Bosnia needs to get boring

Sead Numanovic of Dnevni Avaz asked me to comment on today’s election in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Here is how I responded this morning, before results were available:

The election is important in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as it has been four years since the last one. It is widely believed that the performance of the national and entity governments has not fulfilled the voters’ expectations. But we have to wait and see how this disappointment manifests itself in the election results. It is vital that not only voting but also counting and tabulation be done in a way that inspires voter confidence. I understand there are a large number of Bosnian observers. That is a good thing.

What B/H politicians do after the election will of course depend on the results. My hope is that Bosnia can undergo the same transition that Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania and Serbia have already entered: a transition from what [Croatian Foreign Minister] Vesna Pusic calls “heroic” politics of national identity to a “boring” politics of delivering services to citizens, building up the rule of law, and preparing for European Union accession.

The problem in Bosnia is that the Dayton constitution presents barriers to this transition by rewarding politicians who represent only the interests of their own ethnic group and not the interests of Bosnia as a whole or its citizens as individuals. Changing that will require constitutional amendments as well as electoral and other reforms. I can only hope that the election results will be such as to permit those changes to be undertaken. Otherwise I fear Bosnia and Herzegovina will continue to lag other countries in the Balkans and remain at the tail end of the queue for EU accession.

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