Long-Delayed Poll Results May Pave Way for a Stable Bosnia

Final count expected Sunday could show parliamentary gains by centrists - and a wider role for women.

The results of Bosnia's Sept. 12-13 election are set to complicate the political agenda in a country still reeling from the three-year civil war that ended with the 1995 Dayton agreement.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which supervised the poll, has repeatedly postponed announcing the tally, citing unclear preliminary results and technical difficulties. It now expects to announce results this weekend.

The main Muslim candidate for Bosnia's tripartite presidency, Alija Izetbegovic, appears certain to retain his seat, while a Croat nationalist, Ante Jelavic, appears to have ousted incumbent Croat presidency member Kresimir Zubak.

Hard-line Serb nationalist Momcilo Krajisnik may have been defeated by a more moderate nationalist, Zivko Radisic. Mr. Krajisnik, an opponent of Dayton, is seen as a major obstacle to the international community's efforts to make Bosnia's two constituent entities, a Muslim-Croat Federation and a Serb Republic, cooperate.

While Krajisnik's removal would help the Dayton process, the defeat of Serb Republic President Biljana Plavsic by ultranationalist Nikola Poplasen, who wants the Serb Republic to join Yugoslavia, would not.

In parliamentary elections, Croat, Serb, and Muslim nationalist parties have retained the lion's share of deputies, but significant gains have been made by centrists. That could point to the long-term normalization of Bosnian politics.

"We could hardly have achieved better results," says Bogic Bogicevic, deputy leader of the multiethnic Social Democratic Party (SDP), which seems poised to emerge as an effective opposition group.

"We will insist on the implementation of the Dayton agreement," he says, adding that the SDP would cooperate with other parties in parliament, but would not join a coalition.

"We will work for the creation of more jobs and for faster integration in European and world institutions," he says, adding that the SDP seeks to fight crime and corruption and promote pension reform, media freedom, and privatization. The party's program may be so laudably comprehensive because it is not going to be implemented in the near future. The SDP seems set to act, along with other non-nationalist parties, as a parliamentary conscience.

Parliamentary oversight will be crucial if an ambitious privatization program is to be implemented fairly. "The experience in Croatia has shown that those that are close to governing positions bought everything that was of any worth," says Zenka Nozica, a human rights activist and presidential candidate of the centrist Republican Party.

Ms. Nozica was in the vanguard of a successful campaign to amend Bosnia's election law and require all parties to include at least three members of the minority gender (a women's party was obliged to include three men) in the top 10 names of the candidates list.

The move is expected to raise the proportion of women deputies from about 2 percent in the 1996 elections to between 20 and 30 percent. Sixty percent of Bosnia-Herzegovina's population is female.

"What a difference it would make if 30 percent of the deputies were women," Nozica says. "There would be much more attention given to family questions, for example, and the assemblies will be more politically relaxed if 30 percent of members are rational, practical women."

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