Pittsburgh Post Gazette, October 11, 2002
Ballots in Bosnia / Orderly elections, extreme candidates
Elections held Saturday in Bosnia-Herzegovina were an important test of the level of that nation's recovery from the 1992-95 war and of prospects for future cooperation among its Serb, Croat and Muslim populations.
That the elections took place peacefully, under the control of Bosnian-Herzegovinian rather than international authorities, was encouraging. That the more extreme nationalists among the candidates appear to have won is less encouraging, but may be unavoidable for now.
In any case, the orderly election process indicates that the progressive withdrawal of American and other international forces that has been taking place can continue. U.S. forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina, including units of the Pennsylvania National Guard, stand at this point at about 3,000, nearly seven years after the conclusion of the Dayton Accords, which ended the war.
The elections were for virtually all of the elected offices in Bosnia-Herzegovina, including the three-member collective presidency. They were the first since the war run entirely by national officials. Outside monitors were present, though, and declared that the balloting met international standards.
International officials, who have in effect had the last word in ruling Bosnia-Herzegovina since 1995, were less enamored of the results. They had urged voters of all three ethnic affiliations to choose candidates of the less nationalist parties. In the 2000 elections international officials had engineered a victory for the moderates through their control of the process.
This time, left more to their own devices, each group voted for its own radical nationalists. The Serbs chose the presidential candidate of the party of war leader and accused war criminal Radovan Karadjic, still in hiding. The Croats chose Dragan Covic, the candidate of the HDZ, the Croatian party that international officials had tried their best to hound out of existence. The Muslims voted for Sulejman Tihic, the candidate of the scandal-clouded Party for Democratic Action.
For better or for worse, the Bosnians-Herzegovinians have chosen their leaders for the next four years in violence-free elections. After that, it is up to them to work together to rebuild the country they all must share.