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Failure of Power: Police Reform in Bosnia

Cvete Konekska

‚ University of Oxford, UK


Since Arend Lijphart's first conceptualization of power-sharing (consociational democracy) in 1968 it has become a popular idea in post-conflict democratization and reconciliation both among academics and professionals. The peace agreements that ended the ethnic conflicts in the Balkans, Dayton, Ohrid and Ahtisaari's agreements, propose various versions of power-sharing arrangements for Bosnia, Macedonia and Kosovo. Their success in democratizing these divided societies is mixed as these are regional laggards in terms of democratic consolidation and economic growth. This paper ventures to explore the factors that led to failure of power-sharing during attempts at police reform in Bosnia between 2004 and 2008. Police reform is one of the most sensitive issues in post-Dayton reforms in Bosnia, which led to failure despite the repeated international efforts to get domestic political elites to cooperate, and past records of successful accommodation over reforms in the military and wider security and justice system. Exploring the  reasons behind political elites' failure to agree over police reform reveals the limitations of power-sharing systems as institutional tools aimed at post-conflict democratic politics and its problematic aspects. Based on empirical data collected between 2009-2010 the findings suggest that perceptions of groups security, perceptions of international actors' intentions as well as perceptual and institutional legacies of territoriality of ethnic groups explain the failure better than explanations based on ethnic relations and differences. These findings suggest links between literatures on democratization, power-sharing and informal institutions that open space for further research.


About author:


After graduating from the American University in Bulgaria (AUBG) where she studied political science and international relations and European studies, Cvete Koneska proceeded to a Master of Arts degree at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES) at University College London, focusing on Politics, Security and Integration. Following the completion of the MA course Cvete returned to Macedonia to work as a Research Fellow in a young local think-tank (Analytica) in Skopje, where she was responsible for the Security and Foreign Policy programme as well as European Approximation research. Her interest in security issues in the Balkan region resulted with an interest in pursuing a doctoral degree in politics to further investigate these questions. In 2008 she started a DPhil degree in Politics at University of Oxford, as a Weidenfeld Scholar. Her doctoral research focuses on political elites in post-conflict states, in particular comparing the post-conflict experiences of Bosnia and Macedonia, and investigating how political elites accommodate across ethnic and ideological lines on various sensitive policy issues (military and police reform, decentralization, language and education).