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The High Representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina: The Unusual Institutional Arrangement of a Controlled “Democracy”

Published Date April 27, 2022
Research Type

Abstract

How difficult it is to introduce democratic institutional arrangements in a territory that had mainly experience with authoritarian government is illustrated by the case of Bosnia-Herzegovina (BH). The Dayton Peace Accord of 1995 established the (Office of the) High Representative (OHR) to help the new republic of BH develop into a democracy. After more than 25 years, one cannot but conclude that the creation of democratic institutions has not worked for lack of collaboration between the three most important ethnic groups. At best, BH is a controlled democracy, held together by OHR. The development of this office is analyzed in terms of a neo-institutional framework. We argue that the republic survives so far on the basis of negative legitimacy (accepting the OHR as the binding institutional arrangement). This also suggests that neither developments in a past long gone nor more recent developments (i.e., ‘strong’ path-dependency) prohibit a development toward positive legitimacy (i.e., ‘lean’ path-dependency). The case of BH also illustrates that democracy is hard, if not impossible, to establish when people are internally divided and where (some) domestic and international actors exploit these divisions in the international arena.

Gerrit S.A. Dijkstra, Jos C.N. Raadschelders (2022). The High Representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina: The Unusual Institutional Arrangement of a Controlled “Democracy.” World Affairs, 185(2), 285-311.