Int. Herald Tribune
Muslim vote backs Bosnian opposition

But hard-liners also claim gains

Paris, Monday, April 10, 2000

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina - Bosnia's opposition Social Democrats said Sunday that early local election results pointed to a shift away from nationalists in Muslim areas - a trend the West had hoped to see repeated throughout the country.

But the hard-line parties that have dominated Bosnia since before the 1992-1995 ethnic war said they continued to enjoy broad support in Serbian and Croatian regions in the voting Saturday.

Western envoys had called on Bosnians to reject wartime parties and choose reconciliation and economic reform in the impoverished Balkan country.

More than 200,000 people died in the 43-month war between Bosnian Serb, Croatian and Muslim forces. It was ended by the U.S.-brokered Dayton accord, which divided Bosnia into two entities, the Serb republic and the Muslim-Croat federation.

The multiethnic Social Democrats, who controlled only the northern town of Tuzla prior to Bosnia's second postwar municipal elections, said they were on track to become the biggest national party, helped by victory in Sarajevo.

''Great success'' for the party and the party leader, Zlatko Lagumdzija, proclaimed the Dnevni Avaz newspaper.

A 44-year-old computer science professor, Mr. Lagumdzija was deputy prime minister in the wartime Muslim-led government. He was wounded by shrapnel during the siege of Sarajevo.

The Muslim Party for Democratic Action, led by the head of the Bosnian presidency, Alija Izetbegovic, was facing defeat in Sarajevo and Tuzla.

The Serb Democratic Party, founded a decade ago by the wartime Bosnian Serb leader and indicted war criminal, Radovan Karadzic, said it had a majority of votes in Bosnia's Serbian half.

Preliminary and incomplete results showed that the party, which insists that it has changed and that Mr. Karadzic no longer has any influence, won in the de facto Bosnian Serb capital, Banja Luka.

''We are pleased with the results of the election throughout the Serb republic,'' said Dragan Cavic, deputy party leader.

The party of the Western-backed Bosnian Serb prime minister, Milorad Dodik, trailed the Serb Democratic Party in Banja Luka.

A senior official of Mr. Dodik's Party of Independent Social Democrats, the largest Bosnian Serb party since the war, forecast that the result would be repeated across the Serbian region.

The nationalist Croatian Democratic Union - the same party that was ousted by moderates in Croatia's general elections this year - said it expected to remain dominant in Croatian areas in the south.

''Preliminary results show that we have not lost a single municipality where we had a majority before the election,'' a spokesman, Zoran Tomic, said.

Surveys before the election had predicted gains for relatively moderate politicians in some areas, including Sarajevo, because of frustration over the poor state of the economy.

But diplomats and analysts said it was probably too soon after Europe's worst conflict since World War II to expect a radical break with the past.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which organizes elections in Bosnia, said it would release preliminary results Monday.

Full results will not be known for some time.

Election organizers have said that early results in Bosnian Serb areas should be treated with some caution since they did not include absentee ballots cast by Muslim refugees expelled from their homes by Bosnian Serb forces during the war.

Original article