The Qualities of Democracies in Post-Conflict Societies – Exploratory Research on the Western Balkans

Project status: 

The proposed project aims at inquiring into the qualities of democracies in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Macedonia. During the breakup of Yugoslavia all three countries experienced inter-ethnic violent conflict. Since then the countries have come a long way in their post-conflict reconstruction efforts, assisted by the international community, and the risk of further violence is generally considered to have decreased. While democratic survival seems secured, the improvement of democracy is confronted with considerable challenges, though. The societies in all three countries remain severely divided along ethnic lines, nurturing clientelistic politics and party mobilization on an ethnic basis. Intriguingly, divisions are further strengthened by unintended consequences of those institutions that we designed to prevent conflict. Instead of only accommodating ethnic plurality, several political institutions further entrench the salience of ethnicity and facilitate antagonistic politics.

The wider project – of which the current Type II project is a pilot study - intends to address the complex dimensions of imperfections of democracies resulting from the adverse effects of post-conflict institutional design. As a first step in this endeavor, the proposed pilot project will highlight and explore the gap in the study of the qualities of democracies (QoD) in post-conflict Balkans, with a particular emphasis on the salience of ethnicity as the driving force of political mobilization.

The scholarship in the wider field of post-conflict institutional design has pondered on the dilemma between the conflict-deterring effects of institutions in the short-term and the negative effects on QoD in the long-term. Previous work has predominantly concentrated on the short-term consequences of institutions while the long-term adverse effects have been largely neglected. As of now, no systematic cross-country comparative study exists on the long-term effects of institutions on QoD in the Western Balkans.

The contribution of our proposed research is to fill the gap in the study of QoD in Bosnia, Macedonia and Kosovo by moving beyond the post-conflict focus. Such a comparative study has every potential to be beneficial for the strategic strengthening of CEU’s research capacities. It is closely linked with its established record on post-communist transition and democratic development and contributes to its growing expertise on conflict dynamics and prevention in the former Yugoslavia and beyond. 

Carsten Q. Schneider
Roland Schmidt
Artak Galyan
Olimpija Hristova
Administrative Information
Funding body: 
Jan, 2013