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

Dayton Bosnia – Institutions and Policy-making

The DPA established a complicated institutional structure for post-conflict Bosnia. The Bosnian Constitution, attached as an annex to the DPA, defines Bosnia as a federal state consisting of two entities – the Bosnian-Croat federation (fBIH) and Republika Srpska (RS) – and three constituent peoples – Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats.27 The state can exercise authority in limited areas, such as foreign

26 Bildt, The Peace Journey.

27 'Annex IV: Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina', General Framework Agreement for Bosnia and Herzegovina. policy and foreign trade and human rights protection, as well as reconstruction and refugee return in the immediate post-war years. The Constitution assigns all other competencies to the entities, although if both entities agree some competencies can be transferred to the state level. Such transfers have happened on several occasions, notably once in 2004 when defence policy and command of the army were transferred from entity to state level. The state institutions are designed following a consociational power-sharing logic, with parity applied in distribution of seats in parliament houses, collective presidency, and proportional representation from the highest federal to the lowest municipal level of government and elections. Access to political power and public administration is based on collective, group rights, with provisions guaranteeing the representation of each group at every level of government.28 The federal parliament consists of two houses: the lower House of Representatives consisting of 42 directly elected representatives (28 from the Federation and the 14 from Republika Srpska); and the upper House of Peoples, consisting of 15 deputies delegated from the lower entity-level parliaments (10 from the Federation and 5 from RS). The structure closely follows powersharing and is reminiscent of the federal Yugoslav structures of before 1991. Each house of parliament works with special quorum requirements and under rotating chairmanship, to prevent any ethnic group being outvoted or marginalised in parliament. Voting is conducted through majority voting, except when 'a vital national interest' of any ethnic group is declared to be at stake, in which case the group in question has the right to veto. Reconciliation committees in parliament are established to overcome deadlocks in such situations, while the last level of appeal is with the Constitutional Court, which is also composed of judges selected according to an ethnic parity principle.

In addition to the power-sharing features described above, post-Dayton Bosnian politics is also run through government coalitions, another consociational power-sharing mechanism. State government cabinets are constituted as a coalition of winning political subjects across the two entities, and ministers' posts are distributed evenly among coalition partners. It is ensured that deputy minister positions are always assigned to representatives from ethnic groups other than the minister's, rather than allocating them by merit. The federal government started with a modest portfolio of only three ministries in 1996, but the number of ministries has now trebled, and there are today nine federal ministries, including a Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Security.29 The federal presidency is composed of three members, one from each group, who are directly elected by the population and rotate as acting president of the state every eight months.

The state structure to a certain extent has been replicated at the entity level,

especially in the fBIH, where the same principles of proportional representation,

28 Sumantra Bose, Bosnia after Dayton: Nationalist Partition and International Intervention (London: Hurst and Co., 2002).

29 Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ministries. Available at: (accessed 20 November 2010). ethnic parity and division of posts and consensus-driven decision-making are applied at entity, cantonal and sometimes also the municipal level, such as in Mostar. Each of the ten cantons has a separate constitution, government, and even police, which makes them quite independent from the fBIH government, and renders fBIH a substantially decentralised entity.30 RS has a unitary territorial structure, with only local, municipal-level government under the entity government. Compared to local government in fBIH, RS local government is quite dependent on the entity government in Banja Luka. Thus, in RS power-sharing mechanisms are sparsely applied, although proportional representation in elections has been introduced, partly because many Bosnians of non-Serb ethnic origin, who used to live in the territory of RS, are still registered to vote in their former constituencies. This is a tool aimed to reverse the effects of ethnic cleansing during the war, but is increasingly causing friction between Serb and other political elites.

