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Informal practices

In addition to power-sharing arrangements, this book's institutional approach to ethnic accommodation accounts for another major factor influencing the behaviour of political elites – informal rules and practices. The influence of these also constrains and guides political elites. Thus to explain political elites' accommodation-resistance patterns, one needs to look beyond formal institutions and examine the role that informal institutions play in post-conflict politics in ethnically divided states.

March and Olsen's definition of institutions as 'rules and routines that define appropriate actions in terms of relations between roles and situations'37 enables the analysis of both formal and informal rules that define actors' available roles and behaviour in various social situations. Based on this wider approach to institutions we can distinguish between formal and informal rules and practices – or institutions. Helmke and Levitsky distinguish between rules and routines that are created, communicated and enforced through official channels, which are formal institutions; and those created, communicated and enforced through unofficial channels, which are informal institutions.38 The distinction between official

36 Wolf, 'Complex Power Sharing'.

37 March and Olsen, Re-discovering Institutions.

38 Gretchen Helmke and Steven Levitsky, 'Informal Institutions and Comparative Politics: A Research Agenda', Perspectives on Politics, 2 (December 2004): 725–40. and unofficial channels is particularly helpful in this analysis of political elite accommodation because unofficial channels to communicate, bargain and negotiate are frequently used by politicians in Bosnia and Macedonia. In addition to the formal accommodation bodies enshrined in the constitutional framework of these states, agreements over sensitive issues are often reached in closed and informal meetings between party and group leaders and only later introduced to parliaments and other formal institutions. For example, the informal agreement between Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and the leader of the largest Albanian party Ali Ahmeti in May 2011, prevented a coalition break-up and the fall of the government. Similarly, the so-called Prud Process in Bosnia in 2008 saw leaders of the main political parties gather and informally discuss the most sensitive political issues facing the country. Therefore, by looking into those unofficial channels that create, communicate and enforce rules and routines, this book develops a more inclusive and nuanced explanation of the factors behind ethnic accommodation.

Formal institutions are embedded in the legal and constitutional framework of each state, so their origins, codes of work, and mandates can easily be established from legal documents. Determining those same features for informal institutions is a more challenging task, however. The study of informal institutions in this book is limited to the practices in which political actors engage outside of formal institutions. The networks and interests behind such practices are difficult to observe and confirm, so one can only speculate about their impact on the political process. Political-elite continuity from communist and pre-conflict periods can strengthen and develop relations between the formal and informal realms and enables the continued influence of informal practices over politics and policymaking. Moreover, the erosion of state authority and the rule of law as a result of the conflict contribute to the survival of informal practices that can provide security to the ethnic group. These two combined legacies make informal practices an important political factor in the political process in post-conflict states.

Weak institutions, resulting from a prolonged post-communist democratic transition and the removal of the state monopoly on violence during the conflicts, give actors more space to adapt the rules of the political process to rely on informal practices that coexist and work in parallel to formal institutions. Because the two countries have yet to fully consolidate their democratic and power-sharing institutional systems, the weak institutional context is particularly conducive to the strengthening of informal practices and channels of communication. In addition, the presence and influence of international actors is often so extensive in post-conflict societies that it is bound to exceed the formal institutional channels, resulting in more informal mechanisms of exerting pressure on domestic politicians. In the case of Bosnia and Macedonia these two processes are not independent from each other. The combined post-communist and post-conflict transitions lead to a potentially more thorough penetration of informal rules and practices in the political process.

The negative effects of informal practices in politics are well known. Most of the literature discussing informal practices focuses on their negative impact
on the prospects for successful democratic transition and post-conflict ethnic accommodation. The literature on post-communist lustration and nomenklatura networks has extensively examined the negative impacts that informal networks can have on young democracies, such as leading to stalled reforms, weak institutions, clientelism and corruption.39 In Macedonia, privatisation was conducted in a nontransparent manner, mostly benefiting the old communist economic and political elites, who used their positions to buy state-owned enterprises. By 2001, when the conflict took place, Macedonia already had a well-established 'transition elite'. In Bosnia, privatisation only really commenced after the end of its conflict in 1995, but its progress has been marred by corruption and criminal scandals much like elsewhere in the region.40

In the post-conflict context, informal networks are usually involved in activities of an illegal or semi-legal nature, including drug-trafficking, people smuggling and trafficking, the arms trade, and racketeering.41 Moreover, the influence of these post-conflict informal networks and their practices does not stem solely from their economic power and the resources at their disposal. They also benefit from a reputation as heroes and defenders of innocent populations around them, whose popular support they can use to put pressure on political elites. War-time hierarchies, loyalties and rules survive into post-conflict politics as sections of, or even entire armed structures, are often included in formal institutions, (such as the police and military forces), or even become new political parties. Macedonian politics abounds with such instances: a general amnesty proclaimed after the conflict absolved members of the NLA and included them in state police forces; while NLA leadership became the core of the new DUI political party. Old NLA members often keep their 'Commander' titles before their names, even if they have no longer have any military affiliation. In Bosnia, despite international screening of police members after the war, many remained committed to their war leaders. The army in Republika Srpska meanwhile, provided support for the war criminal and its former leader Ratko Mladić to at least 2002.

