Two years ago I wrote a piece examining the then concurrent social and protest mobilizations in BiH, Ukraine, and Taiwan. Yesterday, developments in Taiwan have given me cause to return to this topic, in particular in relation to the situation in BiH.
One of the major critiques of the plenum movement in BiH was/remains that it failed to coalesce into a political party that could enact "meaningful" political and social change. That argument was and remains bankrupt: it completely ignores the long-term process of political "education" that needs to occur in a society in order for social movements and establishment political actors to exist on a like plateau of social action. More importantly, the argument ignores the way in which the BiH constitutional system is designed to actually prevent participation. The whole point of the Dayton order is reserve political power for ethnic oligarchs. That was the price of peace when the international community brokered its deal with the region's warlords, and it is the price the citizens of BiH continue to pay. Finally, this analysis ignores that the plenums were an accomplishment in and of themselves; the most significant "political moment" (see Sheldon Wolin) in post-war BiH, out of which concrete demands and even legislative changes came.
That having been said, Taiwan is nevertheless a model for BiH. Yesterday, amid the hoopla of the DPP storming to power and the complete collapse of the KMT, a small "third force" party emerged, winning an impressive five seats in the Legislative Yuan. The success of this "New Power Party" (NPP)--which grew directly out of the student occupations of 2014 a.k.a. the Sunflower Movement--suggests that the vitality of post-authoritarian (and post-conflict) democracy depends vitally on "anti-system" movements. These can, and in the final analysis should, manifest themselves both inside and outside of the official structures.
Success, however, depends on effective mobilization. There are specific political and historical reasons why the students in Taiwan have been so successful--not only today but going back to the collapse of the old regime, in the first place. Conditions in BiH are doubtlessly different. The essential lesson is the same though: change only happens through participation. And politics happens everywhere, the square as much as the parliament. Finally the perceived contradictions between "inside" and "outside" political actors which too often dominate theoretical and abstract debates are in practice relatively insignificant. Or, at the very least, that in the act of doing, we discover that democratic movements can be multifaceted. Indeed, in this frenetic and creative energy is their strength, not their undoing.