The Poughkeepsie Journal – Mid-Hudson Section
August 20, 1997

Local Man Heads to Bosnia – Consultant will help design new political party
By Michelle Vellucci

Daniel Odescalchi headed to Bosnia Tuesday to help build a brand new political party.
Odescalchi’s mission is to help the pro-democratic “shadow government” create a campaign strategy and gain support is Bosnia’s upcoming local elections.

Odescalchi, president of Pleasant Valley-based consulting firm Strategic Advantage International, said the mid-September elections will be a “practice run” for the 1998 national elections.

Bosnia and the rest of the former Yugoslavia have been battered by war since the Soviet Union and its satellite countries shattered into fragments in the early 1990s.

Strategic Advantage International has helped stabilize other eastern European countries.  Founded in 1992, the company looked to help post-communist countries rebuild. Odescalchi has worked successfully in Hungary, Romania and Slovakia against other communist and nationalist leaders.  He also founded the Survival in a Democracy project to help pro-democratic parties in Eastern Europe learn about political strategy.

The United States Information Agency is sponsoring Odescalchi’s work for a little over a month, said USIA Public Affairs Specialist Bill Reinckens. He said the total cost of the program is $14,000.

Right blend of knowledge

The USIA, an independent foreign affairs agency, sponsors cultural and educational exchanges such as the Fulbright program.
Reinckens said the shadow government is an umbrella organization linking seven political parties and two non-governmental groups.
“Our aim is to develop a common platform of nation issues and promote it within the different publics that these organizations serve,” he said.
Reinckens said that USIA felt Odescalchi had “the right mix of academic and first-hand political knowledge of the region.”

Odescalchi said the shadow government, also known as the Alternative Council of Ministers, is “the multi-ethnic alternative to the ethnically pure nationalist parties that are now in power.”

Odescalchi said the nationalist parties, composed mainly of former Communists who ruled the region for the past 40 years, are the only ones with real political experience – “and the connections to help them stay in power.”
“Most members of the Alternative Council of Ministers have had little or no political experience prior to the collapse of communism and are poorly organized with very little capital at their disposal.” Odescalchi said.

“It will be good for them to do a Western-style campaign – and by that I don’t mean glitzy,” he said. “Over there (Eastern Europe) it means more representative of the people. Under Communism that wasn’t so important.”

Bosnia, like other post-communist countries before it, will have to build a democratic party structure from scratch.

Odescalchi said he will meet with top pro-democratic officials to determine their target audience and discuss what messages the party will send.