1.1 The necessary conditions for the holding of elections in Bosnia-Hercegovina were set out in the Dayton Agreement, Annex 3, article 1 (1):
"The Parties shall ensure that conditions exist for the organisation of free and fair elections, in particular a politically neutral environment; ... shall ensure freedom of expression and of the press; shall allow and encourage freedom of association (including of political parties); and shall ensure freedom of movement."
In addition, the Dayton Agreement required full compliance with paragraphs 7 and 8 of the CSCE Copenhagen Document of 1990, which specify such conditions as "political campaigning in a fair and free atmosphere" and "unimpeded access to the media on a non-discriminatory basis".
1:2 These conditions were very evidently not met. Detailed reports compiled during the three months preceding the election noted this fact. The Council of Europe Political Affairs Committee reported on 27 June that "Four freedoms -- of speech, of movement, of assembly and of media -- are far from being evenly assured across the country."1 On 14 August the International Crisis Group (an independent organisation monitoring the political situation in Bosnia) reported that the required conditions for free and fair elections had not been fulfilled when the go-ahead for holding them had been given by the OSCE on 25 June, and added: "the prerequisite conditions have not improved since mid-June. On the contrary, in many respects the conditions have deteriorated."2 Most strikingly, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly issued a report in early September which listed the twelve criteria for free and fair elections (four primary, eight secondary), and gave specific reasons for thinking that each of those criteria remained wholly or partially unfulfilled.3 The most serious failures concerned the freedoms of movement, assembly and expression through the media, particularly in Republika Srpska and in the territory under Croat control in western Bosnia-Hercegovina.
1.3 One particular problem was regarded by the Provisional Election Commission (PEC) (chaired by Ambassador Robert Frowick) as so serious as to require the postponement of one entire element of the elections: the manipulation of voter registration. Bosnian citizens were allowed to vote either (i) where they had lived in 1991, or (ii) where they now lived, or (iii) where they "intended" to live in the future. It was found that this third option was exploited, overwhelmingly by the Serb political authorities and agents of the ruling Serb party, who coerced displaced and refugee Serbs into registering to vote in specific municipalities. The purpose, evidently, was to build up artificial Serb majorities in places which had not had majority Serb populations before the war. This was described by the OSCE Coordinator for International Monitoring, Mr van Thijn, as a "fraud" and "a serious violation of human rights".4 Ambassador Frowick stated that the Dayton guidelines had been "seriously distorted".5
1.4 However, although the municipal elections were postponed, the registrations which had taken place in this fraudulent and coercive manner were allowed to stand, and were used as the basis on which people voted in the other elements of the election on 14 September. It is hard to understand how this procedure could be justified. The argument apparently used by the PEC was that these fraudulent registrations would affect the composition of the results only at the municipal level; but this is plainly untrue. If a Serb from a town in Federation territory, who now lives in a refugee camp in Serbia, had been registered as a voter in (for example) Srebrenica, and if that registration had been found to be coercive and fraudulent, the correct procedure would have been to require that voter to vote where he or she had lived in 1991. (Of the three categories listed above, the third must be ruled out in such a case because of the fraud, and the second cannot apply; this leaves only the first.) Taking such corrective measures would indeed have altered the composition of the vote at the national level too.
2: The Conduct of the Elections
2.1 The general conditions in Bosnia-Hercegovina on 14 September were calm; there were no major security problems; most polling stations opened more or less on time and functioned properly during the day.
