Politics of Bosnia and Herzegovina

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
Bosnia and Herzegovina

Politics of Bosnia and Herzegovina takes place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democracy, whereby executive power is exercised by the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Legislative power is vested in both the Council of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Members of the Parliamentary Assembly are chosen according to a proportional representation system.

The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature. The system of government established by the Dayton Accord is an example of consociationalism, as representation is by elites who represent the country's three major ethnic groups termed constituent peoples, with each having a guaranteed share of power.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is divided into two Entities – the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska, which are politically autonomous to an extent, as well as the district of Brčko, which is jointly administered by both. The Entities have their own constitutions.

See Political divisions of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Dayton Agreement

Due to the Dayton Agreement, signed on 14 December 1995, Bosnia and Herzegovina forms an undeclared protectorate with elements of hegemony by neighboring Croatia and Serbia as co-signatories to the Agreement, where highest power is given to the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina. The intention of the Agreement was to retain Bosnia's exterior border, while creating a joint multi-ethnic and democratic government based on proportional representation similar to the former socialist régime, and charged with conducting foreign, economic, and fiscal policy.

The Dayton Agreement established the Office of the High Representative (OHR) to oversee the implementation of the civilian aspects of the agreement. About 250 international and 450 local staff members are employed by the OHR.

High Representative

The highest political authority in the country is the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the chief executive officer for the international civilian presence in the country. Since 1995, the High Representative has been able to bypass the elected Parliamentary Assembly or to remove officials from office without due process. The methods selected by the High Representative are often seen as dictatorship. Even the symbols of Bosnian statehood (flag, coat of arms) have been chosen by the High Representative rather than by the Bosnian people. The source of the authority of the High Representative is in international law while his role is essentially contractual. His mandate derives from the Dayton Agreement, as confirmed by the Peace Implementation Council, a body with a Steering Board composed of representatives of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, the presidency of the European Union, the European Commission, and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

Executive branch

The Chair of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina rotates amongst three members (a Bosniak, a Serb, and a Croat) every 8 months within their 4-year term. The three members of the Presidency are elected directly by the people, with Federation voters electing both the Bosniak and the Croat member, and Republika Srpska voters electing the Serb member. The Presidency serves as a collective head of state. The Presidency is mainly responsible for the foreign policy and proposing the budget.

The Prime Minister, formally titled Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is nominated by the Presidency and approved by the House of Representatives. He appoints the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Foreign Trade and other ministers as may be appropriate (no more than two thirds of the ministers may be appointed from the territory of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina), who assume the office upon the approval by the House of Representatives; also, the Chair appoints deputy ministers (who may not be from the same constituent people as their ministers), who assume the office upon the approval by the House of Representatives.

The Council is responsible for carrying out policies and decisions in the fields of diplomacy, economy, inter-entity relations and other matters as agreed by the entities.

The two Entities have Governments that deal with internal matters not dealt with by the Council of Ministers.

Principal Government Officials

President of USA


Past international high representatives: Carl Bildt, Carlos Westendorp, Wolfgang Petritsch, Paddy Ashdown, Christian Schwarz-Schilling, Miroslav Lajčák.

Members of the Presidency who stepped down under pressure from the Office of the High Representative: Mirko Šarović, Ante Jelavić, Dragan Čović. Alija Izetbegović also withdrew from the Presidency.

In February 2000, the Supreme Court ruled that the structure of the Council of Ministers was unconstitutional; a new structure is being negotiated.

Federation president and vice-president in 1999: Ejup Ganić and Ivo Andrić-Lužanski.

Past RS presidents: Radovan Karadžić, Biljana Plavšić, Nikola Poplašen, Mirko Šarović, Dragan Čavić, Milan Jelić.

RS president Nikola Poplašen was removed by the OHR on 5 March 1999.

Legislative branch

The Parliamentary Assembly or Parliamentarna skupština is the main legislative body in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It consists of two chambers:

The Parliamentary Assembly is responsible for:

Bosnia and Herzegovina did not have a permanent election law until 2001, during which time a draft law specified four-year terms for the state and first-order administrative division entity legislatures. The final election law was passed and publicized on 9 September 2001.

House of Peoples

The House of Peoples includes 15 delegates who serve two-year terms. Two-thirds of delegates come from the Federation (5 Croats and 5 Bosniaks) and one-third from the Republika Srpska (5 Serbs). Nine constitutes a quorum in the House of Peoples, provided that at least three delegates from each group are present. Federation representatives are selected by the House of Peoples of the Federation, which has 58 seats (17 Bosniak, 17 Croat, 17 Serb, 7 others), and whose members are delegated by cantonal assemblies to serve four-year terms. Republika Srpska representatives are selected by the 28-member Republika Srpska Council of Peoples, which was established in the People's Assembly of Republika Srpska; each constituent people has eight delegates, while four delegates are representatives of "others".

House of Representatives

The House of Representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina comprises 42 members elected under a system of proportional representation (PR) for a four-year term. Two thirds of the members are elected from the Federation (14 Croats; 14 Bosniaks) and one third from the Republika Srpska (14 Serbs).

