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Journal Article - International Peacekeeping

Peacebuilding and Consociational Electoral Engineering in Bosnia and Herzegovina

| Summer 2004

What role do elections play in societies emerging from communal war and what type of institutions can serve as catalysts in deepening peace and compromise? While some analysts argue that ethnicity should be recognized through ‘consociational’ institutions, others maintain that ‘integrative’ devices – in particular, carefully crafted electoral rules – can limit or even break down the salience of ethnicity and increase the possibility for inter-ethnic accommodation. This article examines the post-war electoral experience of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), arguing that elections had a problematic, unintended impact on peacebuilding. First, timid integrative electoral devices were adopted in a consociational system that reifies ethnic division and complicates compromise; second, peacebuilding agencies needlessly manufactured electoral rules that backfired; third, group-based features of the BiH political system run counter to individual human rights. The article ends with suggestions for improving the electoral framework.