2.2 However, proper conduct at the majority of polling stations does not rule out the possibility of serious fraud, either at a minority of stations, or during the transport of ballot boxes and the counting process. The Election Appeals Sub-Commission found at a polling station in Kozluk (Republika Srpska) "organised fraud with a level of planning that calls into question the integrity of the vote at this station", and ordered that the results there be annulled. It reached a similar conclusion when investigating a military polling station in the Croat-controlled territory of the Federation.6 The arrangements for the transport and safeguarding of ballot boxes after the completion of voting were haphazard in some cases.7
In at least one case, there was strong evidence of tampering with absentee ballots. "In Srebrenica a bundle of refugee ballot papers (identifiable as they had had to be folded twice to fit into the envelopes) was found to contain nearly 40% spoilt papers. In nearly all cases there seemed to be a valid marking for the SDA [Izetbegovic's party, which had candidates in Republika Srpska] but an additional mark was present rendering the paper invalid. These additional marks were in different pen/pencil to that which appeared to have been placed by the voter. Despite clear evidence of tampering, the OSCE Supervisor had little choice but to rule these invalid."8
2.3 Fewer than 1000 international observers were present, as against an original estimated requirement of 4000. Observers were given unsually detailed and specific instructions by the OSCE: each two-person team of observers was given a list of polling stations to visit during the election day. Teams were also instructed to visit these stations on the day before the election, in order to meet the polling station staff. This degree of organisation may well have been counter-productive: under such a system, it would have been unusually easy for local officials, party representatives, etc., to work out which polling stations would not be visited at all on election day -- thus facilitating any potential fraud. In addition, 22 out of the 109 municipalities in Bosnia-Hercegovina were not monitored by any international observers.9
2.4 The biggest single problem reported by observers on election day concerned names missing from the register of voters. Estimates vary of the proportion of would-be voters who were thus prevented from voting. One report, summarising the findings of 38 British observers in different parts of Bosnia- Hercegovina, noted: "In some areas up to 20% of voters were found not to be on the register, although in other areas this figure is estimated at below 5%."10 Another report, summarising findings from all over Bosnia-Hercegovina, concluded: "Some observers reported that about 5% of voters were not able to cast their ballots ... others reported that the rate was between 10 and 15%."11 In Mostar the OSCE Regional Director, Gen. Odendahl, put it at between 12 and 15%.12 In the Bihac municipality it was estimated at 5-10%, although one polling station chairman estimated it at 30%.13
The reasons for the absence of these names from the register remain obscure. In many cases, people had checked that their names were present on the provisional list before the election; their names then seem to have disappeared when the provisional list was transferred to the computerised final list. Besides, the basis of all these lists was the pre-existing register of voters from the 1990 election and the 1991 census; in many cases people who had been on those earlier lists (and on many previous ones, having lived in the same place for decades) found that they were not on the final list on election day. Clerical error, by the computer staff employed by the Provisional Election Commission, must form a large part of the explanation: the register was full of grotesquely mis-spelt names. Since the main ordering method used was chronological order of dates of birth, any equivalent numerical errors when copying out those dates would have made many entries impossible to find.
2.5 One other particular problem should be mentioned: the restriction on the freedom of movement, and freedom to vote, of those displaced Muslims and Croats who returned to vote in their pre-war places of residence in Republika Srpska. In many cases such voters were permitted (by the police and other officials of Republika Srpska) to vote only in one specific polling station; such stations were usually outside the main towns, and in some cases only a few hundred metres from the Inter-Entity Boundary Line (IEBL). Many of those who chose to cross the IEBL did so because they wished to see their old homes; under the electoral law a voter was entitled to vote in any polling station in the municipality. In some cases -- for example, a group of 52 Muslim voters who wished to vote in the town of Vlasenica -- the anger and disappointment voters felt at being prevented by the Serb police from entering their chosen destination were such that they returned to the Federation without having voted at all.14 (This was, of course, their own decision; but it was a decision prompted by a breach of the electoral law by the Serb authorities.) Where such voters did vote in such designated polling stations, the fact that all their votes were known to be concentrated in a single set of ballot boxes must also raise a serious question about the possibilities of subsequent tampering with those votes (cf. 2.2, above).
3: Discrepancies Between Voting Totals and the Electorate
3.1 Since the results of the election were announced, some commentators (notably the experts employed by the International Crisis Group) have drawn attention to serious discrepancies between the total number of votes cast and the assumed total number of the electorate, given that some information is available about the number of eligible voters who did not in fact cast their votes. The argument put forward by the ICG can be briefly summarised as follows.
