Last update: 4 months ago

On 28 December 2011, fifteen months after the October 2010 parliamentary elections, leaders of the main political parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) — the Social Democratic Party (SDP), the Union of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), the Party of Democratic Action (SDA), the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), its sister party HDZ 1990, and the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) — reached an agreement to form a state level government. Consequently former finance minister of the Bosniak-Croat entity BiH Federation, Vejkoslav Bevenda (HDZ), was appointed Prime Minister on 12 January 2012. Bevenda hopes to lead BiH towards the EU by implementing the aquis communautair, and to strengthen the economic situation, improve living standards and security and safety for the citizens. The formation of the new government is a relief for the financial situation as the country is in a financial chaos partly because the last national budget was agreed for the financial year 2010.

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Map of Bosnia-Herzegovina

Short facts

3,810,416 million (World Bank 2015 est.)
Governmental Type:
Emerging Federal Democratic Republic
Ruling Coalition:
Social Democratic Party (SDP), Union of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), Party of Democratic Action (SDA), Croatian Democratic Union of BiH (HDZ BiH), Croatian Democratic Union 1990 (HDZ 1990)
Last Elections:
2 October 2016 (local elections)
Next Elections:
2018 (presidential elections)
Sister Parties:
Social Democratic Party of Bosnia and Herzegovina (SDP BiH)

Political Situation

In June 2015, a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) between the EU and BiH entered into force. The next month parliament adopted a Reform Agenda on socio-economic advancement as well as the advancement on the area of judiciary, but the leaders of the RS refused to sign it. In 2016, however, political elites in the country managed to agree upon a reforms agenda that will lead to concrete steps in the EU integration process. Republika Srpska (RS), Bosnia and Herzegovina's (BiH) Serb-dominated entity, conducted its planned referendum on 25 September 2016 about the entity’s annual public holiday despite Bosnian and international warnings. BiH’s constitutional court has already ruled the day as discriminatory and thus unconstitutional, because it discriminates against non-Serb residents of RS. In the FBiH the ruling coalition collapsed when the Democratic Front quit it. The coalition was established after the 2014 elections and had been faced by dissension from the start. Currently the FBiH has a minority coalition while negotiations are ongoing. On 2 October 2016 Bosnia-Herzegovina held local elections. The results of these elections are continuation of the dominance of nationalist parties. Multi-ethnic Social Democratic Party (SDP) and its split-off Democratic Front (DF) have managed to slightly increase their support, mainly in urban areas. Furthermore, the elections were marked by the shocking victory of five candidates who were convicted of crimes (including one war criminal) and 14 other candidates who are accused of crimes or are under investigation.

Local elections results

Party No of municipalities won Party No of municipalities won
HDZ 18 SNSD 26
Alliance of SDA and SBB 34 HDZ 18
HDZ1990 3 SDP 8

HDZ = Croatia Democratic Union, conservative, Croat Party
SDA = Party for Democratic Action, conservative Bosniak (muslim) party
SNSD = Alliance for Independent Social Democrats, Serb party
SDP = Social Democratic Party, left wing multi-ethnic party

The Dayton Peace Agreement signed in 1995 to end the war in BiH, stipulated the Bosnian constitution. As a result, the political system is a complex and an inefficient one. Bosnia is composed of two political entities, Republika Srpska (49 percent of territory) and the Bosniak-Croat Federation (51 percent of the territory). In addition, the Federation is divided into ten cantonal units. BiH is a highly decentralised state with a mixture of a parliamentary, presidential and half presidential political system. Each political unit has its own governing body, accumulating to 700 elected state officials and more than 140 ministers. As a result, the state system measures approximately 60 percent of the state budget. The High Representative, who is also EU Special Representative (EUSR), is working with the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina and is the highest authority within BiH. In the following the Federation of BiH will be referred to as F BiH and the Republic Srpska will be referred to as RS.

