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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2000, Vol. 3 No. 1 .


Bosnia: Faking Democracy After Dayton
David Chandler

(London: Pluto Press, 1999)
239pp. Index. Bibl. 45.00; ISBN 0-7453-1408-2. Pb.: 14.99; ISBN 0-7453-1403-1.



David Chandler subjects the international community's efforts to impose democracy on Bosnia and Herzegovina to a rigorous analysis. Beginning with a critique of the concept of democratisation, he gives a chapter each to the issues of sovereignty, power-sharing, human rights, political pluralism, and building civil society, and concludes that the West's democratisation policy has been driven more by an "external dynamic" of post-Cold War security concerns than by the needs of the country, or indeed of the region. The book is well referenced and includes URLs for the many documents cited from the Internet.

The catalogue of failures in the process of Bosnian democratisation is indeed dismal, but at times Chandler over-eggs his pudding. For instance, on p. 77 he says that in the summer of 1997, "NATO troops occupied the public buildings in Banja Luka, handed them over to [Bosnian Serb President]Mrs Plavsic and disarmed local police loyal to the Pale faction, while a British officer sat in Mrs Plavsic's office answering her phone." Police stations were indeed occupied by NATO (and Czech) troops, but other public buildings were not, and the police were disarmed only of items not often included in day-to-day police work elsewhere such as rocket launchers and grenades. Many strange things did happen to the phones in Banja Luka, including my own, during that dramatic time, but I do not recall the incident described relating to Mrs Plavsic's office.

He also underrates the admittedly modest achievement of the "multi-ethnic" parties in the 1997 municipal elections by stating that they won only 6% of the seats, compared with 5% the previous year. There was considerable variation in the number of seats in each municipal assembly/council, and when votes rather than seats are tallied the "multi-ethnic" parties got more like 10% in 1997.

Chandler is undeniably right to point out that the democratisation of Bosnia has not been successful, as demonstrated by the steadily increasing legislative authority of the international community's High Representative (not the "United Nations High Representative" as Chandler calls him). He is right also to suggest that the logical development of current policy is towards protectorate rather than democracy. However it is difficult to concur with his key recommendation of simply "granting people greater autonomy". The international community stood back in 1991-92 when the war began; this should not be repeated. The biggest gap in this book is Chandler's dismissal of the importance of the process of European integration of Eastern Europe. That is the most hopeful future direction for Bosnia and its neighbours.


Nicholas Whyte
Centre for European Policy Studies, Brussels




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