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September 12, 1998
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 362
The elections in Bosnia

Promises to Nonsense

by anja Topic

The citizens of the Bosnian Serb Republic have heard a thousand promises that they are in for a better future. It often appeared that a single professional agency organized the election campaigns for all the confronted parties taking part in the race. The election posters differ only for the names of the various candidates. The only thing all parties forgot to add is a slogan on the protection of the environment. A young lady from Banjaluka said she would vote for a candidate prepared to get rid of all the garbage after the elections.

THE SIMILARITIES: In spite of the confrontation of the two blocs taking part in the elections, both took an identical position on some crucial issues such as the Dayton Accords. Both the Sloga coalition and the Serb Democratic Party (SDS), as well as the Radicals, said they wanted "cohesion and stability" in the Bosnian Serb Republic. Everybody agreed that Brcko should be the "main artery" of the RS, with the explanation that the future of the Bosnian Serbs hangs on whether this town will remain in the RS. "Brcko will unconditionally remain a part of the RS and no arbitrary decision can change that. No one can drive 40,000 Serbs out of Brcko", said the SDS.

Parties that joined the Sloga coalition were declared traitors by SDS officials for several months. Hence their campaign was mainly based on "defending the state from traitors". Left-oriented parties lost their social-democratic virtues and started using the all to familiar nationalist vocabulary. Many observers say that at one point, there seemed to be no difference between the confronted blocs and that their election campaigns therefore went down to spitting into each other's face. Some of the arguments heard were uncivilized and rather disgusting.

However, both sides changed their rhetoric these days and started expressing their affection for the Serbs. Biljana Plavsic raised money from US-based Serb and donated 1,000 US dollars to several families in Brcko a few days before the elections. Biljana Plavsic did the same thing a few months ago, but made a fatal error by revealing the exact source of the money - the Chetnik movement from London. The affair resulted in volatile and rather unfavourable public reactions.

Although the current leadership got away with failing to deal with the return of refugees to the RS, there is no doubt that it will have to deal with the issue after the elections and meet the demands of the major powers. Milorad Dodik too is aware that his project on enabling refugees to return has failed, because of what he called "realistic unfavourable circumstances rather than political incompetence". However, Dodik knows that the major powers will accept no excuse and that he won't be spared although he has done more for the return of refugees than the Bosnian Federation. It is quite certain that the major powers will exercize their authority on the RS once again and ask its new leadership to implement the return of refugees.

Not a single political organization dared touch the war criminals issue. One morning, Banjaluka was covered with posters of the so-called Serb victims of the Hague Tribunal. The posters had photos of Serbs who were either killed while being arrested by foreign troops or those who committed suicide in the Tribunail's jail in Scheveningen. Both blocs have wisely decided to keep their mouths shut about this issue in order to avoid making a fatal error that might spell defeat in the elections.

The socialists and the social democrats haven't ruled out the possibility of forming a coalition with other patriotic parties after the elections, in other to shut out the radicals, but Biljana Plavsic's SNS will certainly go alone. "Forming a coalition with the unpurified the SDS is too risky", she said recently. One of her chief aides and a candidate for the post of Vice Premier, Svetozar Mihajlovic, also ruled out the possibility o forming a coalition with the "adversaries of democratic reforms" - the SDS and the radicals.

Many observers believe that spectacular reforms after the elections are very unlikely. A real battle between the two blocs is yet to come, after the elections, and any outcome is possible. Who knows, even "the big train full of socialists" could cross the finish line first on September 12 and 13.

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