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Politics of Bosnia and Herzegovina


Politics of Bosnia and Herzegovina

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Bosnia and Herzegovina

The government type in Bosnia and Herzegovina is that of international protectorate,[1] where foreigners exercise autocracy in overseeing an authoritarian democracy mainly for the elites representing three major ethnic groups.

Thus politics of Bosnia and Herzegovina nominally takes place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democracy, whereby Executive power is nominally exercised by the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Legislative power is nominally vested in both the Council of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Members of the Parliamentary Assembly are chosen according to a proportional representation system.[2]

The Judiciary is nominally independent of the executive and the legislature, although it too is subject to foreign autocracy. The system of government established by the Dayton Accord is an example of consociationalism, as representation is by elites who represent the country's three major ethnic groups termed constituent peoples, with each having a guaranteed share of power.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is divided into two administrative units, called Entities - the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska, which are politically autonomous to an extent, as well as the district of Brčko, which is jointly administered by both. The Entities have own constitutions.

See Political divisions of Bosnia and Herzegovina


  • Dayton Agreement 1
  • High Representative 2
  • Executive branch 3
    • Principal Government Officials 3.1
    • History 3.2
  • Legislative branch 4
    • House of Peoples 4.1
    • House of Representatives 4.2
  • Political parties and elections 5
    • Election history 5.1
  • Judicial branch 6
    • Constitutional Court 6.1
    • State Court 6.2
    • Human Rights Chamber 6.3
    • Entities 6.4
  • See also 7
  • External links 8
  • Notes 9

Dayton Agreement

Due to the Dayton Agreement, signed on 14 December 1995, Bosnia and Herzegovina forms an undeclared protectorate with elements of hegemony by neighboring Croatia and Serbia as co-signatories to the Agreement, where highest power is given to the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina. The intention of the Agreement was to retain Bosnia's exterior border, while creating a joint multi-ethnic and democratic government based on proportional representation similar to the former socialist régime, and charged with conducting foreign, economic, and fiscal policy.

The Dayton Agreement established the Office of the High Representative (OHR) to oversee the implementation of the civilian aspects of the agreement. About 250 international and 450 local staff members are employed by the OHR.

High Representative

The highest political authority in the country is the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the chief executive officer for the international civilian presence in the country. Since 1995, the High Representative has been able to bypass the elected Parliamentary Assembly or to remove officials from office without due process. The methods selected by the High Representative are often seen as dictatorship.[3][4] Even the symbols of Bosnian statehood (flag, coat of arms) have been chosen by the High Representative rather than by the Bosnian people. The source of the authority of the High Representative is in Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

Executive branch

The Chair of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina rotates amongst three members (a Bosniak, a Serb, and a Croat) every 8 months within their 4-year term. The three members of the Presidency are elected directly by the people, with Federation voters electing both the Bosniak and the Croat member, and Republika Srpska voters electing the Serb member. The Presidency is a nominal head of state, as the highest power lies with the High Representative who therefore is the country's Head of State. The Presidency is mainly responsible for the foreign policy and proposing the budget.

The Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina is nominated by the Presidency and approved by the House of Representatives. The Chairman has no authority for appointing ministers, and his role is that of a coordinator. Ministers are appointed in his stead, by the majority-parties according to ethnic and Entity representation rules, so that a ministerial deputy must not be of same ethnicity as the respective minister.

The Council is responsible for carrying out certain policies and decisions in the fields of diplomacy, economy, inter-Entity relations and other matters as agreed by the Entities.

The two Entities have Governments that deal with internal matters not dealt with by the Council of Ministers.

Principal Government Officials

Main office holders
Office Name Party Since
High Representative Valentin Inzko 26 March 2009
Members of the Presidency Bakir Izetbegović Party of Democratic Action 4 October 2010
Mladen Ivanić (Chair) Party of Democratic Progress 17 November 2014
Dragan Čović Croatian Democratic Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina 17 November 2014
Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina Vjekoslav Bevanda Croatian Democratic Union 12 January 2012


Past international high representatives: Carl Bildt, Carlos Westendorp, Wolfgang Petritsch, Paddy Ashdown, Christian Schwarz-Schilling, Miroslav Lajčák.

Members of the Presidency who stepped down under pressure from the Office of the High Representative: Mirko Šarović, Ante Jelavić, Dragan Čović. Alija Izetbegović also withdrew from the Presidency.

In February 2000, the Supreme Court ruled that the structure of the Council of Ministers was unconstitutional; a new structure is being negotiated.

Federation president and vice-president in 1999: Ejup Ganić and Ivo Andrić-Lužanski.

Past RS presidents: Radovan Karadžić, Biljana Plavšić, Nikola Poplašen, Mirko Šarović, Dragan Čavić, Milan Jelić.

RS president Nikola Poplašen was removed by the OHR on 5 March 1999.

Legislative branch

The Parliamentary Assembly or Parliamentarna skupština is the main legislative body in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It consists of two chambers:

The Parliamentary Assembly is responsible for:

  • enacting legislation as necessary to implement decisions of the Presidency or to carry out the responsibilities of the Assembly under the Constitution.
  • deciding upon the sources and amounts of revenues for the operations of the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina and international obligations of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  • approving the budget for the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  • deciding ratify treaties and agreements.
  • other matters as are necessary to carry out its duties of as are assigned to it by mutual agreement of the Entities.

