Over the last few months, and especially over the last few days when the whole negotiating process was concluded, we could have witnessed ourselves how difficult that is indeed.
Yet again we could see that a change of constitution in a multi-ethnic state does not only modify the legal and political status of citizens, does not define new rights and grant new liberties, as is the case in the democratic development of states with one dominant nation, but also modifies the status of whole nations.
A constitution in a country with two, three or more equal nations differs from a constitution of a nation-state, a country in which most citizens belong to one majority nation. The main difference is that in the former case the constitution is the basic social contract of whole peoples, nations to which the country equally belongs, while in the latter case a constitution is a contract between citizens-individuals.
In a consociational constitutional agreement we always recognize a sort of a contract between nations. And such contracts are usually difficult to forge. They are a product of negotiations, often long and difficult negotiations in which the power of negotiating sides, their military, economic, and political might plays the decisive role.
For some, this long overdue and uncertain initiation of the process of constitutional reform awoke the hope that the first constitution of independent Bosnia-Hercegovina would finally be so much transformed that it would stop being an inter-ethnic peace (therefore also military and inter-state) treaty forged in a military conflict.
But, obviously, they expected too much if they believed that this country would get a constitution that will have no connection whatsoever with an inter-ethnic contract. The open disappointment and rage among advocates of the "civic constitution" was provoked by the realization that in peacetime, without the pressure of wartime circumstances, again a similar contract had been agreed.
They reject assurances that this time, if we ignore mediation of the US ambassador, the constitution is not an inter-state (therefore imposed) military agreement, but the first domestic, truly political deal regarding the organization of the foundations of the joint state.
Embittered opponents gathered around the leadership of three "pro-Bosnian" political parties, the Party for Bosnia-Hercegovina (SBiH), Social-democratic Union (SDU) and BOSS, believe that the first reform of the constitution should not have achieved only as much as, or a bit more than, if we take into account external pressure, could have been achieved based on the local balance of power of political forces and their desire to make concessions.
Interestingly, they do not seem disappointed by the lack of good will of certain political parties, above all those from the Republic of Srpska.
They knew from the start that that side, especially after the initial agreement of political parties from Srpska regarding their joint patriotic negotiating platform, would offer no concessions that would imply the abolishment of the entities and reorganization of the country.
However, that means that from the start the "pro-Bosnian" block rejected negotiations, rejected the possibility that local politicians can produce an agreement. Instead they were obviously counting on pressure of powerful players from abroad. Their disappointment is above directed at the USA and the EU, as well as at those political parties that were supposed to be "pro-Bosnian", the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) and the Social-democratic Party (SDP).
Their own assumptions imply that in their mind a civic constitution can only be another, perhaps disguised, inter-state agreement. It seems that from the start they did not believe in negotiations, or believed only in those negotiations that would imply strong foreign pressure on the other negotiating side, the side that most often resists creation of a "constitution suitable for a normal country". Accordingly, these opponents of the modification of the Dayton Agreement became fierce proponents of the very same method that was used to reach the Dayton Agreement.
According to their expectations, the current constitution, which according to them is simply a military ceasefire agreement between several states, full of concessions made according to the balance of power of military forces in the field at the time, should have been replaced by another international agreement. However, this time the agreement would not recognize wartime gains, which in their opinion are nothing but territorial gains leading to the division of the country.
For them the only true change of the constitution is the total rejection of the imposed constitution. In other words, for them the legalized "state of peace" remains unacceptable until today (described as "neither war not peace"). The hard-line mistrust of the willingness of the other side to negotiate in good faith implied that the new constitution had to be imposed from the outside.
A new imposed constitution was supposed to replace the old imposed constitution! The only difference would have been that the first constitution was imposed on those who are against the division of the country, while the second one would have been imposed on those who advocated the division. For rebellious "pro-Bosnian" forces, although imposed, the constitution without entities would enjoy civic legitimacy since it would enjoy the support of true citizens (those who oppose ethnic divisions).
The new, now rejected constitution, although produced by an agreement, rather than being imposed, is not legitimate as far as they are concerned, since it supposedly does not enjoy the support of "true citizens". Consequently, their rage is not so much provoked by the lack of understanding and failure of the external "constitutional factor", the American diplomacy, as by the agreement of the local pro-Bosnian forces (SDA and SDP) to participate in negotiations, which, in their opinion, could achieve only the transformation of the first imposed constitution into an agreed constitution, which allegedly was an attempt to provide something outrageous - civic legitimacy! - to legal internal divisions. It is not surprising that they described the constitutional reform as a ratification of an (for them totally unacceptable) international treaty.
The alleged support of citizens for the new military agreement, which would impose a new constitution on Serb nationalists, has important implications. If there are no negotiations with nationalists, and all chief political parties representing one nation are such, then we are dealing with a civil war (even though the "pro-Bosnian" camp refuses to admit that much).
In that case it is true that only the chief world power can impose the acceptable norm by getting involved in a local armed conflict. The true civic engagement in that case implies (in addition to stationed NATO troops) also a (quasi)military mobilization. That mobilization is both convincingly illustrated by the new political front, its discourse ("traitors", "capitulation", "blockade" etc.), as well as the support it received from the civilian sector (Association of War Veterans, Association of Female Victims of the War etc.).
Furthermore, there is no doubt that such violent introduction of democracy openly counts on "the dictatorship of the majority", since it rejects every inter-ethnic, federal division of power as a concession to "force and injustice".
The hypocritical talk about "ethnic groups" or even ideas about the rejection of order based on "constituent nations" clearly show that much. Indeed, one cannot but wonder if today such assumptions are compatible with the civic orientation (implying peace, rule of law, equality of citizens, equality of nations, civil discourse in politics, etc.)?