AFP, October 19, 2002
Nationalists score clean sweep of Bosnian joint presidency
Nationalists scored a clean sweep of Bosnia's tripartite presidency in elections two weeks ago, according to final results, despite international pressure for a vote for reform.
But there was no clear winner in the race for Bosnia's central parliament and the assemblies of the country's two highly autonomous halves -- the Muslim-Croat Federation and the Serbs' Republika Srpska -- although the nationalists again put on a strong showing.
The largely symbolic joint presidency will be shared by Sulejman Tihic of the Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA), Mirko Sarovic from the Serb Democratic Party (SDS) and Dragan Covic from the Croat Democratic Union (HDZ), replacing three moderates.
The three parties led Bosnia into brutal inter-ethnic conflict in 1992 and continued to rule the country in a de-facto coalition until the last elections in 2000, when a moderate alliance took control of the central parliament.
Dealing a blow to Western attempts to marginalise hardliners, Bosnians showed broad support for the nationalists in the October 5 elections, amid widespread dissatisfaction at the perceived failure of a moderate ruling coalition at the state level.
Officials said voter turnout at the weekend was the lowest since the 1992-95 war, when the country's Croats, Muslims and Serbs turned on each other with a viciousness not seen in Europe since World War II.
The multi-ethnic Social Democratic Party (SDP), the main force in the state-level coalition, lost close to half of votes it had won in previous polls.
Under the 1995 Dayton peace accords which ended the war, Bosnia was divided into the Muslim-Croat Federation and the Bosnian Serb Republika Srspka (RS). Each entity has its own assembly, police force and army.
There are also weak central institutions, including a state-level parliament and the joint presidency made up of delegates from each ethnic group.
The Muslim winner of the presidency, Tihic, 51, is a former prisoner of war who was captured and tortured by Bosnian Serb forces during the 1992-95 war and was in Bosnia.
His Serbian counterpart Sarovic, 46, has demonstrated no desire to distance himself from the wartime policies of the SDS and its founder Radovan Karadzic, the fugitive war crimes suspect.
Cavic, 46, is considered a moderate within the HDZ, the party that led other Croat nationalists in an attempt in 2000 to establish a third exclusively Croat autonomous zone in Bosnia.
According to results for the 42-seat central parliament, the three nationalist parties will not be able to form a majority even if they join forces.
The Muslim SDA emerged the strongest party in parliament however, winning 10 seats while the Croatian HDZ and the Serbs SDS each won five seats.
Moderates are also not in a position to secure a majority although they would have half of the seats in parliament if they formed an alliance.
The SDS also remains the strongest party in the Republika Srpska parliament, but has no majority, and could be squeezed out of government if moderates form an alliance.
In the race for the parliament of the Muslim-Croat federation, the SDA and HDZ failed to gain a majority despite announcing a post-election alliance, but may still be able to emerge the dominant force if they are joined by two small Croat nationalist parties.