SARAJEVO, BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA — Recent mass protests in Belgrade and Zagreb, the capitals of Serbia and Croatia, could throw Bosnia's delicate peace off balance.
Up to 100,000 people a day have clogged the streets of Belgrade to protest the rule of President Slobodan Milosevic and his annulment of the opposition's victory in local elections.
Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, who was recently in the United States for medical treatment, also faced large, hostile crowds upon his return.
Late last month, many Croatians protested the government's decision to shut down the country's only remaining independent news source, Radio 101.
These protests affect the peace in Bosnia because of the enormous leverage - political, economic, and military - that each leader has over Serbs and Croats, respectively, within Bosnia.
Bosnia's Croat and Serb ministates were founded, supported, and largely cleansed of their Muslim inhabitants under the direction of Mr. Tudjman and Mr. Milosevic. Because of their influence, the West counts on Milosevic and Tudjman to keep nationalist ambitions of Bosnia's Serbs and Croats in check.
But there is concern that if either man loses Western support by cracking down on domestic opposition, he might lessen pressure on his Bosnian constituency, allowing it to derail the implementation of the Dayton peace deal.
Another scenario in both Croatia and Serbia is that the leader falls from power. Almost all opposition parties in both countries are against partition of Bosnia - and pledge allegiance to the Dayton peace deal. But there are also extremists who could take power and pose new hurdles to Bosnian peace.