Lessons from Bosnia and Herzegovinia: The Limits of Electoral Engineering

Issue Date July 2003
Volume 14
Issue 3
Page Numbers 45-59
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In the six years since the first post-war elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the country has developed a technically impressive democratic system, with the help of a large corps of international experts supported by considerable administrative authority. Yet advanced democratic procedures have continued to generate outcomes that international authorities believe to be inimical to the creation of a durable, integrated, and fully democratic state in Bosnia. Specifically, the wartime nationalist parties continue to dominate in free and fair electoral contests. Elections are part of a larger strategy framed by the Dayton peace accord to rebuild Bosnia as a multiethnic state, a strategy which relies in part on the reconfiguring of underlying political cleavages and a transformation in the way interests are both articulated and aggregated by political parties. This article examines the part elections have played in this state-building strategy and highlights the limitations of that strategy.