Subnational Competitive Authoritarianism and Power-Sharing in Bosnia and Herzegovina (2020)

Author: Damir Kapidžić
Year: 2020
Title: Subnational Competitive Authoritarianism and Power-Sharing in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Journal: Southeast European and Black Sea Studies
Issue & pages: 20(1), 81–102
DOI: 10.1080/14683857.2020.1700880

Incremental democratic decline is evident in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), but measures of democracy conceal an uneven subnational distribution of autocratization. So far there has been limited research on the drivers and constraints to subnational autocratization. This paper aims to contribute to the literature on power-sharing by exploring instances of illiberal politics enacted by parties in government at the subnational level in BiH. Evidence is gathered through semi-structured interviews and analysis of three specific cases of illiberal politics. We find that the political contest in BiH is purposefully contained within ethnic and subnational boundaries and constrained through several layers of institutionalized multilevel and ethnic checks and balances. The main drivers of subnational autocratization are opportunities that arise from the institutional framework established during early democratization and postwar structures that blend executive dominance with economic power and informal party networks, and occasionally from an individual actor’s perceptions of threat. Democratization in BiH will need to address subnational politics and deep-rooted power structures if it is to be successful.

Keywords: Illiberal politics, competitive authoritarianism, Bosnia and Herzegovina, subnational, power-sharing, ethnic parties