Home Political science After Ethnic Conflict : Policy-making in Post-conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia
Context: Post-conflict Ethnicity
Ethnic issues and inter-ethnic divisions continue to dominate political life in Bosnia and Macedonia almost two decades after the end of the conflicts. In society as well as in politics, ethnicity persists as one of the most important factors structuring inter-group relations, which has led to the reproducing of old political divisions and institutional weakness.
After conflicts, the legacy of inter-group violence widens the gap between ethnic groups. Trust and solidarity between ethnic groups can fall to levels lower than before the conflict. The memory of violence and atrocities deepens the intergroup gap and solidifies groups' boundaries even more than the political elites' efforts to mobilise masses behind the ethno-nationalist projects. Violence and decomposition of the rule of law during the conflict also demonstrate that the state has lost its authority and is incapable of performing one of its basic functions – providing security to its citizens by protecting their lives and property. This further increases the salience of ethnic groups, as individuals fall back to their group for the provision of these basic services. The widespread fear and distrust of the other ethnic groups combined with the loss of state authority and legitimacy, lead to an increased importance of ethnic identity. Ethnic groups step in to fill the void opened by state failure.
In the weak institutional context of persisting war-time practices, the power and influence of ethnic groups and the largely informal networks developed during the conflict increases. They often continue to challenge state authority, even after new post-conflict institutions are established. They can thus slow down the pace of institutional recovery and the consolidation of the post-conflict political and institutional system, but they can also supplement the weak formal institutions in the short-term by providing the services the state cannot.16 Informal networks' power and influence pose greater concern in the politics of post-conflict ethnically divided societies when their activities include profit-generating services and control of illicit trade and trafficking, because this creates vested interests for these networks in the policy process and in the eventual outcome of post-conflict reforms. If reforms are successful, they can endanger the functioning of informal networks.
15 Stuart J. Kaufmann, 'Escaping the Symbolic Politics Trap: Reconciliation Initiatives and Conflict Resolution in Ethnic Wars', Journal of Peace Research, 43 (2006): 201–18.
16 James Fearon and Davies Laitin, 'Violence and the Social Construction of Ethnic Identity', International Organization, 54 (2003): 845–77. Jens Sorensen, State Collapse and Social Reconstruction in the Periphery: Political Economy, Ethnicity and Development in Yugoslavia, Serbia and Kosovo (Berghahn Books, 2009). Full restoration (or establishment) of state authority and the rule of law is a threat to such criminal networks and often an incentive for their members to get involved in the political process, directly or indirectly, in order to protect their interests. In the countries of the former Yugoslavia, the fact that such networks survived the conflict and have even expanded their influence and range of activities in the postconflict context, has been well documented and analysed by many researchers. Several post-conflict politicians have a background in armed networks dating back to the conflict. Many more have developed strong links with such networks and at times co-opted them in various political, economic or security activities.17
Even more importantly, ethnic divisions permeate into post-conflict politics within formal political institutions. Although most post-conflict political systems are designed to promote inter-ethnic cooperation and discourage exclusive ethnic politics, they are also designed to translate dominant divisions in society into political cleavages, thus allowing ethnicity to drive political competition. Institutions are flexible enough and clauses intended to protect each group's access to power to allow ethnic divisions to enter the political arena, sometimes completely permeating it. This leads to the continued politicisation of ethnicity or to ethnicisation – the organisation of politics based on protecting the boundaries and interests of ethnic groups.18 Ethnicisation of post-conflict politics can make elite interaction more antagonistic, since the importance of exclusive ethnic identities in politics remains unchallenged. This makes elite accommodation over ethnically sensitive policy issues more difficult. In Bosnia and Macedonia features of ethnicisation of politics can be easily traced. Most items on the political agenda, ranging from truly sensitive issues such as security sector reforms, to more technical issues such as customs and tax reforms, have at times acquired ethnic overtones. Thus ethnicity is included in each policy debate even if the policy has no implications for ethnic relations, but because of deliberate linkages to such policies, or log-rolling, could add to further ethnicisation of policy issues and politics in general.
The policy cases analysed in later chapters are all instances of policy issues which are highly sensitive for ethnic relations. They all required substantial accommodation efforts from political leaders to arrive at a mutually acceptable
17 For instance, Croatian President Tudjman's links to diaspora networks financing the war, or Serbian Prime Minister Djindjic's links to Belgrade's underground groups which eventually assassinated him. See: Peter Andreas, 'Criminalized Legacies of War: The Clandestine Political Economy of the Western Balkans', Problems of Post-Communism, 51 (May/June 2004): 3–9; Francesco Strazzari, 'The Decade Horribilis: Organized Violence and Organized Crime along the Balkan Peripheries, 1991–2001', Mediterranean Politics, 12 (July 2007): 185–209.
18 Marisca Milikowski, 'Exploring a Model of De-Ethnicization: The Case of Turkish Television in the Netherlands', European Journal of Communication, 15 (2000): 443–468; Donald Horowitz, Ethnic Groups in Conflict (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), p. 185. solution. They provide insight into how ethnicised issues are harnessed by political elites and reveal the factors that can lead to accommodation and the eventual deethnicisation of politics. Turning to those explanatory factors, the next sections of this chapter investigate the theoretical links from institutions to political elites' accommodation and resistance in the post-conflict policy process.
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