The total number of votes cast for the Presidency (including spoilt ballot papers) was just over 2,430,000. The number of voters who did not cast their votes, in various categories of refugees and displaced persons, is known to be at least 580,000. (This includes, for example, the category of those displaced Muslims and Croats who registered to return in person to their former places of residence, but in the event did not do so. There are several such categories, and in each case the ICG calculation assumes the lowest possible number of non-voters consistent with the evidence available.) Combining those who voted and those who were eligible to vote but did not do so, one reaches a total of 3,010,000. But according to all the official statements issued by the OSCE office in Sarajevo before and immediately after the election, the maximum number of people eligible to vote in Bosnia was 2,920,000.15
3.2 Ambassador Frowick responded to these arguments by issuing a revised estimate of the total electorate. He now argued that on the basis of the 1991 census, the electorate would have been just over 3,500,000. On the assumption that approximately 250,000 people had died in the war, he now argued that the 1996 electorate was 3,250,000.16
This statement was based on a claim about the figures for 1991 which is demonstrably false. The correct figure for the electorate in 1991 cannot possibly be 3,500,000. When the elections were held in November 1990, the electorate was known to be 3,144,353; on that occasion 2,339,958 people voted, representing a turn-out of 74%.17 Thanks to its high birth-rate, Bosnia has a very different demographic structure from most western or northern European countries. In countries such as the United Kingdom, less than 20% of the population is under the age of 18; in Bosnia-Hercegovina, the figure is roughly 28%. The new figures put forward by Ambassador Frowick would imply that the Bosnian electorate in 1991 was 80.5% of the population; this is plainly impossible.
3.3 However, a proper use of demographic evidence does enable us to make an estimate about the probable size of the electorate in 1996; and this estimated figure, although not as high as the 3,250,000 put forward by Ambassador Frowick, is certainly higher than the figure of 2,920,000 which he had previously used.
The total population of Bosnia-Hercegovina in 1991 was just over 4,377,000. If there had been no war in 1992-5, this would have grown, on previous demographic trends, by approximately 150,000 by 1996.18 However, the electorate would have grown during the same period by approximately 200,000. The reason for this difference is that the birth-rate in Bosnia-Hercegovina has been declining gradually over the last 23 years: in the early 1970s there were roughly 77,000 live births per year in Bosnia-Hercegovina, while by 1990 the figure had fallen to 66,000.19 What matters for the growth of the electorate, obviously, is the birth-rate 18 years previously.
In the absence of war, therefore, the total electorate in 1996 would have been approximately 3,344,000. From this figure, an estimated number of adults killed in the war must now be subtracted. If we use Ambassador Frowick's estimate of 250,000, this yields a total electorate of 3,094,000. Some observers, however, would argue that this figure of 250,000 was too high. In order to give Ambassador Frowick as much benefit of the doubt as possible, we might calculate instead on half that figure. This would yield a total electorate of 3,219,000. Between this figure and the minimum total of 3,010,000 (for votes cast and known non-voters: see 3.1 above) there lies, therefore, a margin of 209,000.
3.4 At first sight, this may suggest that the problem raised by the ICG has disappeared. However, this margin of 209,000 represents only 6.5% of the total electorate. We know that a significant proportion of the electorate were unable to vote because of the absence of their names from the register: estimates of this problem have ranged mainly from 5% to 15% (see 2.4 above). In addition, it is known that a significant proportion of invalids in Bosnia-Hercegovina were unable to vote, because there was no provision for "mobile" ballot-boxes to visit hospitals or the homes of invalids who lacked transport; and the proportion of invalids in Bosnia-Hercegovina is of course unusually high by international standards.
3.5 To conclude: it is mathematically possible to reconcile the available statistics without resorting to the explanation that a fraud has been committed. However, this reconciliation is possible only by pushing a number of variables to the extreme ends of their ranges: assuming that the number of missing names represented less than 6.5% of the electorate, accepting the minimum assumptions already built in to the ICG's calculation of figures for known non-voters in special categories, and using an assumption about the number of war-dead twice as favourable to Ambassador Frowick's case than the figure he used himself. Even then, we are required to assume that the turn-out, in all parts of the population other than the categories mentioned above, was almost precisely 100%. Most observers who discussed the question of turn-out with polling station chairmen towards the end of polling day got the impression that it had been in the region of 70-75%. The final figures are theoretically possible; but on most reasonable assumptions, they probably do include a significant proportion of fraudulent ballots.
