Politics of Bosnia and Herzegovina

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The Politics of Bosnia and Herzegovina takes place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democracy, whereby executive power is exercised by the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Legislative power is 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.

The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. 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 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 their own constitutions. The Economist Intelligence Unit rated Bosnia and Herzegovina a "hybrid regime" in 2019.[1]

See Political divisions of Bosnia and Herzegovina

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

Office of the High Representative in Sarajevo

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. The High Representative has power to remove government officials, including court justices, local government members, members of parliament, etc. From its establishment, the Office of the High Representative has sacked 192 Bosnian and Herzegovinian officials. The mandate of the High Representatives derives from the Dayton Agreement, as confirmed by the Peace Implementation Council, a body with a Steering Board composed of representatives of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, the presidency of the European Union, the European Commission, and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. The Peace Implementation Council has established several criteria for the OHR to be closed, two of which have been completed but must be sustained until all five are completed.

Due to the vast powers of the High Representative over Bosnian politics and essential veto powers, the position has also been compared to that of a viceroy.[2][3][4][5]

Executive branch

The Presidency Building in central Sarajevo

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 serves as a collective head of state. The Presidency is mainly responsible for the foreign policy and proposing the budget.[6][7]

The Prime Minister, formally titled Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is nominated by the Presidency and approved by the House of Representatives. He appoints the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Foreign Trade and other ministers as may be appropriate (no more than two thirds of the ministers may be appointed from the territory of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina), who assume the office upon the approval by the House of Representatives; also, the Chair appoints deputy ministers (who may not be from the same constituent people as their ministers), who assume the office upon the approval by the House of Representatives.

The Council is responsible for carrying out 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


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.[8]

Political parties and elections

Candidate Party Votes %
Bosniak member
Šefik Džaferović Party of Democratic Action 212,581 36.61
Denis Bećirović Social Democratic Party of Bosnia and Herzegovina 194,688 33.53
Fahrudin Radončić Union for a Better Future of BiH 75,210 12.95
Mirsad Hadžikadić Independent 58,555 10.09
Senad Šepić Independent Bloc 29,922 5.15
Amer Jerlagić Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina 9,655 1.66
Croat member
Željko Komšić Democratic Front 225,500 52.64
Dragan Čović Croatian Democratic Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina 154,819 36.14
Diana Zelenika Croatian Democratic Union 1990 25,890 6.04
Boriša Falatar Our Party 16,036 3.74
Jerko Ivanković-Lijanović People's Party for Work and Betterment 6,099 1.42
Serb member
Milorad Dodik Alliance of Independent Social Democrats 368,210 53.88
Mladen Ivanić Serb Democratic Party 292,065 42.74
Mirjana Popović Fair Policy Party 12,731 1.86
Gojko Kličković Fair Policy Party 10,355 1.52
Invalid/blank votes 120,259
Total 1,812,575 100
Registered voters/turnout
Source: CEC

House of Representatives

Party Federation Republika Srpska Total
Votes % Seats Votes % Seats Votes % Seats +/–
Party of Democratic Action 252,081 25.48 8 29,673 4.45 1 281,754 17.01 9 –1
Alliance of Independent Social Democrats 4,663 0.47 0 260,930 39.10 6 265,593 16.03 6 0
SDSNDP–NS–SRS 162,414 24.34 3 162,414 9.80 3 –2
Social Democratic Party 140,781 14.23 5 9.672 1.45 0 150,453 9.08 5 +2
HDZ BiHHSS–HSP-HNS–HKDU–HSP-AS BiH–HDU BiH 145,487 14.71 5 4.385 0.66 0 149,872 9.05 5 +1
Democratic Front–Civic Alliance 96,180 9.72 3 96,180 5.81 3 –1
Social Democratic Party 92,906 9.45 3 15,736 2.43 108,642 6.66 3 –5
PDPNDP 194 0.02 0 50,338 7.76 1 50,532 3.10 1 0
Croatian Democratic Union 1990 40,113 4.08 1 40,113 2.46 1
Bosnian-Herzegovinian Patriotic Party-Sefer Halilović 35,866 3.65 1 2,452 0.38 0 38,318 2.35 1 +1
Democratic People's Alliance 37,072 5.72 1 37,072 2.27 1 0
Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina 25,677 2.61 0 25,677 1.57 0 –2
Party of Democratic Activity 22,088 2.25 1 22,088 1.35 1 New
Socialist Party 18,732 2.89 0 18,732 1.15 0 0
SPPSDUDNZ 12,885 1.31 0 3,429 0.53 0 16,314 1.00 0 –1
People's Party for Work and Betterment 12,927 1.31 0 12,927 0.79 0 –1
Serbian Progressive Party 11,421 1.76 0 11,421 0.70 0 0
Our Party 10,913 1.11 0 10,913 0.67 0 0
Party of Justice and Trust 9,763 1.51 0 9,763 0.60 0 New
Bosnian Party 7,518 0.76 0 7,518 0.46 0 0
Social Democratic Union 5,881 0.6 0 853 0.13 0 6,734 0.41 0 0
Labour Party 5,731 0.58 0 5,731 0.35 0 New
HSP–DSI 5,475 0.56 0 5,475 0.34 0
Communist Party 3,075 0.31 0 1,976 0.30 0 5,051 0.31 0 New
HKDU 4,718 0.48 0 4,718 0.29 0 New
Diaspora Party 3,371 0.34 0 3,371 0.21 0 New
New Movement 1,830 0.19 0 1,830 0.11 0 New
Tomo Vukić 397 0.06 0 397 0.02 0 New
Invalid/blank votes 97,720 58,857 156,577
Total 1,081,025 100 28 701,156 100 14 1,782,181 100 42
Registered voters/turnout
Source: CEC

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 the supreme, final arbiter of constitutional matters. 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.[9]

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 Čović 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


  1. ^ The Economist Intelligence Unit (8 January 2019). "Democracy Index 2019". Economist Intelligence Unit. Retrieved 13 January 2019.
  2. ^ http://www.ohr.int/interview-christian-schwarz-schilling-high-representative-for-bih-the-last-bosnian-viceroy-4/
  3. ^ A Biographical Encyclopedia of Contemporary Genocide: Portraits of Evil and Good, p. 25, at Google Books
  4. ^ https://www.economist.com/europe/1998/09/03/carlos-westendorp-bosnias-euro-spanish-viceroy
  5. ^ https://www.economist.com/eastern-approaches/2011/04/13/two-visions-for-bosnia
  6. ^ "Constitution Rules of Court European Convention: Article V, Presidency". CONSTITUTIONAL COURT OF BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA. Archived from the original on 28 September 2011. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  7. ^ "At a glance: Bosnia and Herzegovina: Political Parties" (PDF). www.europal.europa.eu. September 2015. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
  8. ^ Bosnia and Herzegovina General Elections 3 October 2010, OSCE/ODIHR Election Observation Mission Final Report, 17 December 2010, accessed 3 October 2012 (pdf file).
  9. ^ Postoje 82 odluke Ustavnog suda koje još nisu provedene, Večernji list 3.1.2014

External links

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