Early Results Show Bosnian Voters Split on Nation's Future

Associated Press
Monday, October 2, 2006

SARAJEVO, Bosnia, Oct. 1 -- Bosnians appeared split in key elections on the country's future Sunday, with Muslims and Catholic Croats voting for politicians who want to unify the Balkan nation, but Serbs backing a candidate who advocates ethnic division, early results showed.

With up to 50 percent of the vote counted, election officials said it appeared that Nebojsa Radmanovic -- whose party chief recently proposed a referendum that would allow Serb territories to secede -- would win over Orthodox Christian Serbs in the vote for Bosnia's three-member presidency.

Officials said his counterparts looked likely to be strong advocates of a united Bosnia: Haris Silajdzic, who won election to the Muslim Bosniak seat, and Ivo Miro Jovic, who was leading a tight race for reelection as the Croat representative.

"I will do everything I can to enable Bosnian citizens to live a better life," Silajdzic said after the partial results were announced Sunday, calling the election "an important step toward full democracy."

Further results were to be announced Monday, the election commission said.

The early results reflect the deep ethnic divisions that persist more than a decade after the 1992-95 war in which up to 200,000 people were killed and 1 million were driven from their homes -- Europe's worst violence since World War II.

Muslim Bosniaks, the largest ethnic group, generally back a united country, as do their Roman Catholic Croat allies. Their ultimate hope is that Bosnia -- currently divided between a Bosniak-Croat Federation and a Serb Republic -- will join the European Union when its still-fledgling political and economic reforms are completed.

But many Serbs cling to beliefs that sparked the war -- namely, that their half of the country can secede. Since secession is not allowed in the constitution, Serb parties say that at least the current territorial ethnic-based division must be kept.

Bosnia's Croats say they generally support a united Bosnia. But their leaders have said that if it remains divided in two states, they will request a third state for Croats.

Voters were electing a state parliament and the country's three-member presidency representing each of Bosnia's rival ethnic groups: Orthodox Christian Serbs, Muslim Bosniaks and Catholic Croats.

Voters also chose leaders of the two states -- a president and parliament of the Serb Republic and a president and parliament of the Bosniak-Croat Federation, as well as parliaments of the federation's 10 cantons. The complex political setup was a compromise reached during the Dayton peace agreement that ended Bosnia's war.

At stake in the election is not just who will lead the country, but whether those leaders will be doing so in a Bosnia free of international supervision for the first time since the end of the war. An international administrator has had the last say on all key government decisions since the peace agreement in 1995.

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