Monday, 3 October, marked a year since Bosnia has had a central government. This is a world record of sorts. Though Belgium is going on 16 months without a government, it at least has a caretaker cabinet.

This doesn’t mean Bosnia is ungoverned. If anything, it’s the opposite: Bosnia actually has 12 functioning governments, notes The European Council on Foreign Relations’ Konstanty Gebert. How does that work? The 1995 Dayton Peace Accords split Bosnia into two semi-independent entities: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) for the Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats and the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska. Though there is a central government, both entities have governing bodies, as do the FBiH’s 10 cantons (or counties). So while Bosniak, Croat and Serb leaders are still deadlocked on national cabinet appointments for Croat representatives over 12 months since general elections, the entities and cantons “govern merrily on,” Gebert writes. Moreover, Dayton envisioned a relatively weak central government.

This “record” is nevertheless alarming on many levels. While the entities “govern merrily on,” state-level gridlock has stalled key EU reforms. Political infighting is fomenting nationalism as the sides entrench along ethnic lines; the International Crisis Group recently warned that renewed violence is possible. Meanwhile, investors hate political uncertainty – especially when coupled with potential instability – and foreign direct investment has declined 75 percent since 2009. This trend is beyond troubling in a country with 40 percent unemployment, and even higher youth joblessness.

Frustrated Bosnians are planning protests throughout the country. At least one recent report warned of civil unrest. Even disregarding the interethnic tensions, Bosnia has the kindling for social instability: historically speaking, youth and unemployment are a combustible mix. Bosnia’s leaders would be wise to get their acts together.

Picture from Wikimedia Commons

S. Adam Cardais

S. Adam Cardais is a TOL contributing editor. Email: adam.cardais@tol.org.

More Posts