The Speaker
Saturday, 2 March 2024 – 17:40

What happened in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s elections?

On November 21, 1995, the Dayton Accords ended the brutal war in Bosnia, and outlined an agreement for peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, keeping Bosnia as a single state consisting of two parts: the Bosniak – Croat Federation, and the Bosnian Serb Republic. The power-sharing system implemented by the agreement to assure political representation for the three main groups – the Bosniaks, Serbs, and Croats – developed into what is widely regarded as the world’s most complex voting system, and divided the country into the Serb-run Republika Srpska entity, and Bosniak-Croat Federation entity, which are both largely politically autonomous. This year, elections took place on October 2nd, but how does this complex system actually work?

Executive Branch

Bosnia and Herzegovina has a three-way presidency, with each member representing one of the three main ethnic groups, each with a four-year term. The Presidency operates as a collective head of state, mainly responsible for the foreign policy of the country and budget proposals. The Chair of the Presidency rotates amongst the three members every 9 months within their 4-year term. It is a strict requirement that political candidates register their ethnicity in order to run for office.

Further, citizens may only vote for a single member of the presidency within the ethnic constituency they live in – if you are a resident in the Federation you may only vote for a Bosniak or Croat candidate, and if you reside in the Republika Srpska, you may vote only for a Serbian candidate. This also results in a complete lack of representation for other minority groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including ethnic Romas and Jews, as these groups cannot vote or run for high office.

The Prime Minister of the region is nominated by the Presidency and must be approved by the House of Representatives. They are responsible for appointing the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Foreign Trade, amongst many others. Finally in the executive branch is the Council, responsible for carrying out policies and decisions regarding the economy, inter-entity relations, and diplomacy. Zoran Tegeltija is the current Prime Minister.

Legislative Branch

The Parliamentary Assembly is the main legislative body in Bosnia and Herzegovina; a bicameral parliament consisting of the House of Peoples and the House of Representatives. The Assembly is generally responsible, amongst others, for enacting legislation, approving the budget, and deciding whether to ratify treaties and agreements. The House of Peoples consist of 15 delegates who serve two-year periods, with two-thirds of delegates coming from the Federation, including 5 Croats and 5 Bosniaks, and one-third from the Republika Srpska, with 5 Serb delegates. The House of Representatives comprises of 42 members elected under a system of proportional representation, serving for four years. Two-thirds of these are elected from the Federation, and one-third from the Republika Srpska.

2022 Elections

October 2022 saw a voter turnout of 50.41%, with the Bosniaks electing non-nationalist Denis Bećirović as their Presidency member, Croats re-electing non-nationalist Željko Komšić, and Serbs electing Željka Cviajanović, a secessionist who is staunchly pro-Russian. Željka Cvijanović is a close ally of Milorad Dodik, who supports ties with Russia and China rather than the US and EU. Both Denis Bećirović and Željko Komšić are seen as working to preserve the state of the country, with Bećirović seeing the election as, “time for a positive turnaround in Bosnia.” While the election was seen to run smoothly on the whole, Stefan Schennach from the mission of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly warns that ethnic divisions remain, and see that it remains vital to bridge the existing gaps between ethnic groups in the country.

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