4: Political Implications of the Elections: A Non-symmetrical Problem
4.1 Most commentators have observed that the results of the voting were a three-way victory for nationalist parties. The hard-line Croat party, the HDZ, triumphed over the smaller, more liberal HSS and Republican parties; the Muslim SDA saw off the challenge of Silajdzic's new 'Party for Bosnia- Hercegovina'; and in Republika Srpska there was a large-scale victory for the SDS (the party previously led by Radovan Karadzic, and which continued to display his portrait on its election posters, contrary to express instructions from the Provisional Election Commission). The initially surprising level of support for an opposition candidate for the Bosnian Presidency in Republika Srspka, Mladen Ivanic, was largely the result of absentee voting by Muslims and Croats, who had been advised by their own parties to vote for him; it did not represent significant opposition to the SDS among local Serbs.20
4.2 Similarly, many commentators have written about the lack of conditions for free and fair elections in terms which imply a broad three-way symmetry between the areas controlled by the three "ethnic" groups. In all three areas, it is said, there was some degree of intimidation, suppression of opposition, interference with the media and obstruction of freedom of movement. This may be true; but it is not true to say that the degree of these things was the same in each area. There was a clear qualitative difference between the level of freedom of speech and association found in the area under the control of Sarajevo on the one hand, and that found in both "Herceg-Bosna" and Republika Srpska on the other.
Despite occasional incidents of violence, it was possible for a range of opposition parties (Silajdzic's party, the five-party "Zdruzena Lista" coalition, the Liberal party and others) to organise and hold meetings in the Sarajevo-ruled part of Bosnia. In Republika Srpska the two small coalitions of opposition parties found it difficult to operate outside the Banja Luka region (Banja Luka having been the only place to have operated as an occasional focus of political opposition to Karadzic during the war). In "Herceg-Bosna" the dominance of the HDZ was even more complete. This non-symmetrical pattern between the three areas existed also at the level of media activities. In the Sarajevo-controlled area, there was a major daily paper independent of the government and broadly sympathetic to the opposition parties (Oslobodjenje), several critical political magazines with wide circulations (especially Slobodna Bosna and Dani), and independent television stations in several cities (especially Sarajevo and Tuzla). In Republika Srpska there were no independent daily papers, just one fortnightly and one weekly magazine in Banja Luka with small circulations (Nezavisne Novine and Novi Prelom), two other small fortnightlies, and no significant independent television stations.21 In "Herceg-Bosna" there was similar pattern of HDZ control. "The official Bosnian Croat media, which included HTV Mostar, HR Herceg-Bosna and HR-Radio Postaja Mostar, never signed the Provisional Election Commission's electoral Rules and Regulations and made no effort to open themselves up to the opposition during the electoral campaign, and did so with complete impunity; no actions were ever taken by the Election Appeals Sub-Committee or any other OSCE-run institutions."22 The only major alternative source of information was Croatian state-run television, which was no less propagandistic than the local HDZ. (On the eve of the Bosnian election, Croatian television chose to broadcast a special "documentary" on the worldwide danger of Islamic fundamentalism.)
4.3 This non-symmetrical situation is also observable in the programmes of the major parties. The SDS campaigned openly on a platform of eventual secession from Bosnia-Hercegovina; Biljana Plavsic continued to campaign on this basis even after the Election Appeals Sub-Commission had ruled that this was a breach of the electoral rules and had imposed a fine on her party.23 The HDZ was more prudent about what it said publicly during the campaign; but its long-standing refusal to dismantle the structures of the "Herceg-Bosna" parastate, and its bitter resistance to Herr Koschnick's attempts to reintegrate the city of Mostar, make evident its own preference for partition. In the area controlled by Sarajevo, however, every Muslim and/or multi-ethnic party, including the SDA, has always campaigned consistently for the re-integration of the whole of Bosnia-Hercegovina within its pre-war borders.
4.4 Finally, a similar and related pattern of non-symmetry can be observed at the level of the voters' decisions about where to register their votes. Here the non-symmetry is between the Muslim-Croat Federation on the one hand, and the Republika Srpska on the other. Of displaced Muslims and Croats, now living in the Federation but originally from Republika Srpska territory, 187,414 registered to vote by absentee ballot in their original places of residence, and only 59,473 registered to vote where they now live. Among displaced Serbs now in Republika Srpska, the proportions were the other way round: 78,196 chose to vote by absentee ballot, and 241,741 to vote in their new place of residence.24 A similar non-symmetry arose in the case of voters crossing the Inter-Entity Boundary Line to vote in person in their previous place of residence. Before election day, the statistics suggested that as many as 150,000 Muslims and Croats were intending to do this (because they had not made arrangements either to vote by absentee ballot or to register where they now live), and 7,000 Serbs. On the day itself it was estimated that the actual numbers crossing the IEBL were 13,500 Muslims and Croats going into Republika Srpska and 1,200 Serbs going into the Federation.25 Where all the combined figures for "Muslims and Croats" given above are concerned, it can be assumed that Muslims formed the large majority. There were also attempts by Muslims to return, on voting day, to municipalities now under Croat control in western Bosnia-Hercegovina; these cases do not show up in the figures given above, because they took place within the "entity" of the Federation.
