Hard-Line Bosnian Serbs Won’t Rule Assembly
Article from: The Washington Post
Article date: September 26, 1998
Author: Guy Dinmore
Hard-line nationalist Nikola Poplasen was elected president of the Bosnian Serb Republic but his nationalist coalition failed to gain an outright majority in the region’s assembly, according to official election results released today.
The results confirmed the defeat of Biljana Plavsic, the Bosnian Serb Republic’s Western-backed president, in favor of Poplasen, leader of the Radical party who has spoken against the U.S.-mediated Dayton accord that ended the 1992-1995 war. Poplasen won by nearly 40,000 votes, the results showed, though he will be limited in his authority as ultra-nationalists failed to gain an outright majority in the Bosnian Serb assembly.
Although the election of Poplasen was a setback to the West, Western officials were relieved that Momcilo Krajisnik, the hard-line Serb representative on the three-man collective Bosnian presidency, had been defeated by Zivko Radisic, the Western-backed candidate. Krajisnik had been badly damaged by allegations of war-profiteering and corruption leveled against his Serbian Democratic Party, formerly led by Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serbs’ wartime leader.
Results of the Sept. 12-13 election had been delayed several days by what the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) called technical problems and a complex counting procedure.
OSCE representative Robert Barry, trying to play down the effect of Poplasen’s victory, said the results had generally shown a weakening of support for the Muslim, Croat and Serb nationalist parties that launched the war. “Overall, the trend we are working for is taking place,” he said, though he acknowledged that it was slower than the West had hoped.
Choosing his words carefully, Poplasen gave a brief victory statement here in the northern city of Banja Luka. He said all parties should respect the Dayton accord that divided Bosnia into two entities — the Muslim-Croat federation and the Bosnian Serb Republic.
But Poplasen added there were differing interpretations of Dayton and these should be resolved peacefully. “After these elections, nothing very dramatic must happen,” Poplasen said. “I expect . . . the new government will continue to have good cooperation with the international community.”
Western officials have warned Poplasen that they will not allow him to obstruct the return of Muslim and Croat refugees to what is now Serb-held territory. Aid money, including $100 million pledged by the United States, is mostly conditional on refugee returns. Since his victory became apparent a week ago Poplasen has moderated his nationalist rhetoric but maintains that his ultimate political goal is the permanent division of Bosnia and creation of a “Greater Serbia” encompassing the Bosnian Serb Republic and Serbia.
In voting for the Muslim-Croat federation, Kresimir Zubak, the Croat president who broke away from his nationalist party this year, was defeated by Ante Jelavic, a hard-liner, for the Croat seat on the collective Bosnian presidency.