Muslims in Narrow Win over
Croats in Mostar Elections
MOSTAR ELECTION RESULTS
Party of Democratic Action: 48%
(SDA) Probable Council Seats: 19
Croatian Democratic Union: 45%
(HDZ) Probable Council Seats: 18
Voter Turnout: 60%
By Davor Huic
MOSTAR, Bosnia, July 2 (Reuters) - A narrow win by Bosnia's ruling Muslim party over separatist Croats in Mostar's municipal elections would not alter the present balance of power and the division of the town, analysts say. The Party of Democratic Action (SDA), which rules Muslim east Mostar, took 48 percent and the Croatian Democratic Union party (HDZ), 45 percent in Sunday's vote for a single city council.
The first complete but unofficial results were released late Monday by the local electoral comission.
Victory in the European Union-sponsored poll delighted the inhabitants of the eastern, poorer and more isolated part of the once thriving town, but analysts said it will hardly bring any changes in the current deadlock. "The result has vindicated predictions that the elections would not change the current balance of power," said an independent western observer.
The 1995 Dayton peace treaty allotted 16 Mostar council seats apiece to Croats and Muslims with the remaining five reserved for small minorities like Serbs. The SDA will probably get 19 seats and HDZ 18 in the city's unified council, said EU spokesman Dragan Gasic.
Since small parties and independent candidates fared dismally -- none won more than three percent -- the two major national blocks would occupy all 37 seats. Analysts believe the edge of only one seat would not give the SDA a clear mandate to force unification over the HDZ.
The fourth-biggest Bosnian city is divided in two almost equal halves, with one side inhabited by Muslims supporting unification and other by Croats, who want preferably the entire town to belong to them or at least remain divided along ethnic lines. The Croat-Muslim war that devastated the town in 1993-94 left it deeply divided. West Croat-held Mostar, with its breakaway hinterland, has turned into a virtual annex of Croatia.
A 63-year old Muslim, interviewed by Reuterss on the east bank, was surprised by the outcome: "I did not belive we could win." But he added: "I doubt these results will bring about any real changes. It is all up to the international factors."
A Croat women on the west side, who would not give her name, said she was upset with the loss, blaming it on the poor turnout of Croats in the four polling stations in Western Europe, where the SDA won more than 80 percent of votes. "I am very worried," said the mother of three.
In order to allay the fears of his bewildered compatriots mayor of the Croat part of the town, Mile Brajkovic told them the poll "did not imply any practical changes." "Nothing has happened," he said in a programme on local Mostar television.
The poll was Bosnia's first taste of elections since the end of a war that split the republic into ethnic nationalist entities. The balloting was seen as a model for Bosnia-wide elections in September aimed at restoring an integral state.
EU administrators expected to release final official results of the municipal balloting on Wednesday or Thursday. Voter turnout was 60 percent, greater than expected since thousands of voters were refugees who had to cross ethnic lines under EU and NATO protection to cast ballots in districts where they lived before the war.
Tight security furnished by NATO peace troops, free movement for voters across ethnic boundaries and a phalanx of Western poll observers helped ensure the elections were peaceful, free and fair, EU officials said.
Berserkistan, July 1 · Mostar Holds Peaceful Post-War Elections
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