The individuals who negotiated the peace agreement that ended the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina considered ethnicity to be the most salient division within Bosnian society. Consequently they organized Bosnia's political structure around ethnic representation. While it is doubtful that peace in Bosnia would have been possible without guarantees for ethnic-based political representation, such guarantees have proven insufficient for building a functioning, stable, and cohesive state. This article analyzes the role that Bosnia's political framework, which focuses exclusively on ethnic representation, has played in impeding the development of a significant cadre of moderate political actors and in hindering the success of the existing political moderates. Based on an examination of electoral and institutional approaches for increasing moderate political participation in Bosnia, this article concludes that the electoral alternatives readily available in Bosnia are unlikely to deter the extreme nationalist parties from focusing on ethnic-identity politics or to foster the development of political parties that represent the interests of Bosnians across ethnic lines. This article outlines a structural reform that could enable Bosnia's current political structure to represent a broader range of Bosnian identities and interests and could facilitate increased participation of moderate political actors.

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2005

Publication Information

10 UCLA Journal of International Law and Foreign Affairs 1-65 (2005)