Thursday, August 28, 2008


SARAJEVO, Bosnia (August 29,2008) - The outgoing Head of the OSCE Mission in Bosnia, Douglas Davidson,said yesterday that he believes that the upcoming local elections will not bring dramatic political changes in the country.

Leaving Bosnia after four years of service, Davidson presumes such a scenario, since he is convinced that in the voters’ minds “everything still starts from which nationality they belong to”.

“As long as everything starts from there, the same people will win the elections. However, this is not a matter up for discussion if that is what the voters want,” Davidson said.

However, theses days, he is a lot more interested in what will happen with the agreement between the SDA and HDZ, with regards to the nationally coloured problem of the school certificates in Stolac, and he is not convinced that this agreement will be implemented in the field on time.

You have witnessed that the pre-election campaign has started much sooner than it was formally planned- on September 5. Could this early start of the pre-election campaign be considered a manipulation of the election process?

DAVIDSON: The fact is that it is a trend that the election campaigns start sooner and sooner, however, I do not think that that is manipulation. When it comes to the administrative part of the elections, with the thought that people will know where to vote and whether their votes are correctly counted, it is all right. It is true that now everybody is starting to repair roads or similar… That is some form of manipulation, but it happens everywhere. It shows that some manipulations, if they are beneficial to citizens, can be good.

Generally speaking, what are your expectations for the upcoming elections?

DAVIDSON: I think that there will be no big changes at the local level. However, if the election results reflect the wish of the majority of the electorate, it is a democracy and no one has a right to criticize it in that case.

Why do you think that the ruling parties will win at the local elections, as well?

DAVIDSON: Because the majority of voters act in line with their national belonging. In some way, the Dayton Agreement determined this. Politics dominate in all spheres of your society, and almost everything depends on which party you belong to. I am fascinated with the fact that this is the condition for being appointed a school director or a manager of a museum. How can you then blame people for voting for a political party that they think will take care of them the best?! Voters should ask questions about the functioning of the system, what has been done with the reforms…Without that, I guess that the same people will get the majority of the votes, because the system here is functioning in that way.

How do you see the fact that the number of the so-called national minorities is a symbolic matter in the majority of the local communities?

The OSCE Human Rights Department supports the thesis based on ensuring more space for national minorities; however, our election advisors are convinced that that is applicable only in bigger centres. However, you can see for yourself that that the leaders of the six political parties can not even reach an agreement about the census. For example, if you ask our human rights offices, they will tell you that the census is needed for more reasons. Namely, Bosnia signed many documents which guarantee certain rights to national minorities. Nowadays no one knows who the minorities are or where they are. The census from 1991 does not exactly show the number of the minority population, as well as the number of three constitutive people.

Then you are against the new idea of the International Community that says “the census is needed, but without a declaration of national belonging”?

DAVIDSON: No, I am not against that, however, our human rights officers are against such a principle. I believe that there are certain values in the fact that we do not count people by their nationality. You have to know how many people live in the certain area; however, in this country it would be much better if less importance is dedicated to national belonging. Speaking long-term, there should be an aspiration to reach that point where there will not be divisions into three parts and that the best person is appointed for a job position, regardless of their nationality.

How do you see the accusations that you yourself are responsible for the problem of “two schools under one roof”, existing in Bosnia, and do you consider the fact that there are still 54 such schools as your failure?

DAVIDSON: Yes, I do. It is correct that the OHR and the OSCE were “pushing” this system, however, Croat NGOs that address such criticism, forget the very important fact- that the system was established only in schools were there were Croats and where Bosniaks had no access. That system was a temporary measure set in order to improve the return of refugees. The International Community was not the one who wanted separated schools, it was the people. We can support changing the legislation in that regard, and the High Representative can, for example, remove the minister of education, but if the people are still violating their laws and the local authorities do not want to sanction that, then there is nothing we can do about it.

Do you expect that the agreement of the leaders of the SDA and HDZ, regarding the diplomas in the Secondary School Stolac, will be implemented in the field?

DAVIDSON: It is better that they do it as soon as possible, because school should start next week. However, there is still confusion in regards with what did they agree about. As far as I understood, they will verify certificates, enroll children in school and form the commission that will solve this issue. However, if they did not do it over the weekend, and I did not see that that was the case, then I do not know how they are planning to do it on time? The problem of Covic and Tihic is that their representatives in that Canton have worked on a division of schools for all these years. This case is a sort of test to see if they will take the orders of their political leaders.

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