to the polls against a backdrop of political turmoil, public unrest and pressure from nationalist leaders.

"The election has little to do with democracy. The results are predictable and reflect the ongoing determination of hard-line nationalists to exploit deeply flawed conditions and an electoral system that encourages ethnic politiking."

Ultimately, the success of these elections will depend upon the international community's commitment to stand up to nationalist demands and implement the election results - especially in municipalities in which "councils-in-exile" are elected. The OSCE will withhold final certification until a municipal council has, among other things, convened its first session. It must also elect its officers on the basis of proportional representation of minority parties.

The fundamental flaw in the existing electoral system is that candidates need only seek votes from one ethnic group to win office. The consequence is a vicious cycle of fear and insecurity likely to harden ethnic divisions and stir unrest. It is possible, however, to design an electoral system which would generate very different results and help restore trust between the peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The ICG is therefore pressing for a redesign of the electoral system ahead of Bosnia's general election, due next year.

See full report...

For further information contact ICG Sarajevo on +38-7-71-447-845, ICG Brussels on +322-502-9038 or send e-mail here

The International Crisis Group (ICG) is a private, multinational crisis prevention organisation. Founded in London in July 1995, ICG has established major field assessment programs in Bosnia, Albania, Macedonia, Serbia and Sierra Leone. New programs are planned for the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and Cambodia. ICG recently relocated its international headquarters from London to Brussels. A Washington bureau, responsible for advocacy in North America, will open on 1 October 1997.

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