Political division

The consensus over the new government that was formed in December 2011 is based on the following division. The government consists of ten ministers, four Bosniaks, three Serbs and three Croats. One of the Bosniak positions will be given to a candidate who is not ethnically designated, while another Bosniak position will be assigned to a Bosniak from RS. Under the coalition deal the main Croat parties, HDZ and HDZ 1990, were promised the prime minister’s post and two other ministries. As a result former finance minster of the Bosniak-Croat entity BiH Federation, Vejkoslav Bevenda (HDZ), was appointed prime minister. 

Due to the political division within the country it remains to be seen if the recent formation of the state level government was not just another distribution of seats among the political elite. It would not be a major surprise if the officials in Republika Srpska continue to undermine the power of state institutions, Bosnian Croats continue to work towards a third Croatian entity and if Bosniaks remain divided internally. Adding to this the sense that the EU — the Office of High Representative (OHR) still has the supreme governing authority — and the international community have no real strategy for BiH, it is questionable if important steps forwards will be taken in the near future.

The presumption by the international community that the continuous reduction of international supervision and the magnetic attraction of EU integration would convince Bosnia’s political leaders to pursue the rigorous reforms necessary for EU accession has proven to be illusory. If anything, the opposite has been the case. Negotiations to amend the existing constitution, established by Dayton, in order to strengthen state institutions and transform the country into a non-ethnic parliamentary democracy, have so far failed to make much progress. 

Presence of the international community

The presence of the international community is coordinated through the Office of High Representative for BiH (OHR) which is the state's ultimate authority, responsible for overseeing implementation of civilian aspects of the Dayton Peace Agreement. The international community’s High Representative (HR) in BiH, which at the same time is the EU Special Representative for BiH assists the authorities of the country to implement the five objectives and two conditions set out by the Peace Implementation Council (PIC). The PIC was established during the Dayton Accords. The Steering Board of the Council provides the HR with political guidance. However, it has proven to be difficult to reach a consensus on main issues between members of the PIC Steering board that consists 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 the Islamic Conference represented by Turkey. Therefore the position of the HR on certain issues is vague. The HR’s office must stay in place until the set goals have been achieved and ensure implementation of the 1995 Dayton Accords, which include “peaceful coexistence within one single state of different ethnic communities”. When these goals are achieved, the HR will be replaced by an EU Special Representative for BiH. The EU Delegation to Bosnia and Herzegovina, headed by Peter Sorensen, has increasingly taken up several tasks and is the second largest delegation of the world.

The SAA-agreement and road to EU-membership 

In October 2005, ten years after the signing of the Dayton peace agreement, BiH started the negotiations on a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA). The start on the SAA was made possible only after BiH agreed on reforms set as a condition by the European Commission (EC) in its Feasibility Study, published in 2003. The EC announced sixteen areas, which needed reform in order to start the negotiations on the SAA. The aim of the reforms was to strengthen the central government, thereby improving the efficiency of the state administration. The same year BiH became a potential candidate country for EU accession following the Thessaloniki European Council. In 2005, reform of the defence, the police and establishment of a state law on the public broadcasting system remained as the last three conditions to be fulfilled. Obstacles to initiate reforms came from BiH’s smaller entity, RS, which opposes a strong state government at the expense of the entity’s powers. 

RS and the Federation agreed on implementing reforms requested by the EU in October 2005, but police-reforms remained a key problem. Finally in April 2008 an agreement was reached on the nature of the police-reforms that united the Federation’s and RS’s police-units. This was essential for further negotiations on the signing of the SAA, which ultimately happened on 16 June 2008. An Interim Agreement on Trade and Trade-related issues, which was signed on the same day, entered into force on 1 July 2008. Earlier on 1 January 2008 the visa facilitation and readmission agreements had entered into force, after which a new European partnership with Bosnia and Herzegovina was adopted by the Council on 18 February 2008. The EU also continues to be present in Bosnia and Herzegovina within the framework of the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the European Security and Defence Policy.

