- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 16, 2000

Bosnia's election

If you think Florida's presidential vote is complicated, consider Bosnia's.

"It's very complicated," Bosnian Ambassador Igor Davidovic said yesterday.

Over the weekend, voters in the country's two ethnic entities, the Serb Republic and the Muslim-Croat Federation, chose among a combined total of eight political parties for positions in each region's legislature and for regional seats in the national parliament.

Voters in the Serb Republic also elected a president and vice president for the regional assembly.

As of yesterday, Bosnian officials still were counting votes.

"In our last election in 1998, we had to wait 30 days for results," Mr. Davidovic told Embassy Row.

Although Western observers already are complaining that ethnic-based parties appear to be winning in the various contests, the ambassador is confident that no single party will dominate the national parliament, and that all parties in the regional assemblies will work together.

Recalling that five years ago Bosnia's ethnic communities were at war, the ambassador is hopeful that this election will show his nation has advanced toward its goal of a stable democracy.

"I get so many questions in Washington about whether the [ethnic] nationalists will take control [in the national parliament]. The answer is definitely no. Democracy is working in the fifth year after Dayton was signed," Mr. Davidovic said, referring to the 1995 peace accords signed in Dayton, Ohio.

The ambassador was scheduled to travel to Dayton yesterday for a seminar to mark the anniversary. Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who brokered the accords, also is expected to participate in the seminar.

Mr. Davidovic said the Dayton accords "stopped the war" and promoted "full freedom of movement and full communications between the different entities."

"I cannot see any reason to change the Dayton accords," he said, referring to critics of the peace pact who charge that it simply legitimized the division of the country.

The Dayton agreement also provided for NATO troops to enforce the measure and international administrators to oversee it.

Mr. Davidovic said his government hopes the international presence will remain in Bosnia until the country is stable.

As for the U.S. presidential election, Mr. Davidovic said he had to answer many questions from his government about who will win even before the votes were cast.

"I told them nobody is going to know until the very last moment," he said.

His assumption was as good as the most experienced American pundit.

"But to be honest," he added, "I never thought it would be this close."

Another recount?

The Slovak Embassy sent a press release this week to reporters and Slovak-Americans on its fax list.

The embassy was explaining the defeat of a referendum for early elections that was supported by opposition political parties.

It failed because only 20 percent of voters cast ballots, far below the required minimum of 50 percent.

Embassy spokeswoman Viera Viskupova said her country's centrist, pro-Western government saw the referendum as a threat from hard-liners, but one Slovak-American in Florida felt differently.

He faxed back the press release with the following comment:

"Florida Slovaks ask for recount!"

Opening soon

The U.S. envoy to Yugoslavia expects Washington will reopen its embassy in Belgrade "very soon."

Ambassador William Montgomery, who heads a Hungarian-based U.S. office to promote Yugoslav democracy, said that the embassy's economic department will be the first to open, and that full services will resume by June, the Yugoslav news agency Tanjug reported this week.

The embassy was closed during the war in Kosovo.

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