For the 2010 elections, Voters in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina elected twenty-one members in five multi-member constituencies by PR, while the remaining seven seats were allocated by compensatory PR. Voters in the Republika Srpska elected nine members in three multi-member constituencies by PR, while the five other seats were allocated by compensatory PR.[1]

Political parties and elections

For other political parties, see List of political parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina. An overview on elections and election results is included in Elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Main office holders
Office Name Party Since
Candidate Party Votes %
Bosniak member
Bakir IzetbegovićParty of Democratic Action (SDA)247,23532.87
Fahrudin RadončićUnion for a Better Future of BiH201,45426.78
Emir SuljagićDemocratic Front114,33415.20
Bakir HadžiomerovićSocial Democratic Party75,36910.02
Sefer HalilovićBosnian-Herzegovinian Patriotic Party-Sefer Halilović66,2308.80
Mustafa CerićIndependent33,8824.50
Džebrail BajramovićDiaspora Party5,0410.67
Mirsad KeboIndependent3,8930.52
Halil TuzlićIndependent3,1620.42
Adil ŽigićIndependent1,6370.22
Croat member
Dragan ČovićCroatian Democratic Union128,05352.20
Martin RagužCroatian Democratic Union 199094,69538.61
Živko BudimirParty of Justice and Trust15,3686.27
Anto PopovićDemocratic Front7,1792.93
Serb member
Mladen IvanićPDPSDS318,19648.71
Željka CvijanovićSNSDDNSSP310,65847.56
Goran ZmijanjacFair Policy Party24,3343.73
Invalid/blank votes137,473
Registered voters/turnout
Source: CEC

House of Representatives

Party Federation Republika Srpska Total
Votes % Seats Votes % Seats Votes % Seats +/–
Party of Democratic Action274,05727.87931,6584.881305,71518.7410+3
Alliance of Independent Social Democrats5,8420.590249,31438.466255,15615.646–2
Serb Democratic Party211,60332.645211,60312.975+1
Democratic Front150,76715.335150,7679.245New
Union for a Better Future of BiH142,00314.444142,0038.7040
HDZHSSHKDU–HSP-AS BiH–HSP HB119,46812.1543,5550.55123,0237.544
Social Democratic Party92,9069.45315,7362.43108,6426.663–5
Croatian Democratic Union 199040,1134.08140,1132.461
Bosnian-Herzegovinian Patriotic Party-Sefer Halilović35,8663.6512,4520.38038,3182.351+1
Democratic People's Alliance37,0725.72137,0722.2710
Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina25,6772.61025,6771.570–2
Party of Democratic Activity22,0882.25122,0881.351New
Socialist Party18,7322.89018,7321.1500
People's Party for Work and Betterment12,9271.31012,9270.790–1
Serbian Progressive Party11,4211.76011,4210.7000
Our Party10,9131.11010,9130.6700
Party of Justice and Trust9,7631.5109,7630.600New
Bosnian Party7,5180.7607,5180.4600
Social Democratic Union5,8810.608530.1306,7340.4100
Labour Party5,7310.5805,7310.350New
Communist Party3,0750.3101,9760.3005,0510.310New
Diaspora Party3,3710.3403,3710.210New
New Movement1,8300.1901,8300.110New
Tomo Vukić3970.0603970.020New
Invalid/blank votes97,72058,857156,577
Registered voters/turnout
Source: CEC

Election history

National House of Representatives:

House of Peoples:

Federation House of Representatives:

Federation House of Peoples:

Republika Srpska National Assembly:

Judicial branch

Constitutional Court

The Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina is supposedly the supreme, final arbiter of legal matters, however its decisions are largely ignored.[2] The court is composed of nine members: four selected by the House of Representatives of the Federation, two by the People's Assembly of Republika Srpska, and three are foreign citizens appointed by the President of the European Court of Human Rights after courtesy-consultation with the Presidency.

The initial term of appointee is 5 years, unless they resign or are removed by consensus of other judges. Appointed judges are not eligible for reappointment. Judges subsequently appointed will serve until the age of 70, unless they resign sooner or are removed. Appointments made 5 years into the initial appointments may be governed by a different regulation for selection, to be determined by the Parliamentary Assembly.

Proceedings of the Court are public, and decisions are published. Court rules are adopted by a majority in the Court. Court decisions are final and supposedly binding though this is not always the case, as noted.[2]

The Constitutional Court has jurisdiction over deciding in constitutional disputes that arise between the Entities or amongst Bosnia and Herzegovina and an Entity or Entities. Such disputes may be referred only by a member of the Presidency, the Chair of the Council of Ministers, the Chair or Deputy Chair of either of the chambers of the Parliamentary Assembly, or by one-fourth of the legislature of either Entity.

The Court also has appellate jurisdiction within the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

State Court

The State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina consists of three divisions – Administrative, Appellate and Criminal – having jurisdiction over cases related to the state-level law and executive, as well as appellate jurisdiction over cases initiated in the entities.

A War Crimes Chamber was introduced in January 2005, and has adopted two cases transferred from the ICTY, as well as dozens of war crimes cases originally initiated in cantonal courts.

The State Court also deals with organized crime, and economic crime including corruption cases. For example, the former and 2014 member-elect of the Presidency Dragan Čović is currently on trial for alleged involvement in organized crime.

Human Rights Chamber

The Human Rights Chamber for Bosnia and Herzegovina (Dom za ljudska prava za Bosnu i Hercegovinu) existed between March 1996 and 31 December 2003. It was a judicial body established under the Annex 6 to the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Dayton Peace Agreement).


The two Entities have Supreme Courts. Each entity also has a number of lower courts. There are 10 cantonal courts in the Federation, along with a number of municipal courts. The Republika Srpska has five municipal courts.

See also


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