Florian Bieber, Reconceptualizing the Study of Power-Sharing

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  • 7/27/2019 Florian Bieber, Reconceptualizing the Study of Power-Sharing


    Reconceptualizing the Study of Power-Sharing

    Reconceptualizing the Study of Power-Sharing

    by Florian Bieber


    Southeast Europe.Journal of Politics and Society (Sdosteuropa. Zeitschrift fr Politik undGesellschaft), issue: 04 / 2012, pages: 526-535, on www.ceeol.com.

  • 7/27/2019 Florian Bieber, Reconceptualizing the Study of Power-Sharing



    Reconceptualizing the Study of Power-Sharing

    Abstract.This article argues for re-conceptualizing the study of power-sharing in post-conictstate-building. In Southeastern Europe, as elsewhere, power-sharing has become the most

    widely employed approach to accommodate the competing demands of ethnonational groups.As a result, the Southeastern European cases of power-sharing have been important for thelarger study of power-sharing and post-conict state-building. This article argues that inorder to draw meaningful conclusions from these cases, the study of power-sharing needs tobecome more multi-dimensional, moving away from the study of formal institutional rules toinclude historical context, local debates, the strength of the state and the performance of theformal procedures to derive a more meaningful picture of power-sharing. Such reconceptu-alization will not just enhance our understanding of power-sharing in Southeastern Europe,but contribute more broadly to a more nuanced debate on this subject.

    Florian Bieberis Professor for Southeast European Studies and Director of the Centre for

    Southeast European Studies at the University of Graz.

    Since the collapse of Yugoslavia and the ensuing wars, over a dozen new statesand para-states have been built and wiped out on the territory of the socialistfederation. Today, there are seven post-Yugoslav states, comprising all the for-mer republics plus Kosovo. The states that were proclaimed, and which werebased on ethno-territorial lines but did not follow the republican boundariesof Yugoslavia, remain phantom states, like the Iliridain Western Macedonia, orsuered military defeat, such as the Republika Srpska Krajinain Croatia. At best,they could establish themselves as an autonomous region or entity such as theRepublika Srpskawithin Bosnia and Herzegovina.

    The new states were established either as (aspiring) nation states with varyingdegrees of the exclusion of others or as multinational power-sharing systems.The laer was not the result of domestic negotiations, but rather of externalimposition. In eect, the default model of external state-building has beenpower-sharing. Not only states that came into existence, but also numerousunimplemented plans, such as the Carrington Plan for Yugoslavia in 1991or the Z4 Plan for Croatia in 1995 or temporary political selements such asthe short-lived State Union of Serbia and Montenegro (2003-2006), contained

    Sdosteuropa 60 (2012), H. 4, S. 526-535


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    527Reconceptualizing the Study of Power-Sharing

    strong power-sharing features, such as veto rights, autonomy and proportionalrepresentation.

    Today three political regimes in Southeastern Europe display features of

    power-sharing, namely Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Macedonia. Thesehave been shaping academic debates on consociationalism for the past decadewell beyond Southeastern Europe. Among proponents of power-sharing, thesecases, in conjunction with other examples of post-conict power-sharing, haveadvanced the inclusion of third parties, as an integral aspect in the establish-ment and maintenance of power-sharing systems.

    Thus, international organizations in particular have taken on a supervisoryfunction and have been institutionally embedded into the system, through, forexample, the inclusion of international judges in the Constitutional Court of

    Bosnia and Herzegovina. The power-sharing systems, drafted largely by externalplanners, have been labelled complex power-sharing because the institutionaltools employed extend beyond the narrow understanding of consociationalismas dened by Arend Lijphart in his studies on West European Consociationalsystems. Complex power-sharing also incorporate forms of territorial autonomyand centripetal tools.1

    Critics of power-sharing have, on the other hand, taken the performance ofpower-sharing systems in Southeastern Europe as evidence of the inappropriate-ness of power-sharing and its role as part of the problem by facilitating state

    capture and the ethnication of society and the political system.2

    In response to the obvious aws of rigid power-sharing systems, such as theone in Bosnia and Herzegovina, advocates of consociationalism have begundistinguishing between liberal and corporate consociations to allow dierentia-tion between systems which are rigid and reify ethnicity and those which canco-exist with liberal democracy.3

