Rationale of the project

This tension within power-sharing has been ever present in both scholarly debate and real world application. The democratic shortcomings of consociational power-sharing have been the source of vehement debate since the model was first conceptualised by Arend Lijphart in 1969 (1969).  More recently, the EAI problem has formed a core impetus for theoretical refinements to consociational theory, including the distinction between corporate and liberal power-sharing (McCulloch, 2014; McGarry & O’Leary 2006; 2009, 2007; Nagle, 2011; Wolff, 2010).

In practice, the EAI dilemma has been brought into sharp focus by a number of constitutional crises and controversies in power-sharing states. In 2009 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Bosnia and Herzegovina's state presidency election rules, by allowing only Bosniaks, Bosnian Croats and Bosnian Serbs to stand for election, discriminate against other minority groups. The so-called ‘Sejdic-Finci ruling’ marked a challenge to Bosnia’s power-sharing constitutional framework which is designed to accommodate the state’s three constituent peoples but not citizens who prefer not to identify in terms of the three ethnic groups or who identify with other ethnic groups.

The rules of Northern Ireland’s power-sharing institutions have also faced the charge of marginalising the rights of non-dominant groups, including women and the LGBTQ community. The petition of concern mechanism in the Northern Ireland Assembly - an effective veto designed to protect the interests of the dominant groups, nationalists and unionists – was used on a number of occasions, most recently in 2015, to block legislative proposals to legalise Same Sex Marriage. 

While the EAI dilemma continues to plague power-sharing in theory and practice, we believe that solutions can be found. As a model of post-conflict democracy, power-sharing has proven highly effective in securing peace and stability in places riven by conflict. The system has much to offer and must be engaged with by scholars of democracy in divided societies.

We contend, however, that power-sharing can be refined and improved in ways that address the EAI problem.