As a consequence of the political deadlock after the 2010 elections no further required reforms were implemented and the country fell even further behind in the EU integration process. In its 2011 Progress report, the European Commission concluded that little progress has been made. The ethnic and political division and the lack of willingness among the political elite to move forward as the status quo benefits the ruling elite seem to be the main reasons for the slow implementation of the reforms. Pressure from within the society has proven to be crucial for achieving progress. Clear and achievable goals, such as visa liberalisation, are important tools for making concrete steps on the road to EU membership.  

In 2009, the European Court of Human Rights urged the country to change its constitution to allow ethnic minorities to be elected for top governing posts such as the presidency and the House of Peoples. These posts are currently reserved for Bosniacs, Serbs and Croats only. On 11 April 2013 the EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle gave Bosnia and Herzegovina a warning over the implementation of the Sejdic and Finci human rights ruling, during a meeting with the leaders of the seven main parties. Füle claimed that the country has not made significant improvements in implementing the ruling since three years. He clearly stated that the upcoming general elections in 2014 will not be recognized if the country does not implement these demands. The human rights ruling is a precondition for BiH to join the EU.


Bosnia and Herzegovina (state-level) 

The parliament consists of two houses. The house of the people’s has 15 delegates: five for each ethnic group. The Serb representatives are appointed by the parliament of the RS and Bosniaks and Croats are employed from the parliament of the F BiH. The House of Representatives has 42 members. Two third is elected from the F BiH and one third from the RS by regular elections for a four year mandate. Their role is to adopt the state budget, to elect the government on the proposal of the presidency, and to adopt laws.

The Presidency 

The presidency consists of three persons elected by direct election for a four-year mandate. The Serb member of the presidency is elected from the RS and the Croat and Bosniak members are elected from the F BiH. They rotate every eight months on ethnic principle.

Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (entity) 

Similar to the state-level, the entity F BiH has a two-housed parliament. The house of the people’s has 58 delegates elected from ten cantonal assemblies: 17 Bosniaks, 17 Croats, 17 Serbs and 7 other nationalities. Its role is to protect the ethnic interests of the represented ethnic groups. The House of Representatives has 98 members elected directly from election districts on open lists.

Republic Srpska (entity) 

RS has a two-chamber parliament as well, consisting of the council of people’s and the national assembly. The council of people’s has the same responsibilities as the house of people’s in F BiH but has a different structure. There are four ethnic clubs: 8 Serbs, 8 Bosniaks, 8 Croats and 4 other elected municipal councils, due to the fact that there are no cantons in RS. The national assembly has 83 members elected for a four-year term, around three quarters elected in multi-seat constituencies and one quarter through compensatory lists.

In addition there exists the district of Brcko which is a self-governing administrative unit, established as a neutral area under joint Serb, Croat and Bosniak authority.


Parliamentary elections

On Sunday 12 October 2014, citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina voted for the central parliament and the state level presidency, in which the latter consists of three presidents. The presidents represent the three ethnicities in the country: Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian. Next to that, the elections also included the entity level assemblies in both the Bosnian-Croat Federation and the Serbian Republika Srpska. For the latter, a new president was to be elected.

National Parliament of BiH (state-level parliament), 2014

The SDA and the SNSD were the main winners of the 2014 elections, with the SDA winning ten seats in the government, whereas SNSD won six. In the months following the elections, the central Council of Ministers has been formed, and is led by Prime Minister Denis Zvizdic of the SDA. A new Entity Cabinet is endorsed in the Republika Srpska (RS). This entity government will be comprised of four parties under Zeljka Cvijanovic of the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD).

The big loser during the October elections was the Social Democratic Party (SDP), which slid from 24.53% of the votes during the 2010 elections to 9.45% of the votes in 2014. The slid-back comes as most SDP voters were disappointed with the lack of reforms, the deteriorating economic situation and the slow progress in the fight against corruption. In addition, SDP faced internal struggles as high ranked party official Zeljko Komsic left the party and established a new party: the Democratic Front (DF). 

