- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 8, 2002

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina Nationalists made a comeback in Bosnia's first self-organized elections since the 1992-95 war, an outcome that threatens to deepen divisions among the country's Muslims, Croats and Serbs.
The preliminary count of Saturday's balloting, nearly completed, showed nationalists well ahead in races for all the spots on Bosnia's three-member multiethnic presidency. That was likely to disappoint Western officials, who had urged Bosnians to vote for reforms.
Nationalists also made strong gains at the legislative level.
The United States and its allies in Europe have warned that their support and foreign aid for Bosnia could be endangered if the winners espouse the same nationalist policies that caused Europe's bloodiest conflict since World War II. More than 260,000 people were killed.
The war ended in a U.S.-brokered peace accord that split the country along its wartime front lines and imposed an international administrator with overarching authority.
The British politician who holds that post, Paddy Ashdown, cautioned against interpreting Saturday's vote as a wish to return to the divisive past.
"Everyone who thinks the mood is moving back to nationalism simply has not been listening," he said. "The weekend vote was a protest a cry for help, not a vote for more of the same or a return of the past."
Nationalists have campaigned on Bosnians' disappointment about the impoverished economy, the 60 percent unemployment level and dire living standards. The average monthly paycheck amounts to the equivalent of $250.
The turnout of 55 percent the lowest since the end of the war indicated that many Bosnians were disillusioned by politicians not keeping their promises. Voter fatigue also was likely to have played a role. The poll was the sixth in the seven years of peace.
Official results were not expected until later this month.
Dragan Covic of the nationalist Croatian Democratic Union was in a clear lead for the Croatian presidency, with 62 percent of the vote. All the ballots were counted in that race.
Mirko Sarovic, a Serbian nationalist, appeared to be likely to win the Serbian spot.


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