In addition to this complex institutional and political structure of federal, entity, cantonal, and municipal levels of government, there is another powerful political subject in post-conflict Bosnian politics – the international community, through the High Representative (HR) and the Office of the High Representative (OHR). This civilian branch of the international forces was dispatched to Bosnia at the end of 1995. Although initially planned with a one-year mandate and limited advisory authority, since 1997 it has become arguably the single most important political actor in Bosnian politics. After the Bonn Summit of the Peace Implementation Council (an ad hoc body of representatives from governments and international organisations responsible for the implementation of the DPA provisions), the authority of the HR was significantly increased to give him greater power, including the right to impose legislation when parliament is at a deadlock, and the right to remove officials and directly elected politicians from office if they violate the provisions of the DPA. HR powers were increased in view of domestic politicians' inability and unwillingness to pursue the reform process at a satisfactory pace.31 While consecutive HRs have not refrained from using their authority often, resulting in the implementation of many necessary reforms, which otherwise would have lagged and stalled, it has also led critics to accuse the HR of 'governing Bosnia from above'. There has also been questioning of the authenticity of Bosnia's progress after the war and the sustainability of reforms once the mandate of the HR expires.32 Therefore, understanding post-conflict politics in the country would be incomplete without considering the impact that the HR has had on the policy process. The executive powers enabled the HR to change the balance of domestic politics and the outcomes of the policy process.

30 Bose, Bosnia after Dayton.

31 Office of the High Representative. PIC Bonn Conclusions. 10.12.1997. Available at: (accessed 7 November 2013).

32 David Chandler, Bosnia: Faking Democracy after Dayton (London: Pluto Press, 2000).

Bosnia's Track Record after Dayton

Almost twenty years have passed since the leaders of Bosnia, Croatia and the FRY signed the DPA and put an end to the Bosnian war. Looking at the DPA through the prism of political elite accommodation, a conclusion on its success is elusive. On many levels it has been successful. Since 1995 no serious violent incident has disturbed the peace it introduced. Despite initial fears, the territorial integrity of the Bosnian state has been preserved and Bosnia has become a member of many international and regional organisations, thus exercising its sovereignty in the international arena. Most refugees have returned home and the majority of them have had their properties returned, while human rights protection bodies have been established. Taking the overview one step further, to the policy level, the state has been strengthened and some sensitive issues and policy areas have been transferred to the state level, which in itself shows some elite capacity for interethnic cooperation. In the areas of taxation and finance, Bosnia has implemented successful reforms and established a common taxation system, as well as central bodies for fighting organised crime and corruption. More recently, in 2010, Bosnia was placed on the White Schengen List for visa-free travel in the Schengen zone after successfully completing the European Commission's list of reforms in the security and justice sector.

However, many of the reform laws and policies have been adopted due to the

pressure or direct infl of the HR, the power of whom to dismiss offi

has also made accommodation easier for political elites. Furthermore, despite the strong infl of the HR, Bosnian political leaders have proven incapable of cooperation and compromise on many issues. Most notably, constitutional reform has stalled, despite the intense involvement of the HR, the EU and many foreign diplomats in the country. Bosnia is considered the regional laggard in EU integration, with slow or blocked reforms in many policy areas. Many blame the complicated institutional structure set by the DPA as the main reason behind the stalling of reforms and lack of accommodation, as its excessive decentralisation and segmentation offer many opportunities to block and retard the political process.33 Indeed, the authors of the DPA did not include effi administration and small government among the priorities when drafting the peace accords. That was understandable at a time the very survival of the Bosnian state was in question, making concerns about its effi of secondary importance. Yet, almost twenty years on, while the survival of the Bosnian state seems beyond immediate concern, the daily lives of the Bosnian people are still affected by the details of the institutional design that the DPA introduced. The design means that the ability of the state to provide services to people depends on how much political elites are willing to accommodate each other in the policy-making

33 Florian Bieber,'Power SharingafterYugoslavia: Functionalityand Dysfunctionality of Power-Sharing Institutions in Post-War Bosnia, Macedonia and Kosovo', in From Power Sharing to Democracy, ed. Syd Noel (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2005). process. That is why the following chapters turn to mapping and tracing the paths of this process and its main actors in two policy areas, in order to better understand when and why political elites are more or less inclined towards accommodation across ethnic lines.

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