CBC In Depth

The electoral experiment that is Bosnia and Herzegovina
CBC News Online | October 2, 2006

One of the six nations of the former Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Herzegovina gained independence on March 1, 1992. But the new nation was immediately torn apart on ethnic lines in the Bosnian war of 1992-1995, and eventually put under the stewardship of the UN.

Up to 200,000 people were killed in the conflict, and more than one million driven from their homes. And to this day the country remains divided between the Serbs, in the Republika Srpska, or Republic, and the Croats and Muslim Bosniaks in what's called the Federation.

The Republic and the Federation both have their own constitutions under the Dayton Agreement of 1995. Some Croats believe the country should be split into three entities to ensure fairness between the ethnic groups.

Bosnia and Herzegovina quick facts

Location: Southeast Europe

Capital: Sarajevo

Population: 4,498,976 (Sept. 2006 estimate)

Total area: 51,129 sq km (slightly smaller than Nova Scotia)

Border countries: Croatia to the north, south and west, Serbia to the east, Montenegro to the southeast, all members of the former Yugoslavia

Currency: marka

Languages: Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian

Major religions: Muslim (40 per cent), Orthodox Christian (31 per cent), Roman Catholic (15 per cent)

Since the end of the war in 1995, the international community has carried responsibility for running the country through the UN's Office of the High Representative. The high representative is appointed by the UN, and represents the country at the UN and the European Union. Since the inception of the office, there have been five high representatives, all from the European Union.

The position is currently filled by German politician Christian Schwarz-Schilling, who acts as the final authority to interpret the Dayton Agreement as it deals with civilian issues. He also oversees the reconstruction and institutional reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and has the power to impose laws and remove local officials from office.

However, Schwarz-Schilling says he intends to act as an adviser to the Bosnian government, rather than a lawmaker, and the Office of the High Representative is set to dissolve in mid-2007.

That means the officials elected in the Oct. 1 election will be the first to govern with full autonomy since 1995, making the recent presidential elections all the more important.

The new bosses

Nebojsa Radmanovic was elected as the representative of the Bosnian Serbs in Bosnia's three-member presidency. (Radivoje Pavicic/Associated Press)

The presidency in Bosnia Herzegovina is shared between three members, one each elected by the Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks. The one who receives the most votes in the election becomes chairman — president of the presidents — first. The position then rotates between the three members every eight months for the duration of the four-year term.

The president's principal duties as head of state include responsibility for foreign affairs, proposing the budget, and nominating a chairman of the council of ministers, or prime minister.

These are the men who will lead Bosnia and Herzegovina into its new stage as an independent democratic federal republic:

  • Nebojsa Radmanovic is leader of the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) and represents the Orthodox Christian Serbs. He received 56 per cent of the vote in the Srkspa. The head of Radmanovic's party recently proposed a referendum that would allow Serb territories to separate.
  • Haris Silajdzic is leader of the Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina or ZABiH. He was the wartime prime minister and foreign minister, and was elected by the Bosniaks. He is a strong advocate for abolishing the two-entity state and uniting the country under one constitution.
  • Social Democratic party leader candidate Zeljko Kosmic edged out incumbent Ivo Miro Jovic of the Croat Democratic Union (HDZ). If Kosmic is elected, it is believed he will lead calls for a third entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina, giving Croats equivalent rights to those of Serbs and Bosniaks.
Haris Silajdzic won the Muslim Bosniak seat in the Bosnian three-member presidency. (Amel Emric/Associated Press)

Canada's role: Defence, development, diplomacy

Canada's co-ordinated foreign policy toward Bosnia and Herzegovina involves the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Canadian International Development Agency and the Department of Defence.

Since 1992, more than 40,000 Canadians have served in Bosnia and Herzegovina through UN- and NATO-led initiatives. Currently, Canada contributes about 80 Canadian Forces troops to EUFOR. An additional 15 military personnel are stationed at the new NATO headquarters in Sarajevo.

EUFOR will continue to have a peacekeeping presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina for some time yet, but plans to reduce the number of troops from the 6,000 currently posted in the country.

More than 100 projects valued at over $130 million have been committed by Canada since 1995. This includes more than $4 million dedicated to mine clearing.

On a diplomatic front, Canada, along with other members of the international community, supports the initiatives of the Dayton Agreement. This includes helping displaced Bosnians and Herzegovinians move back and reclaim their possessions; assisting with institutional reform; and co-operating with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.


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IN FOCUS: Kosovo Podujevo massacre Srebrenica massacre CBC Radio doc on Srebrenica Besieged Sarajevo Bosnia-Herzegovina elections

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Milosevic arrested, jailed, sedated

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Serbia and Montenegro

Statistical Office of Kosovo


UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo

Centre for Peace in the Balkans

UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

Srebrenica report: Report of the Secretary-General pursuant to General Assembly resolution 53/35 (1998)

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