It is cold outside the little room of the local election commission, where the counting of ballots has been going on for several hours.
The office of the commission is at the outskirt of the Serb fraction of the town, which used to be the ‘industrial’ district; you may perceive the ‘national’ border at the end of the road.
It has been difficult to gain the confidence of the Serbian election agents, on one side because they mistrust any representative of the international community, on the other side because we associate them with the massacres we watched on TV.
Just some days earlier, the driver assigned to our team by the OSCE was bragging about having thrown many Bosnians into the Drina river (later on we found out that he was a Radical Party’s candidate for the municipal elections, luckily postponed).
In any case, slowly and cautiously we’ve began communicating with the commission members. Communication then evolved into dialogue and eventually into collaboration.
Election day, the 14 of September, was tense and moving. Bosnians were coming back for the first time from Goradze town, escorted by the IFOR militaries, to vote at their home place. No problems were detected. Maybe also because the Portuguese tanks were patrolling along the road.
The driver says with emotion that it was long time ago when he last saw one of ‘the others’, even if they live just few kilometres away. We did not distinguish the ones from the others.
Now everybody is tired. All the Serbs smoke. One cigarette after another, with no interruption. But the atmosphere is fine, some pleasantry, some food and rakia going around.
The counting is going on calmly. Regulations for Bosnia elections are very complex: people living in Srpsko Goradze before the war could come back to vote or vote where they live now, in Bosnia or abroad. But their votes should be counted here, together with the ‘fresh’ ones.
OSCE is running this exercise, in this case we are not observers but supervisors, taking part to the election activities.
The bags with the abroad ballot papers finally arrive. We throw them on the table. Many of them come out in stacks, with the same vote, traced by the same hand.
The atmosphere is less happy now.