Argument: Bosnia power sharing foments conflict and stunts democracy


Anna Jarsted. “Power Sharing for Peace and Democracy?”. Paper prepared for presentation at the 47th annual meeting of the International Studies Association, San Diego. 22 March 2006 – Introduction: Ten years after the peace accords for Bosnia and Herzegovina were signed in Dayton, Ohio,
the country remains divided. The peace accords served their main aim – to end the 1992-1995
conflict – but their power sharing provisions are now seen as an obstacle to peacebuilding and
democratization. The political representatives of the three main ethnic groups have not
managed to govern jointly. Instead, the international community’s High Representative has
imposed laws and removed several politicians from office. For the sake of efficacy, these
measures have substituted normal procedures for accountability and democratic legitimacy.
The extensive external control has undermined local ownership. Furthermore, the political
system provides no incentives to form cross-ethnic and moderate political parties. Under
international auspices, the parties have agreed to make constitutional changes. The issues on
the table include the tripartite presidency and decentralization to the two entities, the Bosniak-
Croat Federation and Republika Srpska. Revisions towards an integrated, centralized nonethnic
parliamentary democracy with a single president have been proposed. However, these
changes upset the power balance that has regulated the conflict. Removing guaranteed
governmental position threatens the power of the present elite. Hence, Serbian leaders want to
maintain Republika Srpska, and many Croats believe that they should also get their own
entity. The case raises pertinent questions about governance in post-war societies. In what ways does power sharing facilitate, or obstruct, the transition of divided societies towards a
secure democracy?