Federations are complex political systems that vary widely in their ongms, constitutional design, and operative political processes. They are even more complex when they combine regional autonomy for a geographically concentrated ethnic group with consociational power sharing in the central government. It is not surprising that the history of federations contains many examples of failure. Yet federation plus consociationalism remains the option most widely prescribed by international interveners as the most suitable form of government for deeply divided or post-conflict societies. The classic literature on federalism and consociationalism contains important formulations of the conditions that are conducive to success or failure that modern works tend to ignore. This paper revives these classic formulations and applies them to cases where federalism has either been imposed or is being actively promoted by the international community. The question addressed is whether the conditions that earlier writers regarded as essential for success are present.
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