Political Transition and Transformation in Central Europe

Geoffrey Pridham: External Causes of Democratisation in Post-Communist Europe.
Problems of Theory and Application
Attila Ágh: Ten Years of Political and Social Reforms in Central Europe
The paper “Ten Years of Political and Social Reform in Central Europe” deals with the new, historical turning point in both political and social reforms in Central Europe. As far as the political reforms are concerned, the new stage of early consolidation demands a new approach to politics, since there has been a performance crisis: the new democratic institutions have been established but their performance is still low. It necessitates a political modernization or a new policy-centered approach. On the other side, one has to realize that the successful economic crisis management in Central Europe has meant a transformation of the economic deficit into social deficit through the drastic reduction of public sector. Therefore nowadays the social reforms are high on the agenda in order to remove the social deficit, or to create the social construction of democracy by establishing a new public sector for an efficient delivery of public services.

Krzysztof Zagórski: Support for Government, Evaluation of Current Situation and Legitimacy of Democratic Transformation in Poland (1989-2000)
The paper addresses the problem seriously discussed during last few years, whether satisfaction or dissatisfaction with current functioning of democratic political system influences acceptance or rejection of democracy as an idea. This problem is seen as specially important in post communist countries. The doubts are being expressed that negative side effects of political and economic transformation to democratic free-market system instigate negative social sentiments and evaluations of the situation, which – in turn – may reduce the legitimacy of democracy in general. The paper proves that such doubts are grossly exaggerated in Poland, where the assumed interrelations do not appear at the aggregate level at all and are very week at the individual level of data analysis. Detailed analyses of changes in political attitudes and situation evaluations during the transformation decade provide a background for this general conclusion and contribute to better understanding of public opinion in this period.

Nick Sitter: Beyond Class vs. Nation? Cleavage Structures and Party Competition in Central-Europe
The development of competitive party systems in Central Europe since the collapse of communism has attracted the attention of scholars of comparative transitions, regional politics and history, and comparative politics alike. The current paper is based on the latter perspective, a comparative politics analysis of the development of competitive politics in Hungary, the Czech and Slovak Republics and Poland drawing on theories developed for the analysis of West European politics. Lipset & Rokkan’s work on party system development is taken as the starting point, and the assumptions built in to their model are considered. As their model was based on democratisation under conditions of gradual lowering of thresholds of representation, considerable extra-parliamentary organised interests that linked voters and parties, and driven by mass-party organisation in clearly delineated polities, applying the model beyond their core area (e.g. in Ireland) has been problematic. The model is therefore modified, with a view to accommodating a different set of cleavages and conditions. The coincidence of social and national mobilisation means that regime change based on competing notions of nationalism represents a cleavage, albeit a ‘non-structural’ cleavage. Institutional arrangements shape the governments’ potential for excluding the opposition. The absence of strong extra-party organisations in the form of unions or churches makes for weaker links between parties and the electorate. Finally, leadership-dominated parties may weaken the link between cleavages and party competition further. Sartori’s point about parties translating cleavages into party systems therefore becomes even more pertinent to Central Europe than Lipset & Rokkan’s core states. The key variable is therefore party strategy, an in the 1990s the parties were particularly free to chose different strategies. While ‘social’ or structural cleavages like class or religion may have declined in salience, non-structural cleavages based on nationalism or regime change provide a potential basis for populist party strategies. The dynamic developments of party strategy therefore explain differences among the four states. Returning to West European politics, this focus on strategy hints at an explanation of electoral and party system change in Austria.

Janez Štebe: Support for the European Union from a Comparative Perspective: Stability and Change in the Period of Transition
This contribution deals with changes in the general support for the EU from 1990 to 1997 among the five countries negotiating accession. An analysis of data from Central and Eastern Euro-Barometer studies (CEEB) aims to show how social configurations comprised of age, education and gender respond to the growing awareness of the real consequences of European integration over time. Since 1990 the share of support for the European Community i.e. its successor has been steadily declining. An abstract support of the general values of democracy is being replaced with a more concrete consideration of the sufferings connected with the adaptation to the demands imposed by the EU. Findings indicate persistently more negative attitudes towards Europe in the female part of the population. People with college education are the strongest advocates of connections with Europe.

Ivan Šiber and Mirjana Kasapoviæ: Electoral Policy and the Determinants of Electoral Behaviour in Croatia (1990-2000)
In the first part of this article we give the overview of the development of the electoral policy and the structure of the cleavages and their effect on the structuring of the party system in Croatia in the past decade. In the second part we analyse demographic, value and traditional determinants of voters’ choice. The main conclusions are that parties have constituencies with relatively profiled values and ideologies, but as yet they do not have social strongholds. The voters’ values and ideologies are under a strong influence of the political biographies of their families in World War Two.

Ervin Csizmadia: Parties and Political Networks in Hungary Studying political networks that group around parties has growing importance in European and Hungarian party politics. The author is mainly concerned with the Hungarian situation, but in his analyses he makes use of two important theses of the international literature: Nan Liu’s ‘Theory of Successful Action’ and Mark Granovetter’s theory about ‘The strength of weak ties’. The author employs the facilities lying in these two starting points in his analysis of Hungarian parties, and classifies them on the basis of their network capacity. The main statement of the study is that the competitiveness of a party is strongly dependent on the number and strength of its networks, which can be used as the source of political power.

István Hülvely: Party Movements in the Hungarian Democracy
What kind of relations are/were there between ideologies of elite and the behaviour of the voters in the Hungarian society of transformation? What an importance do/did these relations have in developing of the Hungarian democracy, concerning first of all the main trends and the direction of changes in party system and the voting behaviour of the electorate? It is analysed the divergent attitudes of elite and voters towards understanding of different cleavages and their importance through some empirical data of the Hungarian literature on elections’ results. It is emphasised the influence and control of the voters of electorate (and „civil society”) as very important actors/factors in forming democratic order, pushing the parties towards the direction of the centre of political spectrum and, last but not least, shaping the real characteristic of Hungarian democracy.

Ioana Albu and Cristina Matiuta: Romania’s Democratic Experience.
Between Project and Reality
In Romania the institutionalisation process is very slow, in spite of the fact that the citizens participate in the election of their representatives and there have been formed – after 1989 – structures, associations of the civil society. The lower the institutionalisation degree, the higher the lack of balance between participation and democracy and the higher the corruption. A society is democratical if within it, free and just elections take place, but in the absence of a high institutionalisation, the formula of free and just elections remains irrelevant, after all. Minorities enjoy special rights of representation in Parliament benefiting from an official seat in the legislative. In the previous government, the Democratic Union of Hungarians has held 36 seats in Parliament and has participated in the governing process having two ministers in the Cabinet. Also according to the new law of the local public administration, in the places in which the minorities hold at least 20 % of the population they can obtain the official documents in their own mother tongue. Some steps have been taken towards establishing an institutional framework to improve the conditions of the Roma, but in practice little has been made. However, the Roma population continued to be subject to societal discrimination, being necessary the working out of a national strategy and an adequate financial support to improve their situation and their access to education.