Institutions, Civil Society, and Nationalism in the Context of Democratic Consolidation: Prospects for Democracy

Johannes Heiler
2002 Peace, Conflict and Development  
Biographical note The author graduated in political science at the University of Hamburg. Recently he completed the European Master's Degree in Human Rights and Democratisation (E.MA) co-ordinated by the University of Padua/Italy. After studying in Venice/Italy and a field trip to Bosnia-Herzegovina he spent the second semester at University College Dublin/Ireland pursuing a research project on civil society promotion and media development in Bosnia. Abstract The High Representative of the
more » ... ntative of the international community in Bosnia-Herzegovina labelled the latest general elections in the country a "genuine watershed". On the occasion of the first elections completely run by the national administration itself this article intends to give a brief overview of the most striking features of democratic transition in Bosnia. Within an analytical framework of democratic consolidation the article highlights the interconnection of institutional basics and civil society, also taking into consideration the role of nationalism in transition. On this conceptual basis the article indicates major problems and challenges of democratic consolidation in post-Dayton Bosnia. Although considerable progress could be made, the Bosnian federal state still does not appear to be sovereign. This becomes particularly apparent in light of the limited powers located at the state level when compared to the competencies of the federal entities as well as the pre-eminent role of the international community in policy-making and legislation. The constitutional arrangement of the state prescribed by Dayton impedes progress on the representational and behavioural levels of democratic consolidation as well as the emergence of a Bosnian civil society that transcends ethnic barriers. At the same time achievements of consolidation with respect to elite behaviour and civil society are required in order to overcome the institutional predicaments. This dilemma points to the continuing importance of a determined engagement of the international community in the country, though growing endogenisation of the political proceedings and local ownership of the state and its institutions have to be a priority. -3 -These general conceptual considerations shall be applied to the specific case of Bosnia in the second part. Institutions and civil society in Democratic consolidation Soon after the epochal changes of the late 1980s and early 1990s it became apparent that democratic transition goes far beyond merely removing an undemocratic political regime and replacing it with a formally democratic one. Building on early works of transition theorists such as O'Donnell and Schmitter, a variety of authors soon began examining problems and challenges of democratic consolidation in more detail. 3 Wolfgang Merkel proposed a concept of democratic consolidation that clearly accentuates the multifaceted character of transition. He understands democratic consolidation as a multidimensional process that takes place on different levels simultaneously. 4 On the institutional level of consolidation the institutional basics necessary for a functioning democracy need to be established, tested in political practice and further developed. How the basic institutions -government, separation of power, electoral laws etc. -are designed and applied, affects to a large extent structures and stability on the representational level: the party-system, the variety of associations and their ability for effective intermediate interest brokerage. Institutions and representational factors shape the behaviour of political and social actors: do they behave in a way compatible with democracy or do significant actors operate permanently outside the democratic system? A consolidated democracy has to be open to a plurality of opinions, i.e. dissent and conflict on specific policies is a core element of every democratic system. On the other 3 O'Donnell and Schmitter were the first ones to put forward a typological distinction between liberalisation and democratisation, see Guillermo O'Donnell/Philippe C. Schmitter, "Tentative Conclusions about Uncertain Democracies", in G. O'Donnell/P.C. Schmitter/L. Whitehead (eds.), Transitions from Authoritarian Rule -Prospects for Democracy (Baltimore and London: John Hopkins University Press, 1986), pp. 3-78. The subsequent phase of democratic consolidation is nowadays commonly added. In this article I will only focus on the consolidation phase to provide a conceptual basis for further considerations. 4 Wolfgang Merkel, "Theorien der Transformation: Die demokratische Konsolidierung postautoritärer Gesellschaften", in K. von Beyme/C. Offe (eds.), "Politische Theorie in der Ära der Transformation", Politische Vierteljahresschrift, Sonderheft 26 (1995), pp. 38-40. Linz and Stepan identify behavioural, attitudinal and constitutional dimensions of consolidation; see Juan J. Linz/Alfred Stepan, Problems of democratic transition and consolidation. South Europe, South America, and Post-Communist Europe
doi:10.7246/pcd.0206 fatcat:hpapzxyflnafbaxaroeuhe24o4