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Ground Rules Set for Bosnia's September Elections

How Do You Get 1,000,000 Refugees to the Polls?
SARAJEVO, Feb 23 (Reuters) - An internationally-supervised commission has decided the ground rules for elections to lead Bosnia to democratic rule after nearly four years of war, its chairman said on Friday.

The plan includes the daunting task of enabling nearly one million refugees to vote for representatives for their original home districts.

"This is a bright spot in efforts to bring peace to this country...but our work is just beginning," said Robert Frowick, chairman of the provisional election commission, run by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Elections are due to be held within six to nine months of the signing of Bosnia's peace accord in Paris last December 14.

Frowick told a news conference that for the poll to go ahead, all factions in Bosnia — the uneasy alliance of Muslims and Croats and their Serb foes — must be making the peace agreement brokered in Dayton, Ohio work. He urged greater compliance, especially by the Serb leadership and the Croat authortities in the divided city of Mostar.

A key element of the elections is the right to vote of all refugees and displaced people, who number at least two million from "ethnic cleansing" campaigns and brutal warfare. At least 900,000 are eligible to vote, according to OSCE figures. They will cast their ballots in the municipality in which they lived in 1991, before the war erupted as Bosnia sought independence from Yugoslavia. "It will not be easy," said elections expert John Reid.

Electoral lists should be published by March 31, based on a 1991 census.

The complex system involves municipal elections throughout the country, canton assemblies in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a house of representatives, national assembly and presidency for the Serb republic, a house of representatives for Bosnia and Herzegovina, and a three-member national presidency.

Any party wishing to take part must accept the peace accord and provide lists of supporters numbering from 500 in the municipal elections up to 10,000 for candidates for the main presidential election.

A 60,000 strong NATO-led army has successfully kept the rival armies apart since December but some other aspects of the accord are faltering due to mistrust, hatred or obstructiveness.

Frowick said: "This is a historically decisive year. The people of Bosnia and Herzegovina have a chance to realize the promise of peace. But only with a steadfast committment on their part and constructive efforts by all parties can the exceptionally complex challenges that lie before us be met."

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