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Last Updated: Sunday, 3 October, 2004, 13:53 GMT 14:53 UK
Bosnia's nationalists lead poll
Voting station in Tuzla
Many stayed away, "sick of politics"
Early results from Saturday's local elections in Bosnia-Hercegovina suggest that nationalist parties from the three ethnic groups are in the lead.

The main surprise was the moderate Union of Independent Social Democrats in the Bosnian Serb Republic scoring gains against the more hardline SDS.

Fears of a low turnout amid widespread apathy proved correct.

Only 45% of voters cast their ballot - 20% lower than at the last local elections four years ago.

These are the first local elections to have been organised entirely by the Bosnian authorities since the end of the war in 1995.

Around 2.3 m Bosnians were entitled to vote.

They were electing a 142 municipal assemblies and, for the first time, there will be directly elected mayors for each municipality.

Full preliminary results were expected later on Sunday.

Ashdown's call

The main nationalist parties, which led the Serb, Croat and Muslim communities throughout the war in the early 1990s, say they are very happy with initial indications.

The SDS - the Serb Democratic Party founded by war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic - appeared to have lost some ground to opposition Union of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), partial results suggested.

The party dealt a blow to the SDS in the Serb-run city of Banja Luka, the electoral commission said.

It also looked set to increase the number of municipalities it controls in western parts of the Bosnian Serb entity - one of two constituents of Bosnia-Hercegovina.

What is important now is that politicians put campaigning behind them, return to work and concentrate on the necessary reforms
Paddy Ashdown
Bosnia's High Representative
The SNSD "sometimes flirted with the nationalists' agenda, but they knew that the corruption of the authorities is what ordinary people care about the most so it was the focus of their campaign," said Senad Slatina, from the International Crisis Group think tank.

"We expected the low turnout to help nationalists, but the big story appears to be the surprise success of the moderates in some of the most unusual places," Mr Slatina said.

Bosnia's High Representative, Paddy Ashdown, called on all the parties to continue rebuilding their country.

"What is important now is that politicians put campaigning behind them, return to work and concentrate on the necessary reforms... in order to give this country a future in Europe and Nato," Mr Ashdown said in a statement.

In the last general election in 2002, the nationalist parties representing the country's Muslims, Serbs and Croats made a strong showing and won all three seats in the tripartite presidency.

Unemployment mars Bosnia revival
30 Sep 04  |  Europe
Bosnia clerics 'stir up' tension
29 Sep 04  |  Europe
Ashdown calms nationalism fears
13 Feb 04  |  Europe
Serbia waits for a government
30 Dec 03  |  Europe
Country profile: Bosnia-Hercegovina
22 Sep 04  |  Country profiles



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