    In the context of the experience of power-sharing in Southeastern Europe,I will argue that some aspects have been neglected in the larger scholarlydebates that merit our aention. Rather than just seeing the cases as evidence

    for or against power-sharing, which is not a very fruitful venue of inquiry, thecases need rst to be properly understood. Rather than just noting that context

    1 Stefan W, Complex Power-Sharing and the Centrality of Territorial Self-Governancein Contemporary Conict Selements, Ethnopolitics, 8 (2009), n. 1, 27-45, 29.

    2 Donald R / Philip R, Dilemma of State-Building in Divided Societies, in: (eds.), Sustainable Peace. Power and Democracy after Civil War. Ithaca/NY, London2005, 1-26, 5; Anna K. J, Power-Sharing: Former Enemies in Joint Government, in: AnnaK. J / Timothy D. S (eds.), From War to Democracy. Dilemmas of Peacebuilding.Cambridge 2008, 105-134.

    3 Brendan OL, Debating Consociational Politics: Normative and Explanatory Argu-

    ments, in: Sid N (ed.), From Power-Sharing to Democracy: Post-Conict Institutions inEthnically Divided Societies. Montreal, Kingston 2005, 3-43.

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    528 Florian Bieber

    maers or that one needs to know more, this article argues that there are vestrands of knowledge when it comes to power-sharing that have been neglectedand need to be brought back into the study of power-sharing and institutional

    design in order to assess these institutional solutions and derive informed casestudies for larger scale comparisons.

    Historical Context

    Recent literature on institutional design has been largely devoid of historicalcontext. This is the result of the evolution of the debate on consociationalism,which originally focused extensively on historical context. They sought to ex-plain the origins of power-sharing institutions through an elite bargain and were

    interested in the broader social traditions of compromise and accommodation.This focus has been abandoned due to a shift in the debate from consociation-alism as an empirical description of the political system of a set of countries(commonly Benelux, Austria and Swierland) towards a prescriptive approach.4I believe that historical experience with dierent forms of compromise andaccommodation in former Yugoslavia is necessary for our understanding ofcontemporary institutions, highlighting the need to bring the past into theanalysis of power-sharing.

    Yugoslavia itself had strong power-sharing features, as did some of its re-

    publics, especially Bosnia and Herzegovina and to some degree Croatia. Dur-ing the rst decades of socialist rule, the institutions of power-sharing werenot necessarily matched by power-sharing practices, as the ruling elites of therepublics were not motivated by ethnicity or even primary republican loyalty,but sought the devolution of the system as a tool to secure legitimacy. How-ever, by the 1970s and especially after Titos death, the system had gravitatedtowards power-sharing with strong eective veto rights of the republics anda weak centre, with republican interests becoming a more prominent featureof the system.

    Thus, the post-war institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Mace-donia may have been drawn up by international mediators, but the institutionsthey set up often resemble the Yugoslav ones, and institutional practices, suchas the state presidency in Bosnia and Herzegovina, have to be seen not just interms of ruptures, but also in terms of continuities. As Donald Horowi notedin 1993:

    4 The importance of historical context has been part of the debate of consociationalism,

    see Arend L, The Evolution of Consociational Theory and Consociational Practices,1965-2000,Acta Politica(2002), special issue, n. 1/2, 11-22, 14.

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    529Reconceptualizing the Study of Power-Sharing

    One of the ironies of democratic development is that, as the future is being planned,the past intrudes with increasing severity. In this eld, there is no such thing asa fresh start.5

    The impact of past experience is hard to quantify, which is one of the reasonsthat the past has often been ignored in the literature on power-sharing. Thelack of experience of cooperation and of power-sharing institutions is oftensaid to be an obstacle for seing up power-sharing systems. In this sense, thepost-Yugoslav cases of power-sharing would be expected to do beer thanelsewhere. However, this experience is not always an obvious asset. The failureof Yugoslavia and its break-up have also been a source of scepticism towardspower-