One can distinguish three phases in the difficult emergence of Bosnia-Hercegovina as a polity. The first phase started with the election of September 1990, when three main parties emerged, representing respectively the Bosniaks, the Serbs and the Croats. The Bosniak party, the Party for Democratic Action (PDA), was the largest and obtained 86 of the 240 seats of the Assembly; the Serb Democratic Party (SDP) was second with 72 seats; the Croat Democratic Union of Bosnia and Hercegovina (CDU-BH) was third with 44 seats. These three parties took also all the seats in what was still the ‘collective presidency’ of the country on the communist Yugoslav model. An agreement was struck among these three parties on the basis of which the Bosniak Alija Izetbegović became president, the Croat Jure Pelivan prime minister and the Serb Momilo Krajisnik the speaker of the Assembly. However, less than one year later, in October 1991, the agreement was effectively ended, with the Serb speaker of the Assembly declaring the session closed. The Serb representatives withdrew from the chamber and set up an ‘Assembly of the Serb Nation’. Despite some negotiations which had little impact on events, a referendum took place in November 1991 in the Serbian parts of the country and this supported overwhelmingly the existence of a Serb state. Another referendum took place in February 1992 in the whole of Bosnia-Hercegovina but was boycotted by the Serbs and resulted in almost unanimous support for independence which was declared a month later in March 1992. The country was by then entirely split and war was about to start.
The second phase of post-communist Bosnia-Hercegovina was characterised by alternating periods of war and ceasefire, one of the worst episodes being the bombing of the Sarajevo market in February 1994, when 68 civilians were killed in the attack. President Izetbegovic and his government were exercising very little control and the country seemed to be moving towards a three-way partition or to a complete takeover by Serbs and Croats.