4.5 It is difficult to assess to what extent these non-symmetrical patterns indicate that the Serbs and Croats have a deeply held and freely adopted belief that partition is the best way forward for themselves and their country. Of course the coercive and fraudulent registration of Serbs to vote in particular municipalities of Republika Srpska (see above, 1.3) must have exaggerated the non- symmetry at the level of voter registration. However, the broad pattern outlined above has been reflected also in several opinion polls conducted in the three areas of Bosnia-Hercegovina during the last six months, in which people have been asked whether they think it would be possible for them to live with the other ethnic groups as their neighbours: consistently, majorities in Republika Srpska and "Herceg-Bosna" have answered that it would not be possible, and majorities in the Sarajevo-controlled territory have answered that it would.
This is at first sight a puzzling result: inhabitants of Sarajevo had suffered much more during the war from the activities of Serb forces, for example, than any inhabitant of Pale or Banja Luka had ever suffered from the actions of Bosnian Government forces, and one might therefore expect the Muslims of Sarajevo to be more bitter and hostile. It is difficult to escape the conclusion that these opinion-poll results are reflecting, above all, the degree to which the inhabitants of Republika Srpska were bombarded by their own side with misinformation and propaganda designed to incite and maintain extreme levels of ethnic hatred. Commentators and politicians in the West who have not sat through evening after evening of war-time broadcasts from Pale Television simply cannot imagine the nature of this process, which has operated now for a full four and a half years. Even educated and intelligent people in Republika Srpska are convinced that there was a huge hidden conspiracy by the Muslims to massacre them in their beds and forcibly convert their children to Islam, and that these outrages were only just averted by the "defensive" action of ethnic cleansing launched by Serb forces in April 1992. This is the psychological basis for present-day Serb support for the SDS and its separatist programme. It is to be hoped that the international community would expect any major constitutional and geopolitical change, such as secession, to be based on a more stable foundation than artificially-induced ethnic paranoia.
4.6 One footnote of a more optimistic kind can, however, be added to this discussion of popular attitudes. The most encouraging aspect of the conduct of the elections on 14 September was that there were no major incidents of violence, or local intimidation by mass-protest, against those groups of displaced persons who did cross the IEBL. Such incidents had been frequent during the previous six months: the usual pattern was that any visiting group of Muslims would find their route blocked by a group of local Serbs, under the approving gaze of the local Serb police. It is clear that the SDS leadership wanted the election to run smoothly (in order to produce a result that would validate their political control). The fact that there were no such incidents on election day supplies, therefore, negative but compelling evidence to support the view that most of the previous incidents have involved "Rent-a-Mob" crowds, orchestrated from above by the local authorities. This conclusion offers some grounds for optimism about the possibility of eventual re-integration, so long as ordinary citizens are free from manipulation from above. Indeed, several detailed accounts in the Sarajevo media by journalists who accompanied groups of Muslims returning to vote in eastern Bosnia confirmed that, when these voters were allowed to enter the towns where they had formerly lived, the reactions of ordinary Serbs in the streets and polling stations were within the bounds of normal behaviour: some were friendly, some cold, and some awkward and embarrassed, but there was no hysterical hostility.26
5: Reasons for Maintaining the Re-integration of Bosnia as a Policy Goal
5.1 Outside Bosnia, one frequently hears it said: 'They don't want to live together any more; partition is the only solution.' As I have indicated in the preceding section, such comments misrepresent the situation in Bosnia. The truth is that the largest component of the Bosnian population, the Muslims (who before the war made up 44% of the population) do wish to continue to live in a re-integrated Bosnia-Hercegovina extending to its pre-war borders and including both Serbs and Croats. They have voted for parties which support that aim. The SDA may be in some sense a Muslim "nationalist" party, but it is not a separatist nationalist party.
