Several proposals contributed to the current system of government, which was outlined through the Dayton Accords of 1995. The February 1992 Lisbon proposal first suggested the partitioning of Bosnia and Herzegovina into "ethnic cantons," but was rejected by the Muslim side. The Vance-Owen proposal of early January 1993 dividing Bosnia and Herzegovina, still a unified state, into nine "ethnic majority" provinces with Sarajevo as a central weak government district was accepted by Croats and Muslims on 7 January 1993 and ratified on 20 January 1993 by the Bosnian Serbs' Parliament with a 55-to-15 vote in spite of deep misgivings. However, two key events delayed the necessary detailed implementation discussions: Croat forces' attacks on Muslims in Bosnia and Herzegovina and on Serbs in Croatia, and the new administration of US president Bill Clinton, from whom the Bosnian Muslims hoped to obtain stronger support, even military intervention. Thus by mid-March 1993, only the Croats had agreed to the three essential points of the Vance-Owen proposal, namely the Constitutional Principles (ten provinces), the Military Arrangements, and the detailed map of the ten provinces. On 25 March 1993 the Bosnian Muslims agreed to all the terms, but the Bosnian Serb legislature on 2 April 1993 rejected the revised ten-province map and the Vance-Owen plan was scuttled.
The Owen-Stoltenberg plan was based on a June 1993 proposal in Geneva by Presidents Tudjman and Milošević about partitioning Bosnia and Herzegovina into three ethnic-based "states." Owen-Stoltenberg announced the new plan in August 1993 indicating that the three ethnic states were realistically based on the acceptance of Serbian and Croatian territorial "conquests." At the same time the Croat Bosnian "Parliament" announced the establishment of the "State of Herzeg-Bosnia" and the Croatian Democratic Alliance withdrew its members from the Bosnian Parliament. The Bosnian Parliament then rejected the Owen-Stoltenberg Plan while seeking further negotiations on the Muslim state's territory and clarifications on the international status of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The next plan, developed with the more proactive participation of the United States and bringing together again the Croats and Muslims into a federation of their own, was signed in Washington on 18 March 1994 following the Sarajevo cease fire of 17 March. On 31 March 1994 the Bosnian assembly in Sarajevo approved the new constitutional provisions establishing a Federation of Muslims and Croats with the Presidency to alternate between Croats and Muslims. The Geneva contact group (US, UK, France, Germany, Russia) agreed on a new partition plan in July 1994 that divided Bosnia and Herzegovina: 51% to the joint Muslim-Croat federation and 49% to the Serbs.
Under the Dayton Accords, a constitution for Bosnia and Herzegovina was established that recognized a single state with two constituent entities. The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBH) incorporated the 51% of the country with a Bosnian Muslim and Bosnian Croat majority, while the Republika Srpska (RS) occupied the 49% of the country with a Bosnian Serb majority. The constitution specified a central government with a bicameral legislature, a three-member presidency comprised of a member of each major ethnic group, a council of ministers, a constitutional court, and a central bank. The bicameral Parliamentary Assembly consists of a House of Peoples, with 15 delegates, and the House of Representatives, with 42 members. In each house, two-thirds of the representatives are from the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and one-third from the Republika Srpska.
Elections for central and federation-level canton offices were conducted on 14 September 1996 as specified by the Dayton Accords. Alija Izetbegović, Momcilo Krajisnik, and Kresimir Zubak were elected to the presidency representing respectively the Bosniaks (Muslims), Serbs, and Croats. Izetbegović was named Chair in accordance with the new constitution. Krajisnik, later accused of joining Karadzic in siphoning off million of dollars in potential tax revenue through gasoline and cigarette monopolies, boycotted the council after one meeting, paralyzing the government.
Izetbegović was reelected to the Muslim seat of the joint presidency in the September 1998 elections; Ante Jelavic won the Croat seat; and Zivko Radisic, the Serb seat. An eight-month chairpersonship rotates among the three joint presidents. Elections were held in 2002. Sulejman Tihić won the Muslim seat; Dragan Cović, the Croat seat; and Mirko Sarović, the Serb seat.
The FBH government has a president and a bicameral parliament (House of Representatives and House of Peoples). The RS government has a president and a unicameral legislature (National Assembly).