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

For immediate release : 4 December, 1996

ICG Cautions Against Further Electoral Engineering in the Run-up to the Municipal Elections

Sarajevo - The OSCE announced on 1 December that an Agreement on Local Elections was signed by the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina and its two entities extending the OSCE mandate through 1997. The agreement invites the OSCE to "supervise the preparation and conduct of elections for the municipal governing authorities" on the basis of the provisions of Annex 3 to the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA).

ICG is concerned about statements made by OSCE officials to the effect that displaced persons will be allowed to register to vote in a municipality of intended future residence upon presentation of evidence proving some connection with the locale, including an invitation from "blood relatives" or an employment offer. The OSCE plans to set up a committee of the Provisional Election Commission (PEC) to establish whether voters have "genuine" ties to the municipality where they intend to live.

Hrair Balian, Director of the ICG Bosnia Project, said "the price for Republika Srpska to sign this agreement seems too high. Why should blood relatives be able to invite others to cast their ballots in such an arbitrary manner? How can an offer of employment be deemed proof of intended place of future residence? This is simply absurd and open to abuse on a massive scale. I fear we shall see an enormous increase in �offers� of employment made by the authorities of Republika Srpska. If voters are allowed to cast their ballots where they please or where they are told to vote, the massive electoral engineering we witnessed during the 14 September poll will be repeated. Only this time, the impact will be far more serious."

ICG is also informed that a confidential Memorandum of Understanding has been signed with the 1 December agreement, spelling out the conditions under which Republika Srpska agrees to an extension of the OSCE mandate. ICG is concerned that the Memorandum contains provisions which are contrary to the DPA, especially in view of Republika Srpska�s announcement on the same date of their intention to boycott the Brcko arbitration and their attempt during the 14 September poll to pack strategic places like Brcko and Srebrenica with voters who had no connection with the locales.

ICG calls on the OSCE and the PEC to reject all attempts to repeat the electoral engineering exercise of the 14 September poll, and to disallow any registration of voters on the basis of intended residence in a municipality.

For further information call ICG Bosnia on +38-7-71-447-845 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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