5.2 However, the general effect of the elections, by strengthening the political position of the SDS in Republika Srpska and the HDZ in "Herceg-Bosna", is to make ordinary Muslims, and other Bosnian citizens too, less confident that re-integration is a real possibility. During the war, many became convinced that the real policy goal of the international community was partition; and some essential aspects of the Dayton Agreement seemed to confirm this suspicion. There is a real danger now of a vicious circle coming into operation, in which Bosnians act increasingly on the assumption that their country will not be re-integrated, and the international community, observing this, convinces itself that assisting or imposing re-integration is a hopeless task. It is necessary for Western policy-makers to remind themselves that a process of continuing disintegration in Bosnia is not a tide on which they can comfortably float. There are strong reasons for supposing that the re-integration of Bosnia is in the positive interests both of Bosnia itself, and of the outside world.
5.3 First, hundreds of thousands of people who have been driven out of their homes wish to return to them and, if necessary, rebuild them. If Bosnia is not re-integrated, many of these people will remain in temporary accommodation, living in tents or sleeping on the floors of sports halls, for years, perhaps decades, to come. They do not wish either to live like this, or to build new houses in areas which are strange to them. This is both a practical problem and a moral one.
5.4 Secondly, the principles of elementary justice involved here also have international ramifications. Throughout the war, Western governments and international bodies have proclaimed that they will not accept ethnic cleansing or the conquest of territory by force. Any move towards secession by Republika Srpska would be based on plebiscites in which the electorate had been artificially altered by ethnic cleansing. For Western governments to accept such a process would both set a dangerous precedent and undermine their own credibility.
5.5 Thirdly, even if these objections to secession were ignored, the practical problems, in terms of increased instability, would be enormous. Two forms of instability can be expected: intra-Bosnian, and regional. Within Bosnia, it is likely that a unilateral move to secession by Republika Srpska would be resisted with force by the Federation. The hard core of the Bosnian Army during the war consisted of Muslim men who had been "cleansed" from eastern or northern Bosnia and were fighting to return to their homes. Such people would certainly fight to stop a partition of Bosnia; and they and their families would form the core of a strong movement of political support for any leader who adopted an uncompromising anti-partition policy. Even in the north-western town of Bihac, which would not be directly affected by the loss of eastern Bosnia, I found that every young man I spoke to said he would be willing to engage in another four years of war to stop the partition of Bosnia.
The internal instability caused by partition would not stop there, however. If partition were in fact accomplished along the present Inter-Entity Boundary Line, it is highly likely that political conflict, leading probably to fighting, would develop between the Muslims and Croats in the remaining Federation territory. HDZ politicians would consider only two long-term policy goals: either the absorption of the whole Federation into a greater Croatia, or the secession of "Herceg-Bosna". Both options would be unacceptable to the great majority of Bosnian Muslims, who do not want to be ruled from Zagreb and know that a landlocked and divided rump third (or quarter) of Bosnia-Hercegovina would simply not be a viable state territory.
The regional instability caused by partition would involve a new phase of political rivalry and hostility between Serbia and Croatia. Following the secession of Republika Srpska, Belgrade would try hard to mount "spoiling operations" to interfere with Zagreb's projects in the remaining half of Bosnia-Hercegovina. If the present IEBL did eventually become a Serbian-Croatian frontier, this would mean in effect that most of the complex and (by that stage) extremely bitter intra-Bosnian political disputes would now become issues between the two states, and be magnified at inter-state level. Serbian control of the Banja Luka region (which has long been a military centre) would also cause grave concern to Zagreb, since it would represent a Serbian military bulwark at precisely the most vulnerable point on Croatia's underbelly. And, finally, the possibility should not be excluded that the annexation of Republika Srpska by Serbia (or the Serbian-Montenegrin Federation) would cause serious political instability there too -- both because of struggles for power between the Bosnian Serb politicians and those in Belgrade, and because such an injection of intolerant Serb nationalism would render a peaceful settlement in Kosovo even more unlikely.
