Mostar City Council
Discrepancy in tally giving Muslims a slight advantage escalates into a boycott by Mostarís Croats.
Political analysts say Croat nationalists opposing reunification will try to obstruct the newly-elected city bodies.
By Laura Lui
ZAGREB, July 23 (Reuters) - Bosnian Croats say they will boycott a session of Mostar's newly elected city assembly on Tuesday, threatening plans to reunify the divided Bosnian city.
Croats last week refused to recognise the results of local elections held on June 30, complaining of alleged irregularities in ballots cast abroad. The Muslim nationalist Party of Democratic Action (SDA) won a five-seat edge over the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) in the city council election, which was sponsored by the European Union.
The SDA, Bosnia's ruling party, scored a landslide victory in four polling stations in Western Europe, where many Muslim refugees from Mostar found shelter during the war. The votes secured them a substantial advantage in seats on the city council. A local electoral commission, deeply divided along ethnic lines, failed to publish election results within 11 days. The European Union, eager to keep the peace process on line before crucial country-wide elections in September, published the results by a decree.
Croatian radio on Monday quoted Croat officials in the town as saying HDZ deputies would not take part in the constituent session of the Mostar city assembly. "We don't accept the final election results because they were not published by the local electoral commission," the radio quoted Mostar's HDZ head, Mile Puljic, as saying. Croats earlier complained releasing the results was not the EU's responsibility under Bosnian electoral laws, branding the EU move as an "illegal activity."
Puljic said the Croats had not received any official invitation to participate in the assembly's first session and were not officially informed about election results. The Muslim victory has taken nationalist HDZ leaders by surprise. With their rivals now holding a majority, political analysts say Croat nationalists who oppose reunifying the city will try to obstruct setting up the newly elected city bodies,
Bosnia's Muslim President Alija Izetbegovic criticised the HDZ's boycott and appealed for the EU to intervene. "We were told today that HDZ deputies would not attend the session. This blocks the entire process of the democratic settlement of the crisis in Mostar," Izetbegovic said in a letter to Irish Foreign Minister Dick Spring, chair of the EU Council of Ministers. Izetbegovic said the HDZ refused to recognise results which were not to its liking.
The Croat boycott was a bad omen for the countrywide poll scheduled for September 14, when voters are supposed to choose inter-ethnic bodies to govern a loose Bosnia union. Roman Catholic Croats and Bosnian Muslims, who began the war as allies against the Serbs, fought a bitter war in 1993 and 1994, reducing much of the ancient Ottoman town to rubble. They later formed a loose federation but Mostar remained effectively divided into two parts.
Croats want Mostar to be a capital of their self-styled state, and Muslims wish it were a model of Bosnian reintegration. The radio said Croats also filed a lawsuit against EU ombudsman Constantis Zepos who ruled the elections valid. They said they were waiting for the Constitutional court of the Muslim-Croat Federation to decide on the matter.
Berserkistan, July 15 · EU Appoints New Mostar Envoy
July 12 · Final Mostar Tally Gives Muslim Party a 5-Seat Edge
July 10 · Croats Threaten to Resign Over Mostar Election Results
July 7 · Mostarís Elections Valid Says European Union
July 1 · Muslims in Narrow Win over Croats in Mostar Elections
July 1 · Mostar Holds Peaceful Post-War Elections
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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