On October 7, 2018 General Elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) were held. As of today, eleven months later, the Presidency has not been formed yet. The system of government of BiH is inspired by a consociational principle, which means it is designed to represent the three major ethnic groups in the country: Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats. As a result of the 2018 elections, the elected representatives are Šefik Džaferović, a Bosniak representing SDA (Stranka Demokratske Akcije/ The Party of Democratic Action), Željko Komšić, a Croat from DF (Demokratska Fronta/ Democratic Front), and Milorad Dodik, a Serb from SNSD (Savez nezavisnih socijaldemokrata/ The Alliance of Independent Social Democrats) and Republika Srpska entity. Therefore, the elected leaders represent the three ethnic groups and two entities in BiH.
The institutional setting of BiH was set down by the peace agreements of Dayton, which marked the end of the Bosnian war. While the main intention of that setting was to be representative of the highly fragmented, multiethnic society of BiH, such system has proven to be highly troubled. Accordingly, the situation in which BiH has been stagnating for almost a year, demonstrates a high degree of state’s dysfunctionality. However, the fact that BiH is still somehow functioning indicates a high level of informal networks within the state which allow the state to keep going despite the institutional block. As a matter of fact, with the political bodies’ and representatives’ inability to form a government, the informal networks only further prosper and strengthen their position. Although informal networks are not desired, their system of functioning, what is provided and what is expected in return seem to be more predictable and stable than the current government’s behaviour and actions.
Besides that, BiH is a country consisting of two entities and ten cantons. It already has enormous internal division which continues to grow considering the lack of commitment and willingness of the three elected politicians, who continue that long-lasting tradition. Accordingly, BiH’s political and bureaucratic division is a replica of society’s division. BiH division is not a result of finding a method how to achieve goals faster through smaller and numerous channels, but rather it is a result of not having unified goal. The latest elections and their development only confirm this behavioural tendency that does not seem to have a turning point in the near future. The three politicians each representing one ethnic group in BiH do not act in the name of one state. Each representative in one way or another is trying to push forward dominance of one ethnic group over another while accusing other side over certain actions. This vicious circle only revolves over who is experiencing more injustice, and attempts to prove the other groups are wrong. There is no sign of commitment to creating a presidency for the common good, but there is a commitment to creating a good for a specific ethnic group. This is, ultimately, the reason why the formation of presidency keeps on being postponed.
The latest significant development occurred in August 2019, when the elected representatives of Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs have signed an agreement to form the presidency due to the external players’ pressure, mostly the European Union (EU). Reaching a point where signing this type of document is needed only served to delegitimise the government even further. Indeed, the fact that the biggest and the main political actors in BiH are not capable of forming presidency paved the way for other actors to step in. Having new actors could be a sign of change, and may raise the potential for a more unified BiH. Nonetheless, such development is complicated by the very political culture of BiH, as it is very unlikely for all three ethnic groups to elect completely new leaders with less ethnic-focused mind-set, and more common-good-focused approach.
At the moment, BiH is facing a huge dilemma: are new elections a solution? Most certainly not. New elections would most likely bring somewhat similar results, and only give the elected representatives additional time for postponing presidency formation. Even if new elections would bring a completely different outcome, they would undermine the already weak democracy in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Calling for new elections when the desired outcome has not been achieved would only contribute to deepening internal divisions because every side would be able to call for new elections and abuse that privilege whenever a party or a certain group would not get wanted results. Moreover, new presidency elections would promote a selective approach to democracy. That is, democracy would be implemented when convenient instead of being a way a state functions. Taking into account BiH’s already existing situation, new elections would bring new tensions and exasperate already existing barriers to a stable democracy. Besides that, almost 50% of citizens has not been participating in the elections. Such behaviour portrays lack of faith BiH’s citizens have in their institutions. Hence, disbelief would continue with consecutive elections.