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Democracy in deeply divided societies

Consociational power-sharing democracy in Bosnia and Herzegovina
PhD ceremony:S. (Sanne) Hupkes, MA
When:March 04, 2021
Supervisors:prof. dr. F.A. (Frank) Hindriks, prof. dr. C. (Christoph) Jedan
Co-supervisor:dr. E.K. (Erin) Wilson
Where:Academy building RUG
Democracy in deeply divided societies

Consociational democratic systems balance power between groups with the aim of avoiding or stopping (violent) conflict. Consociational democracy encourages, facilitates or necessitates the formation of a coalition between representatives of different societal groups. Consociational democracy is regarded as a highly influential and much debated area of research in political science, as well as the dominant model of democracy for divided societies. Consociational institutions are often implemented as part of peace agreements to create a stable democracy in a divided post-conflict society. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, consociational democratic arrangements formed part of the peace agreement that brought an end to the war in 1995.

Yet, consociational democracy is scrutinized for not upholding liberal values and impeding the development of a country. The focus on the political representation of groups may come at the cost of individual rights and liberties. Furthermore, fixating on groups may only lead to further segmentation of societies, exacerbating the divisions that were already impeding social cooperation. The focus on elite-level politics may be at odds with democratic participation and deliberation.

This study investigates whether and how a consociational theory for democracy can be compatible with liberal values of individual freedom and equality. It involves a theoretical exploration of the role that liberal values play in consociational theory. Furthermore, theoretical concerns about consociational democracy may have a significant impact in practice. A case study of consociational democracy in Bosnia and Herzegovina forms an important part of this study.