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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

OSCE Postpones Indefinitely Municipal Elections in Bosnia

SARAJEVO -- The U.S. diplomat in charge of elections in Bosnia announced Tuesday that voting for municipal assemblies would be postponed because of irregularities by the Serbs in registering voters.

Ambassador Robert Frowick, representing the Organization for Security and Cooperetion in Europe, or OSCE, told reporters that municipal polls due on Sept. 14 with other Bosnian elections would be put off.

"I have made a chairman's decision that it is not feasible to hold municipal elections on Sept. 14," said Frowick.

He said no exact date had been set, but it was possible the local elections would take place in the spring of 1997.

According to OSCE officials, Serb authorities have pressed their refugees to register to vote in towns now under Serb control, but which used to have Moslem majorities.

Human rights workers say authorities in Serbia and Bosnian Serb territory have conducted a well-organized campaign to coerce refugees into registering only on Serb territory and failed to inform them of their rights under the Dayton peace agreement.

Diplomats say the effect of the electoral engineering would be to establish political control over districts they conquered and ethnically cleansed in war.

The response of the Bosnian Serbs to the postponement was not immediately clear.

But Bosnian Serb leaders have hinted they would boycott the poll if the municipal elections were postponed, or may go ahead with their own.

The Bosnian Serb cabinet, in a letter to the OSCE, said Monday that any delay of local elections would be "a direct and flagrant violation of the Dayton agreement."

The Serbs, who administer half of Bosnia in a Serb republic, said they had met all conditions for holding the September elections.

Diplomats fear the crisis could cast doubt over the entire election process, which already appears set to confirm Bosnia's ethnic partition.