Eight inconvenient truths on Bosnia and EU policy in the Western Balkans

Predictably, Bosnia’s October general elections have so far failed to deliver the change hoped for in the wake of the protests and participatory democracy movements of earlier this year – dubbed, perhaps prematurely, the Bosnian Spring.

It is hard to set in motion a fundamental democratic transformation of the sort that Bosnia needs without a real democratic constituency and political culture. This was the inevitable impression produced in February, to the despair of grass-root activists, when they compared the throngs of people (many of them unemployed) crowding Sarajevo’s cafés and terraces from Baščaršija to Marshala Tita with the few hundreds who mobilised for “revolucija” near Ali Pasha’s mosque. As some analysts have aptly said, the disappointing results of the elections make rational sense in a rotten system defined by – with or without Dayton – contactocracy (stela) and patronage networks.