While acknowledging the adverse effects that informal practices and networks can have on post-conflict democratic and power-sharing politics, this book argues that they can positively affect ethnic accommodation. As Lauth suggests, some informal institutions, such as custom law and lobbying practices are not damaging to democracy but can help the transition and consolidation of democracy in the interim period before formal democratic norms and rules become fully established

39 Natalia Letki, 'Lustration and Democratization in East-Central Europe', EuropeAsia Studies, 54 (2002): 529–52.

40 Timothy Donais, 'The Politics of Privatization in Post-Dayton Bosnia', Southeast European Politics, 3 (June 2002): 3–19.

41 Among others see: Lucia Montanaro-Jankovski, 'Good Cops, Bad Mobs: EU Policies to Fight Trans-national Organised Crime in the Western Balkans', EPC Issue Paper No.40. October 2005; Vera Stojarova, 'Organised Crime in the Western Balkans', HUMSEC Journal, 1 (2007): 91–114. and accepted by all.42 Informal institutions do not necessarily subvert formal democratic ones, but can often exist simultaneously and intertwine to produce the desired policy outcomes.43 These informal practices are not illegal or involved in criminal activities, but provide parallel channels of interaction and communication for the political elites, outside of the official institutions of the state. Lobby networks, informal leader meetings, clubs or groups can all establish an informal infrastructure that overlaps or supplements the official institutional structure. Such informal practices are common in many states and international organisations such as the EU, but they tend to play a more significant role in politics in post-conflict states because of their weak institutional structures and deeply divided societies. Chapters 5 to 8 therefore investigate the instances of positive interactions between formal and informal institutions and the conditions under which these lead to greater ethnic accommodation or resistance. Using Helmke and Levitsky's twoaxis frame, those chapters empirically analyse how informal practices compete or supplement formal institutions in the policy process in Bosnia and Macedonia.44

Finally, just like formal institutions, their informal counterparts also tend to change over time. The effects of informal practices can change in response to changes in formal institutions. As formal democratic institutions consolidate and political actors internalise democratic norms and practices, the impact of informal practices is likely to decrease. A change in the political context could create or destroy the need for a certain informal practice and the purpose it fulfilled in the political process. While institutional and constitutional reform does not necessarily affect informal rules and practices, the changes it introduces to the formal institutional set up can affect the logic and functioning of the informal institutions too.

External Actors and Influences

It would be unwise to analyse the present-day domestic policy arena of any state in isolation from external influences. It would be particularly so in the cases of Bosnia and Macedonia, small post-conflict countries that have hosted a number of international peacekeeping and reconstruction missions, as well as an array of foreign diplomats guiding the actions of domestic political elites. External factors clearly play an important role in the domestic politics of post-conflict states. Because of the precariousness of the security situation in post-conflict states and

42 Hans-Joachim Lauth, 'Informal Institutions and Democracy', Democratization, 7 (2000): 21–50.

43 Anna Grzymala-Busse and Pauline J. Luong, 'Reconceptualizing the State: Lessons from Post-Communism', Politics and Society, 30 (December 2002): 529–54.

44 Helmke and Levitsky, 'Informal Institutions and Comparative Politics: A Research

Agenda'. the weak institutional environment, external actors have unusually wide margins

to act and intervene.

External involvement in Macedonian and especially Bosnian politics dates back to the beginning of each conflict and follows international efforts to put an end to violence and find a mutually acceptable solution for peace. After the end of the war, military and civilian peacekeeping missions were deployed. In both countries, during the early post-conflict stages external actors were considered crucial for guaranteeing each side's commitment to the provisions in the peace agreements, without which relapse into violence is likely.45 However, more than fifteen years after the conclusion of Dayton Agreement, Bosnia still hosts an internationally appointed High Representative with extensive executive powers, which to a considerable degree restrains the freedom of political elites to engage and interact in the domestic political arena.

The empirical analysis of policy cases in both states acknowledges the effect that external actors had on domestic politicians. Their infl on political elites and interactions with the institutional factors is an important feature of post-confl politics in both countries. In particular, most attention is paid to the roles played by high-ranking EU and NATO offi and in Bosnia by the High Representative. Both countries' ambitions to join the EU and NATO gave those actors a signifi say in domestic politics, including the most sensitive issues related to inter-ethnic relations.

45 Barbara F. Walter, Committing to Peace: The Successful Settlement of Civil Wars

(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002).


 
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