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Home arrow Political science arrow After Ethnic Conflict : Policy-making in Post-conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia

Political Elites and Ethnic Accommodation

Tounderstandwhypoliticalelitesaresometimesmoresuccessfulinaccommodating across ethnic lines, this book focuses on ethnic accommodation as the concept that captures accommodating interactions between political elites. Ethnic accommodation refers to the interaction pattern in post-conflict states between elites across ethnic lines. It implies a tendency to reach agreement and come to mutually acceptable solutions across ethnic and ideological lines and to proceed to implement those solutions. The opposite outcome is termed ethnic resistance and refers to the tendency of political elites neither to reach agreement nor to compromise across ethnic lines.

The other key concept for this study is political elites. This book defines elites as 'persons holding strategic positions in large or otherwise powerful organisations and movements, who regularly influence political decision-making', following Burton and Higley's functionalist definition.9 This means political elites in this study mainly include the political leadership (members of government and opposition political parties, elected leaders) from all ethnic groups in Macedonia and Bosnia, although the main emphasis is on accommodation between the two largest ethnic groups in Macedonia: Macedonians and Albanians, and the three constituent communities in Bosnia: Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats. Throughout the text political elites are also referred to as 'politicians' and 'political leaders'. These terms are used interchangeably with political elites and refer to the same set of actors defined in the above definition of political elites.

To simplify and structure the analysis of ethnic accommodation among political elites I use three indicators: voting patterns, implementation, and de-ethnicisation of policy issues. Each indicator corresponds to a stage in the general policy cycle, providing a comprehensive analysis of ethnic accommodation at various stages of the policy process.

Voting patterns

The most telling feature of the nature of political elites' interactions is how and why they vote on various policy issues – whether they support or reject certain policy proposals. Although there always exists some form of government coalitionbuilding practice (whether formal or informal) at the policy level in states with power-sharing institutions, government coalitions do not always function well. Therefore, by focusing on the policy level, this book looks at the voting records on legislative proposals in each of the policies it analyses. These may or may not coincide with the composition of the government coalition. This indicator also shows whether coalitions are built within or across ethnic lines, and whether those coalitions are stable and overlap between different levels, or tend to shift

9 Burton, Michael G. and John Higley, 'Elite Settlements', American Sociological

Review, 52 (1987): 295–307. according to issues and policy areas. Regular voting patterns across ethnic lines would indicate that elites tend to accommodate and reach compromise easily.

Implementation of adopted policies

Although voting patterns tend to reveal the breadth and inclusiveness of the policy process and the support policy proposals attract among politicians from different ethnic groups, they provide insufficient information about successful ethnic accommodation over that issue. Not all agreed policy solutions proceed to implementation, while some issues remain resolved only on paper or in the statements of political elites, with few practical outcomes resulting from such declarations. Political elites often adopt documents, statements, and policy decisions that they never fully or even partially implement, either because they give in to popular pressures against certain accommodating measures or because they adopt them only to comply with external actors' demands.

De-ethnicisation of policies

Policy de-ethnicisation translates elites' agreement into policy outputs with positive effects on inter-ethnic relations. The effects of an agreed policy on interethnic relations in society also need to be taken into account, not least because politicians can agree and vote to support a policy proposal that would have further divisive effects on politics and society. Unless the policy adopted and implemented has positive effects on all ethnic groups and its outcomes lead to a relaxation of ethnic tensions in a sensitive policy area, an issue may remain contested and soon resurface on the policy agenda. Successful de-ethnicisation of sensitive policy issues is indicative of a country's progress towards post-conflict political recovery. From a position where politics is ethnicised – organised on the basis of protecting the boundaries and interests of ethnic groups10 – it may come to resemble democratic politics where various cross-cutting interests and groups compete in the political process. This indicator expands the scope of analysis beyond the negotiation and implementation stages of the policy cycle into the evaluation and feedback stage. It captures the outcomes of a certain policy and how it affects the political actors' future behaviour, which depends on whether it relaxes or aggravates inter-ethnic relations.

The three parameters above enable a comprehensive discussion of ethnic accommodation, beyond negotiations and voting (to which most studies on the subject are confined), to implementation of adopted policies and their effects. The analysis of the policy process in each area reflects upon these three parameters and helps to better qualify and understand the extent of ethnic accommodation and resistance between political elites. The nature of ethnic accommodation is such that at the most fundamental level it is a binary variable – elites either accommodate or do not. In practice, however, we rarely observe such neat outcomes, so observations

10 Marisca Milikowski, 'Exploring a Model of De-Ethnicization: The Case of Turkish Television in the Netherlands', European Journal of Communication, 15 (2000): 443–68. fall within a wider range of tendencies to cooperate and compromise, or to resist the other group's positions. The extent to which observations lie in each category is discussed in relation to the parameters outlined above.

The problems of inter-ethnic accommodation in deeply divided societies, and institutional mechanisms in post-conflict states, have been on political scientists' agenda for some time. There is a burgeoning literature on the topics of ethnic conflicts and post-conflict politics. This book draws upon that literature for concepts, arguments and explanations. Chapter 2 offers a review of the literature used to find the necessary analytical and theoretical tools for this book, along with an evaluation of the usefulness and applicability of the various arguments that the literature offers.

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