Serbs pad voter rolls in Bosnia, monitors say Loophole allows refugees to register city majorities

August 24, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- Western election monitors said yesterday that they are likely to take action to correct what they call "massive" manipulation of the rules for next month's elections, especially the evidence that Bosnian Serb refugees now living in Serbia have taken advantage of loopholes in the voter registration rules to register in great numbers in a few important towns that formerly had Muslim majorities.

But the monitors, from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, remained undecided about how to counter this and other threats to the integrity of the Sept. 14 elections, which were intended to begin stitching Bosnia back together but which many fear will only solidify its partition.

The latest revelations cast a spotlight on the contests in the nation's 128 municipalities, which many Bosnians consider to be the most important races of all.

International officials overseeing the elections said yesterday they saw several options for dealing with the most recent attempt by the Bosnian Serb leadership to assure victories in towns including Brcko and Srebrenica.

At one extreme is postponing all municipal elections, a &r far-reaching move that several officials said was unlikely because it could, among other things, enrage the Serbs to the point of boycotting the entire elections, which also include contest for new national, parliamentary and regional seats.

More likely, several officials said, would be simply not permitting some refugees from outside of Bosnia to vote in the towns they have said are their choice, which also is likely to anger many

Serbs.

Yesterday, the oversight group officially released registration numbers that it said showed an organized attempt by the Bosnian Serb leadership to win municipal races in several

politically and strategically important towns by, in effect, packing the rolls with Serbs who never lived there and may not intend to.

Pub Date: 8/24/96

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