Bosnia and Herzegovina did not have a permanent election law until 2001, during which time a draft law specified four-year terms for the state and first-order administrative division entity legislatures. The final election law was passed and publicized on 9 September 2001.

House of Peoples

The House of Peoples includes 15 delegates who serve two-year terms. Two-thirds of delegates come from the Federation (5 Croats and 5 Bosniaks) and one-third from the Republika Srpska (5 Serbs). Nine constitutes a quorum in the House of Peoples, provided that at least three delegates from each group are present. Federation representatives are selected by the House of Peoples of the Federation, which has 58 seats (17 Bosniak, 17 Croat, 17 Serb, 7 others), and whose members are delegated by cantonal assemblies to serve four-year terms. Republika Srpska representatives are selected by the 28-member Republika Srpska Council of Peoples, which was established in the People's Assembly of Republika Srpska; each constituent people has eight delegates, while four delegates are representatives of "others".

House of Representatives

The House of Representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina comprises 42 members elected under a system of proportional representation (PR) for a four-year term. Two thirds of the members are elected from the Federation (14 Croats; 14 Bosniaks) and one third from the Republika Srpska (14 Serbs).

For the 2010 elections, Voters in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina elected twenty-one members in five multi-member constituencies by PR, while the remaining seven seats were allocated by compensatory PR. Voters in the Republika Srpska elected nine members in three multi-member constituencies by PR, while the five other seats were allocated by compensatory PR.[5]

Political parties and elections

 Summary of the 3 October 2010 Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidium election results
Candidates Nominating parties Federation of
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Republika Srpska
Votes Bosniak
list %
list %
Votes Serb
list %
Željko Komšić (Croat) SDP BiH 336,961 60.6%
Borjana Krišto (Croat) HDZ BiH 109,714 19.7%
Martin Raguž (Croat) Croatian Coalition (HDZ 1990, HSP BiH) 60,234 10.8%
Jerko Ivanković-Lijanović (Croat) NSRB 45,382 8.2%
Pero Galić (Croat) 1,579 0.3%
Mile Kutle (Croat) 1,069 0.2%
Ferdo Galić (Croat) 972 0.2%
Bakir Izetbegović (Bosniak) SDA 162,797 34.9%
Fahrudin Radončić (Bosniak) SBB BiH 142,359 30.5%
Haris Silajdžić (Bosniak) SBiH 117,168 25.1% :
Ibrahim Đedović (Bosniak) DNZ BiH 13,366 2.9%
Mujo Demirović (Bosniak) BPS 8,946 1.9%
Ðemal Latić (Bosniak) A-SDA 8,738 1.9%
Ibrahim Spahić (Bosniak) Civic Democratic Party 6,947 1.5%
Izudin Kešetović (Bosniak) BOSS 4,227 0.9%
Aida Jusić (Bosniak) 2,347 0.5%
Nebojša Radmanović (Serb) SNSD 295,624 48.9%
Mladen Ivanić (Serb) Coalition Together for Srpska 285,927 47.3%
Rajko Papović (Serb) Union for a Democratic Srpska/SDS 22,778 3.8%
Total 1,022,806 604,329
Source: Adam Carr's Election Archive,
 Summary of the 3 October 2010 House of Representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina election results
Parties Federation of
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Republika Srpska Total votes Total +/-
Votes % Seats Votes % Seats
Social Democratic Party of Bosnia and Herzegovina (SDP BiH) 265,952 26.07 8 18,406 2.96 0 284,358 8 +3
Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) 8,810 0.86 0 269,007 43.30 8 277,817 8 +1
Party of Democratic Action (SDA) 197,890 19.40 7 16,371 2.64 0 214,261 7 –2
Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) 137,843 22.19 4 137,843 4 +1
Union for a Better Future of BiH (SBB BiH) 124,076 12.16 4 6,329 2.03 0 130,405 4 +4
Croatian Democratic Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina (HDZ BiH) 112,067 10.99 3 2,361 0.38 0 114,428 3 0
Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina (SBiH) 73,946 7.25 2 12,640 2.03 0 86,586 2 –6
Croatian Coalition HDZ 1990-HSP BiH 49,524 4.86 2 522 0.08 0 50,046 2 0
People's Party Work for Betterment (NSRzB) 49,039 4.81 1 43,039 1 0
Party of Democratic Progress (PDP) 40,070 6.45 1 40,070 1 0
Democratic People's Alliance (DNS) 1,147 0.11 0 28,511 4.59 1 29,658 1 0
Democratic People's Community (DNZ) 14,839 1.45 1 14,839 1 0
Total 1,019,973 100.00 28 621,227 100.00 14 1,641,200 42

Election history

National House of Representatives:

