On the Political System of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Aleksa Nikolić
Lecturer, University of Belgrade Faculty of Law

Damir Banović, Saša Gavrić, Marina Barreiro Marino
The Political System of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Institutions, Actors, Processes
Springer, Cham, 2021

“Lands of great discoveries are also lands of great injustices”
Ivo Andrić, in Signs by the Roadside

The Political System of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Institutions, Actors, Processes is a short, concise and informative book, written by Damir Banović, Saša Gavrić and Marina Barreiro Marino. The book, published by Springer in 2021, provides an in-depth analysis of the political system of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). By the way, the Springer edition is an updated version of the previously published book by the mentioned authors (Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden, in 2010 and Sarajevo Open Center, Sarajevo, in 2012).

The book is organized into six chapters, each of which delves into a different aspect of the political system of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The first chapter provides an overview of the historical background and constitutional framework of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The authors explain the complex power-sharing arrangement that was established following the 1995 Dayton Agreement. The second chapter examines the institutional framework of the country, including its collective Head of State, bicameral Parliament, Government (Council of Ministers) and Judicial System. Therefore, the authors provide a short historical background to the founding and development of the institutions, providing some context to the complexity to its current structure, and afterwards explain how the institutions are elected or appointed and how do they work in practice. The third chapter deals with the complex territorial organization of the country – its asymmetric, consociational federal structure with the two federal units (entities): 1) Federation of BiH and 2) Republika Srpska, and the Brčko District. The fourth chapter discusses the electoral system and the role of elections in the political process, while the fifth chapter focuses on the four main actors of the BiH’s political system, such as political parties, civil society, media and the international community. Finally, the sixth chapter analyzes BiH’s International Politics (regional relations and the integration into the European Union) and the challenges facing the political system of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the prospects for future development. 

One of the strengths of this book is its clear and concise writing style. Banović, Gavrić and Barreiro Marino do an excellent job of explaining complex political concepts in a way that is accessible to readers who may not have a background in political science. The book is also well-organized and easy to navigate, with clear headings and subheadings that make it easy to find specific information. Another strength of the book is its ability to shed light on the complexities and challenges of BiH’s political system. The country’s unique constitutional arrangement, which divides power between the Federation of BiH and the Republika Srpska, presents significant challenges for policymaking and governance. The authors’ analysis of these challenges is insightful and provides valuable insights into the country’s political dynamics.  However, one of the drawbacks of this book is its brevity. At just 122 pages, it can only provide a broad overview of the political system. While this is useful for readers who are new to the subject, those looking for a more in-depth analysis may need to look elsewhere. In addition, it seems to us that the authors criticize the current BiH’s federalism too much. While it has its drawbacks, it has proven to be a successful model for maintaining peace and stability in a divided society, and it continues to be an important factor in the country's political landscape.

Overall, The Political System of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Institutions, Actors, Processes is an informative and accessible book that provides a useful introduction to the country’s complex political system. It will be of interest to scholars, policymakers, and anyone interested in understanding the challenges of governance in divided societies. 

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