UDC 329(497.15)


Keywords: region; Bosnia and Herzegovina; party system; political parties; structure of the party system; actual number of parties; fractionalization of the party system; electoral volatility; polarization of the party system; segmented society

Introduction: Bosnia and Herzegovina as part of the Western Balkans region belongs to the group of countries of Central and Eastern Europe. After the end of the cold war, these states have undergone a multistage socio-political transformation: the processes of “democratic transition” in the political sphere of life of the society were accompanied by market reforms in the socio-economic sphere in the conditions of extensively changed international context where these countries have committed to participate in the processes of European integration. These aspects influenced the configuration of the party systems of CEE states, and the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina also has its own characteristics: the heterogeneity of the ethnic composition of the population where there are three major groups well-organized politically and socially, and a specific state structure that arose as a result of the end of an armed conflict that accompanied the disintegration of former Yugoslavia, together setting certain framework of the political process in the state. Political parties, acting as the main link between the administrative structures in the country and its population, may be an important indicator of the public-political discourse prevailing in the state, which one way or another affects the structure of the party system and the main directions of the competition between the main actors in the system.

Materials and Methods: the analysis of the party system of Bosnia and Herzegovina was carried out with the use of the statistical data for three election cycles (from 2006 to 2014) in order to deal with its persistent and recurring characteristics. The article is based on the systemic approach to the study of party systems: the phenomenon of the party system is seen as that having its own attributes that affect the flow of processes in the system and, thus, the party system as such cannot be reduced to a simple set of constituent elements (political parties). The party system of Bosnia and Herzegovina was considered through the prism of the two main aspects of studying party systems: the number and relative strength of its constituent elements (for this purpose certain indicators were used, such as fractionalization of a party system, the effective number of parties in the system, the degree of electoral volatility of the system, the extent of concentration of parties in the system) and the scope of ideological polarization of the party system (to characterize which, indicators of ideological center of gravity of the system and the extent of its polarization were used). The degree of openness of the party system describing how and in what direction inherent system constraints influence the behavior of the operating actors was also identified.

Results: the party system of Bosnia and Herzegovina is an extremely multi-party one with a relative balance between the system’s actors. At the same time, the party composition of the country’s governments and the inner sector nature of electoral volatility of political parties further indicate that there are clear ways in which the political competition generally takes place in the system in the extremely stable, not subject to large time variations structure of the electoral body of parties focused on separate ethnic groups. This is also proved by the very reasonable indicators of ideological polarization of the party system of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the economic and post-materialist dimensions, while the value dimension of the ideological center of gravity of the system is shifted somewhat to the right. The main style of competition for participation in the government between the actors of the party system also demonstrates the extremely closed nature of the party system of Bosnia and Herzegovina in this context.

Discussion and Conclusions: the specific institutional design of the state authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the related characteristic features of the electoral system directly affect many aspects of the configuration of the party system of the country. In general, the party system of Bosnia and Herzegovina can be classified as an extended multi-party system (according to the number of relevant parties) with moderate polarization (according to the classical and post-materialist dimensions) and with the multipolar nature of the competition (with several ideological dimensions, distinguished by the degree of importance for the party system). A feature of the party system of Bosnia and Herzegovina is its structuring along certain political units highly isolated from each other and made up of its three major ethnic groups, and which are explicitly expressed through the prism of the relevant electoral bodies. Thus, the main axis of the inter-party competition in Bosnia and Herzegovina concerns the issues of the institutional setup of state bodies and their competencies, as well as other issues relevant to the lives of individual ethnic communities, which provides as an evidence that political questions of the core foundations of the state-building process and of the very necessity to create the united Bosnian-Herzegovinian nation are far from being closed.



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About the author:

Anton S. Elsakov, Postgraduate at the Department of European Studies, Saint Petersburg State University (7—9 Universitetskaya Emb., Saint Petersburg, 199034, Russia) (е-mail: anton.elsakov@gmail.com). ORCID: http://orcid.org/0000-0002-1153-0360

For citation: Elsakov A.S. The Main Characteristics of the Party System of Bosnia and Herzegovina. REGIONOLOGIYA = REGIONOLOGY. 2017; 3(25):316—353.

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