Official results BiH House of Representatives

Party Seats
Party of Democratic Action (SDA) 10
Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) 6
Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) 5
Democratic Front 5
Union for a Better Future of BiH (SBBBiH) 4
Social Democratic Party (SDP) 3
Croatian Coalition (HDZ) 1990   1
BiH Patriotic Party-Sefer Halilovic 1
Democratic People's Alliance 1
Party for BiH (SBiH) 0
Party of Democratic Activity 1
Socialist Party 0
Total: 42

Republika Srpska parliament and presidency (entity-level), 2014

The Serb Democratic Party (SDS) lost its status as leading party in Republika Srpska to the Union of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) in 2006. However, in the 2014 elections many Serbs turned back to the SDS (formerly led by war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic) which got 32.64% of the votes with 5 seats in parliament. SNSD still came out as the main party in Republika Srpska with 38.46% and 6 seats in parliament.

Official results Republika Srpska entity parliament

 Party  % of votes  Seats
 Union of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD)  32.28  29
 Serbian Democratic Party (SDS)  26.26  24
 Democratic People’s Union (DNZ BiH)  9.22  8
 Party for Democratic Progress (PDP)  7.38  7
 Domovina  5.22  5
 Party of Democratic Action (SDA)  5.13  5
 Socialist Party  5.09  5


Results RS Presidency

 Candidate  % of votes
 Milorad Dodik (SNSD)  45.40
 Ognjen Tadic (Coalition Together for Srpska)  44.28
 Ramiz Salkić (Domovina)   3.63

Federation of BiH parliament and presidency (entity-level), 2014

Bosniaks massively moved away from the multi-ethnic Social Democratic Party (SDP) which greatly won the previous elections. Instead, the Party of Democratic Action (SDA), a Bosnian party, became the main party in the Federation (27.87%), and on national level (18.74% with 10 seats in state level parliament).

The Croats largely re-elected their nationalist parties with the Croatian Democratic Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina (HDZ BiH) gaining 7.54% of the votes nationwide, giving them 4 seats in the parliament.

Formation of the state government and the government in the Federation entity have not been completed yet. In the Federation entity, the formation was delayed, as more time was needed to select the Serbian deputies for the entity assembly’s House of Peoples. The House of Peoples was not yet officially constituted. Therefore, a candidate for vice presidency of the entity could not be proposed, which delayed the appointment of a Premier-designate. Indirectly, the absence of Serb deputies therefore halted the formation of government at state level. The majority of Serbian seats in the Federation House of Peoples belong to the SNSD and the SDP. 

The ruling coalition in the Federation is comprised of the SDA, the HDZ and the DF. This coalition intends to also form the state-level government by joining forces with the Alliance for Changes and the opposition Serbian bloc from Republika Srpska. 

Official results F BiH

 Party  % of votes  Seats
 Party of Democratic Action (SDA)  27.79  29
 Union for a Better Future of BiH (SBBBiH)  14.71  16
 Democratic Front (DF)  12.90  14
 Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ)  11.93  12
 Social Democratic Party (SDP)  10.14  12
 Croatian Coalition (HDZ 1990 – HSP Croatian Party of Rights)  4.04  4
 Bosnian-Herzegovinian Patriotic Party (BHPP)  3.72  4
 Party of BiH (SBiH)   3.30  3

Presidential elections

Regarding the results of the elections, four developments can be extracted. First, 19 years after the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement, which unified the three aforementioned ethnicities, citizens are still voting among ethnic lines. Second, the 2014 street protests have not caused many changes in the division of power. Third, opposition leader Mladen Ivanić (Party of Democratic Progress) defeated Zeljka Cvijanovic (the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats) in the election for the tripartite Bosnian State presidency. This is noteworthy, as the re-elected President of the Republika Srpska shares the same party as Zeljka Cvijanovic: the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats. Fourth, Željko Komsić’s new party, Democratic Front, received more votes (12.90%) than his former party, the Social Democratic Party (10.14%). Željko Komsić changed parties in 2012 due to disagreements with the leadership of the Social Democratic Party.