5.6 Some commentators point to the example of the population exchange between Greece and Turkey in the 1920s, and suggest that this offers a model of a "stable" solution for Bosnia. The differences between these cases, however, greatly outweigh the similarities. Most of the people who were "transferred" between Greece and Turkey moved long distances (in some cases, more than 1,500 km), and had no further contact with their former homes. Bosnian refugees are in many cases living less than an hour's drive from their former places of residence; for the rest of their lives, if they remain refugees, they will be constantly reminded of the proximity to their former homes, through local television and radio, and the coming and going of human traffic and goods. A more apt comparison would be not between Greece and Turkey, but between the Greek and Turkish areas of Cyprus. But again there are differences: the degree of upheaval has been far greater in Bosnia, and Bosnia is not a country that is insulated from surrounding states and populations by the sea. Partition, in Bosnia's case, will be not a "solution" but a guarantee of much greater problems to come.
6: The Need for a More Active Policy of Re-integration
6.1 Addressing a meeting in London one month after the election, the High Representative, Mr Carl Bildt, defended the decision to go ahead with the Bosnian elections on the grounds that they were necessary "to bring us into the fourth and final phase of implementation of the Peace Agreement this year -- the setting up of the common institutions. Without setting up these institutions, the country would remain partitioned in every reasonable sense..."27 Unfortunately, the common institutions of the new state of Bosnia-Hercegovina are no guarantee that Bosnia will not remain in a state of de facto partition. The Dayton constitution, which is now being introduced, may in fact promote partition, in two ways: first, through its overall structural arrangements, and secondly, through the susceptibility of the common institutions to a strategy of blocking, disruption and boycotting.
6.2 The Dayton constitution gives most important powers to the entity governments, not the common Bosnian government. The common government has competence in only a short list of reserved areas, the most important of which are monetary policy, commercial policy and foreign policy. There is no provision for the creation of a common Bosnian army; and vital areas of domestic policy, which may affect the chances of long-term integration -- such as education policy, and policy towards the electronic media -- remain in the hands of the entity governments. In addition, the "ethnic" characterisation of the two entities is itself a force for ethnic partition, and the rule forbidding Muslims or Croats from representing Republika Srpska in the Bosnian Presidency, and forbidding Serbs from representing the Federation, is in direct conflict with both the CSCE 1990 Copenhagen Declaration and some of the international human rights documents annexed to the Dayton Agreement itself.
It is important to understand that if the Dayton Agreement's formal pledges to maintain and reintegrate the Bosnian state are taken seriously and put into effect, there must come a time when many elements of the Dayton Agreement itself will have to be changed or abandoned as a result. Before the war, the territory now occupied by Republika Srpska had a population which was 48% non-Serb. If all refugees returned to their homes and that proportion were restored, it would be absurd to maintain a political structure which characterises that part of Bosnia as a peculiarly "Serb" entity.
6.3 As for the capacity of the common institutions to be blocked or boycotted, this is already evident from the Dayton constitution. The 15-person House of Peoples, the upper house of the common parliament, must have a quorum containing at least three Muslims, three Croats and three Serbs. No legislation can be passed without the approval of both houses of this parliament. A simple boycott by any ethnic group in the upper house, therefore, will prevent any legislation from being passed.28 Any decision of the Presidency can also be blocked: if any member of the Presidency declares that it is destructive of the vital interest of his "entity", and if he is supported by the members of his ethnic group in the entity parliament, the measure must be abandoned.29 A long campaign of blocking and boycotting measures is to be expected; already, on 5 October, the Bosnian Serbs boycotted the opening of the new Bosnian parliament (on alleged security grounds), and representatives of the HDZ boycotted the inaugural meeting of the Sarajevo regional council.
6.3 It is quite clear that this constitution is not going to function at all unless the international community takes new measures to twist the arms of recalcitrant Bosnian political leaders. Mr Bildt also hinted at this in his speech, when he said: "the Follow-On High Representative [i.e. a putative successor to Mr Bildt] must have a greater role in the coordination of economic assistance, primarily in order to make certain that political and economic conditionality can be exercised..."30 The term "conditionality" here is a euphemism for arm-twisting. Economic arm-twisting, by penalising non- cooperation through the withdrawal of aid and investment, will certainly be important. But new, more strongly defined powers of political arm-twisting will also be required. Mr Bildt or his successor should have the power to dismiss any officials, including elected ones, if he regards their actions as contrary to the basic aims and spirit of the Dayton Agreement. (The spirit of the Agreement must be treated as outweighing its letter; it is essentially a political document rather than a legal one, and, as I have suggested above, if its spirit is fulfilled, the letter will have to be changed anyway.) It will also be necessary to exercise more direct control over such areas of entity-government activity as education policy and the control of state-run media. Here the letter of Dayton can be respected, insofar as these areas remain technically under entity-government control, but over-ridden, by introducing strict principles and standards with which those entity-governments are obliged to comply.
