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The BBC's Allan Little
"The internationals are going to be disappointed by this"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 14 November, 2000, 13:42 GMT
Nationalists squeezed in Bosnia poll
Bosnian Serbs, supporters of the SDS party
Serbs maintain their lead in the Serb Republic
The multi-ethnic opposition Social Democrats have pulled slightly ahead of nationalists in Bosnia's Muslim-Croat federation as votes continue to be counted in Bosnia-Hercegovina's general election.

With 70% of votes in, the Social Democratic Party had won 25.9% of the vote compared with 25.1% for the Muslim nationalist Party of Democratic Action (SDA).

Mirko Sarovica, SDS's presidential candidate
Mirko Sarovic: Tipped to win in the Bosnian Serb republic
The nationalist Croat Democratic Union (HDZ), which had been leading on Monday, came third with 19.5%.

In the Serb republic - which forms the other half of Bosnia-Hercegovina - the nationalist Serb Democratic Party (SDS) retained its lead.

It will take several more days before full, official results are published and talks get under way to form new governing alliances in the Bosnia-Hercegovina House of Representatives.

The Saturday polls are the third since the signing of the 1995 Dayton Agreement which ended three years of inter-ethnic strife.

Dayton divides Bosnia and Hercegovina roughly equally between the Federation of Bosnia and Hercegovina and the Bosnian Serb republic.

Economic ills

In the Bosnian Serb republic, the incumbent Vice-President, Mirko Sarovic, appears to be heading for victory.

Mr Sarovic represents the Serb Democratic Party (SDS) which was founded by the Bosnian Serbs' wartime leader, Radovan Karadzic - now a fugitive.

The SDS says it has changed since its ultra-nationalist days and that it has nothing to do with Mr Karadzic who is Bosnia's most prominent figure to be indicted for war crimes.

Others doubt the SDS's claim that it has turned its back on the past - and several foreign officials have suggested that the party should be banned.

The SDS has not only taken part in the elections but has also benefited from the fact that its ultra-nationalist rivals, the Radicals, were barred from standing because of their open support for establishing a greater Serbia.

Bosnia couple cast their ballots
This is the third election since war ended in 1995
The SDS has now picked up much of the Radicals' traditional vote.

By contrast, the pragmatic, pro-Western forces in the government of Prime Minister Milorad Dodik have had to shoulder the burden for the Bosnian Serb republic's economic ills.

Although Mr Dodik's own bid for the presidency now looks defeated, he may still be able to form another government with his traditional support of non-nationalist Serbs as well as Muslims and Croats.

But he can only do that if he secures the backing of a new middle-of-the-road party, headed by the prominent economist, Mladen Ivanic.

The partial re-integration of Bosnia - as envisaged at Dayton - has now been going on for five years.

Bosnia's foreign partners have invested much effort and money in the process.

But with nationalism remaining strong, the return of refugees hindered and corruption rife, all signs suggest that the international presence will remain in Bosnia for a number of years.

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See also:

20 Oct 00 | Europe
Row over Kostunica's Bosnia visit
14 Oct 00 | Europe
Bosnia war: Main players
09 Oct 00 | Europe
Serbs shown war crimes film
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