Official results rotating presidency 

 Bosniak Member  Croation Member  Serbian Member

 Bakir Izetbegovic (SDA) 32.86%

 Dragan Ćović (HDZ) 52.20%  Mladen Ivanic (Coalition Together for Srpska) 48.69% 
 Fahrudin Radoncic (SBBBiH) 26.78 %  Martin Raguź (HDZ)38.6%  Źeljka Cvijanović 48.69%
 Emir Suljagić DF 15.12%  Źivko Budimir (HSP) 6,26%  Goran Zmijanjac 3.66%


With 32.86% of the votes, Bakir Izetbegović (Party of Democratic Actrion, SDA) has been re-elected for the Bosnian position in the rotating national presidency. Dragan Ćović (HDZ) took the Croatian seat with 52.20%, and Mladen Ivanic (Coalition Together for Srpska) was the strongest in the Serbian elections. The latter narrowly won from Źeljka Cvijanović , who held 48.69% of the votes. Bakir Izetbegović was the only member of the tripartite Presidency to be re-elected, he stated the following: “I expect the presidency to be a strong engine driving this country forward on the path of reform toward reaching our most important goal — to become a rightful member of the union of free and democratic European nations.”

Political parties

Social Democratic Parties

Logo of Alliance of Independent Social Democrats

Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD)

Party Leader: Milorad Dodik

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Logo of Social Democratic Party of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Social Democratic Party of Bosnia and Herzegovina (SDP B&H)

Party Leader: Zlatko Lagumdzija

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Social Democratic Union (SDU)

Party Leader: Nermin Pećanac

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Logo of Socialist Party of Republika Srpska

Socialist Party of Republika Srpska (SPRS)

Party Leader: Petar Djokic

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Other Parties

Logo of Party of Democratic Action

Party of Democratic Action (SDA)

Party Leader: Sulejman Tihic

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Logo of Croatian Democratic Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Croatian Democratic Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina (HDZ-BiH)

Party Leader: Dragan Covic

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Logo of Croatian Democratic Union 1990

Croatian Democratic Union 1990 (HDZ-1990)

Party Leader: Bozo Ljubic

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Logo of Serbian Democratic Party

Serbian Democratic Party (SDS)

Party Leader: Mladen Bosic

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Logo of Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina

Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina (SBiH)

Party Leader: Haris Silajdzic

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Logo of Party for Democratic Progress

Party for Democratic Progress (PDP)

Party Leader: laden Ivanic

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Logo of Alliance for a Better Future of BiH

Alliance for a Better Future of BiH (SBB-BiH)

Party Leader: Fahrudin Radončić

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Logo of Our party

Our party (NS)

Party Leader: Dennis Gratz

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Smaller Parties

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Image of Zlatko Lagumdzija

Zlatko Lagumdzija

Leader Social Democratic Party of Bosnia (SDP)

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Image of Milorad Dodik

Milorad Dodik

President Republika Srpska (RS) and Leader Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD)

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Image of Željko Komšić

Željko Komšić

President of BiH (Croat seat) and Social Democratic Party (SDP)

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Image of Nebojša Radmanović

Nebojša Radmanović

President of BiH (Serbian seat) and Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD)

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Image of Bakir Izetbegović

Bakir Izetbegović

President of BiH (Bosniak seat) and Party of Democratic Action (SDA)

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Image of Sulejman Tihic

Sulejman Tihic

Leader SDA (Party of Democratic Action)

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Image of Vjekoslav Bevenda

Vjekoslav Bevenda

Prime-minister Bosnia and Herzegovina Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ)

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