6.4 Such changes are best introduced while the international community has its own military force still in place in Bosnia. At the same time, a more active policy of arresting indicted war criminals would also assist the reintegrative process in Bosnia; the idea of collective guilt (which animates collective hostility) will not be exorcised unless individual responsibility is both identified and punished. Military men, who would naturally prefer not to attempt such measures, like to say that the arrest of war criminals might endanger "stability". These are the same military men who say that the attempts of refugees to return to their homes are threats to "stability". The truth is that it is for politicians, not major-generals, to judge what will promote genuine political and social stability in the long term; and it is of vital importance, for Bosnia and for Europe, that they make the right judgement now.
This report was commissioned by the Council of Europe
1 Implementation of the Dayton Agreements, Statement by the Rapporteurs (Mr Bloetzer and Mr van Linden), AS/Pol (1996) 23 rev., paragraph 3.
2 ICG, Bosnia Report no. 14 (14 August 1996), p. 4.
3 OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina 14 September 1996: Briefing Report, by M. Singer, D. Christensen, J. Taivalantti (Sept. 1996).
4 Reuters report, 9 August 1996.
5 "Statement by Ambassador Frowick on Postponement of Municipal Elections", Sarajevo, 27 August 1996.
6 ICG, Bosnia Report no. 16 (22 September 1996), p. 47, citing EASC Judgments on cases 96-140 and 96-122, issued on 18 September.
7 The report to the CIM by the Long-Term Observer for the Bihac and Bosanska Krupa municipalities, for example, described conditions in the counting centre at Bihac as "chaotic" (A.-M. Steeman, report for 12-15 September, p. 1). The report compiled by Electoral Reform International Services ("Short-Term Election Observation Report to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office"), representing 38 British observers, noted frequent "confusion" among staff at the counting centres (p. 13).
8 Election Reform International Services report (above, n. 7), p. 14.
9 "BH. izbori ispravni" (report of press conference by Eduard van Thijn), Oslobodjenje (Sarajevo- Frankfurt edn), 18 Sept.
10 Election Reform International Services report (above, n. 7), p. 22.
11 ICG, Bosnia Report no. 16, p. 47.
12 Press conference, 16 September.
13 Report by A.-M. Steeman (above, n. 7), p. 2.
14 ICG, Bosnia Report no. 16, p. 51; "Izborni aparthejd" (report of press conference by UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski), Oslobodjenje (Sarajevo edn), 16 September.
15 ICG, Bosnia Report no. 16, pp. 55-8.
16 Press Statement by Ambassador Frowick, 27 September.
17 Suad Arnautovic, Izbori u Bosni i Hercegovini '90 (Sarajevo, 1996), p. 104; L. Smailovic, "Poratno sabiranje", Vreme, 28 September 1996, p. 21.
18 See the analysis by the demographer Murat Praso, calculating a "projected" growth of 122,000 between 1991 and 1995, published in Most (Mostar), no. 93 (March-April 1996), and in Bosnia Report (London), no. 16 (July-October 1996).
19 Information from the graphs of births and deaths printed to accompany the "Etnicka Karta Bosne i Hercegovine" published in Sarajevo, 1991.
20 "Glasanjem za Ivanica Bosnjaci iz Republike Srpske izabrali su Izetbegovica!" (interview with Halid Genjac, chairman of SDA central council), Slobodna Bosna, 22 September 1996.
21 See ICG, Bosnia Report no. 13, "Electioneering in Republika Srpska" (August 1996).
22 ICG, Bosnia Report no. 16, p. 32.
23 Ibid., p. 41.
24 Ibid., pp. 36-7.
25 Ibid., pp. 49-50.
26 See for example the long article "Jedino je nada ostala", Oslobodjenje (Sarajevo edn), 16 September 1996.
27 Carl Bildt, address to the Royal United Services Institute, London, 10 October 1996, p. 5.
28 Dayton Agreement, Annex 4, art. 1, para. 1 (b), and art. 1, para 3 (c).
29 Ibid., art. 5, para. 2 (d).
30 Address (above, n. 27), p. 11.