Berserkistan Navigator Bosnian Croats Expect
Mostar Elections to
Cement Partition

‘We will have three municipalities and the Muslims
the other three. Again, we will have separate rulers
of the Croat and the Muslim areas.’

—Mile Puljic, deputy mayor of the Croat part of Mostar

By Zoran Radosavljevic

Mostar MOSTAR, Bosnia, June 24 (Reuters) - Bosnian Croats said on Monday they expect pending elections in Mostar to cement partition, dashing Western hopes of reunifying the Bosnian city.

Croats here believe Mostar's ballot, seen as a trial run for countrywide elections, will create only a "loose union of interests" with Muslims who share the city.

Western officials want the June 30 poll to help bring the ethnically-divided city together as an example for Bosnia's first postwar vote in September under the Dayton peace accord. Sponsored by Mostar's temporary European Union administration, the vote is designed to set up a single city council with the same number of seats for Muslims and Croats, who will then elect one mayor.

Separatist Croats now control west Mostar and Muslims answering to Bosnia's central government the eastern part of town, a partition defined by the inner-city Neretva River. "We have no doubt about the outcome of the election -- Croats will have administrative power on the western, Croat side," Mile Puljic, deputy mayor of the Croat part of Mostar, told Reuterss in an interview.

He said the nationalist Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), the leading Croat party, aimed to win the three Mostar districts where the Croats were in a majority and to merge them into one unit "to cut down on administration." "We will have three municipalities and the Muslims the other three. Again, we will have separate rulers of the Croat and the Muslim areas," Puljic said.

A possible obstacle to HDZ plans is the fact that all Mostar districts, under the 1991 census which is the basis for balloting, were ethnically mixed and none of the three parties or party blocs competing could win an absolute majority. "What we and Muslims have in common are interests -- trade, industry, infrastructure. That's the only possible basis for co-existence. Mostar of the past, a city of (communist-style) Brotherhood and Unity, will exist no more," Puljic said.

Many Croats share his views contradicting the agenda of Bosnia's main Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA) which seeks reunification of Mostar and all Bosnia, over two-thirds of which is now controlled by Serb or Croat separatists. "I want my child to go to a Croat school and learn Croatian language and Muslims can have their own schools and do what they want," said a Croat who would not give his name.

In east Mostar, an SDA official told Reuterss: "It's the HDZ who want an ethnically pure territory for Croats. What we want is a multi-ethnic town whose citizens enjoy all human rights." EU and other Western observers concede the HDZ and the increasingly religio-nationalist SDA will romp to electoral victory in their respective parts of town, eclipsing a loose bloc of small, non-ethnic moderate parties in the elections.

But they cling to the hope that the vote will foster a new spirit of tolerance leading to power-sharing, a return of war refugees and other aspects of normalisation envisaged by the 1995 Dayton peace treaty on Bosnia.

In Mostar, the SDA has formed a coalition with the Serb Civic Council -- moderate Serbs loyal to Bosnia's central government -- and the new opposition party of former prime minister Haris Silajdzic, a Muslim. "Although we are a national party, we were on this occasion open to coalition and many of the opposition parties joined us because they thought our platform was the most adequate way to fight for unity of Mostar," the SDA official said.

Observers say citizens of Mostar, Muslims and Croats alike, seem uninformed and indifferent to programmes offered by the parties. There has been a striking lack of pre-electoral rallies or posters, especially in the Croat-controlled west. "I will vote for SDA. I don't know what they are offering, but whatever parties offer, they never fulfil, so it does not matter," said Mirza Ramic, 52, a Muslim living in east Mostar since Croat militia expelled him from the west in 1993.

Puljic, the Croat deputy mayor, said a return of departed Muslims would be uncertain even after the election.

"I don't think much will be done in this respect. We have thousands of Croat refugees living in vacant (Muslim or Serb) flats. This has to be dealt with at a higher level throughout the country," he said.

To learn more...
Berserkistan, June 23 · Banking on Mostar’s Elections to Lead the Reunification of Bosnia
Berserkistan, June 21 · Rampant Nationalism in Mostar Elections May Deepen Division
Berserkistan, June 17 · Muslims Stone Catholic Monastery in Mostar
Berserkistan, June 12 · Mostar Administrator Gives Approval to September Vote
Berserkistan, May 30 · EU Administrator Sets Mostar Elections for June 30
Berserkistan · Mostar, A Tale of Two Cities by Jim Bartlett
Berserkistan · For Peace in Mostar, Follow the Money Trail to Croatia
Mostar: Before and After its Devastation A site by Dubravko Kakarigi
Benvenuti in Guerra Gavino Paddeu chronicles Mostar's fall
Building in a War Zone European Union Helps to Reconstruct Mostar

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