  • elections held 12–13 September 1998:
    • seats by party/coalition - KCD 17, HDZ-BiH 6, SDP-BiH 6, Sloga 4, SDS 4, SRS-RS 2, DNZ 1, NHI 1, RSRS 1
  • elections held 5 October 2002:
    • percent of vote by party/coalition - SDA 21.9%, SDS 14.0%, SBiH 10.5%, SDP 10.4%, SNSD 9.8%, HDZ 9.5%, PDP 4.6%, others 19.3%
    • seats by party/coalition - SDA 10, SDS 5, SBiH 6, SDP 4, SNSD 3, HDZ 5, PDP 2, others 7

House of Peoples:

  • constituted 4 December 1998
  • constituted in fall 2000
  • constituted in January 2003
  • next to be constituted in 2007

Federation House of Representatives:

  • elections held fall 1998:
    • seats by party/coalition - KCD 68, HDZ-BiH 28, SDP-BiH 25, NHI 4, DNZ 3, DSP 2, BPS 2, HSP 2, SPRS 2, BSP 1, KC 1, BOSS 1, HSS 1
  • elections held 5 October 2002:
    • seats by party/coalition - SDA 32, HDZ-BiH 16, SDP 15, SBiH 15, other 20

Federation House of Peoples:

  • constituted November 1998
  • constituted December 2002

Republika Srpska National Assembly:

  • elections held fall 1998
    • seats by party/coalition - SDS 19, KCD 15, SNS 12, SRS-RS 11, SPRS 10, SNSD 6, RSRS 3, SKRS 2, SDP 2, KKO 1, HDZ-BiH 1, NHI 1
  • elections held fall 2000
  • elections held 5 October 2002
    • seats by party/coalition - SDS 26, SNSD 19, PDP 9, SDA 6, SRS 4, SPRS 3, DNZ 3, SBiH 4, SDP 3, others 6

Judicial branch

Constitutional Court

The Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina is supposedly the supreme, final arbiter of legal matters, however its decisions are largely ignored.[6] The court is composed of nine members: four selected by the House of Representatives of the Federation, two by the People's Assembly of Republika Srpska, and three are foreign citizens appointed by the President of the European Court of Human Rights after courtesy-consultation with the Presidency.

The initial term of appointee is 5 years, unless they resign or are removed by consensus of other judges. Appointed judges are not eligible for reappointment. Judges subsequently appointed will serve until the age of 70, unless they resign sooner or are removed. Appointments made 5 years into the initial appointments may be governed by a different regulation for selection, to be determined by the Parliamentary Assembly.

Proceedings of the Court are public, and decisions are published. Court rules are adopted by a majority in the Court. Court decisions are final and supposedly binding though this is not always the case, as noted.[6]

The Constitutional Court has jurisdiction over deciding in constitutional disputes that arise between the Entities or amongst Bosnia and Herzegovina and an Entity or Entities. Such disputes may be referred only by a member of the Presidency, the Chair of the Council of Ministers, the Chair or Deputy Chair of either of the chambers of the Parliamentary Assembly, or by one-fourth of the legislature of either Entity.

The Court also has appellate jurisdiction within the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

State Court

The State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina consists of three divisions - Administrative, Appellate and Criminal - having jurisdiction over cases related to the state-level law and executive, as well as appellate jurisdiction over cases initiated in the entities.

A War Crimes Chamber was introduced in January 2005, and has adopted two cases transferred from the ICTY, as well as dozens of war crimes cases originally initiated in cantonal courts.

The State Court also deals with organized crime, and economic crime including corruption cases. For example, the former and 2014 member-elect of the Presidency Dragan Ćović is currently on trial for alleged involvement in organized crime.

Human Rights Chamber

The Human Rights Chamber for Bosnia and Herzegovina (Dom za ljudska prava za Bosnu i Hercegovinu) existed between March 1996 and 31 December 2003. It was a judicial body established under the Annex 6 to the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Dayton Peace Agreement).


The two Entities have Supreme Courts. Each entity also has a number of lower courts. There are 10 cantonal courts in the Federation, along with a number of municipal courts. The Republika Srpska has five municipal courts.

See also

External links

  • Office of the High Representative
  • Election Commission of Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Government of the Republic of Srpska
  • Government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Government of the Brčko District of Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Bosnia: a single country or an apple of discord?, Bosnian Institute, 12 May 2006
  • Bosnia: The Contradictions of “Democracy” without Consent, East European Constitutional Review, [New York University Law School], 1998
  • Bertelsmann Stiftung - Bosnia and Herzegovina Country Report
  • Balkaninsight - The future of Bosnia


  1. ^ John Bacher (2001) Review of "The Lessons of Yugoslavia" by Metta Spencer (Ed.) Elsevier Science, 2000, 378 pp. ISBN 0-7623-0280, Peace Magazine Jul-Sep 2001, p.28.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Knaus and Martin, Travails of the European Raj, Journal of Democracy, 14(3):60 (2003)
  4. ^ Matthew Parish, The Demise of the Dayton Protectorate, Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding December 2007
  5. ^ Bosnia and Herzegovina General Elections 3 October 2010, OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission Final Report, 17 December 2010, accessed 3 October 2012 (pdf file).
  6. ^ a b Postoje 82 odluke Ustavnog suda koje još nisu provedene, Večernji list 3.1.2014
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