Revisiting Linkages between Citizens and Politicians in Contemporary Europe

An international workshop organized by the Institute of Sociology, Czech Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Political Science, Charles University, Prague, 27-29 January 2021

The workshop revisited the influential book Post-communist party systems: Competition, Representation, and Inter-party Cooperation, published by Herbert Kitschelt, Herbert, Zdenka Mansfeldová, Radosław Markowski, and Gábor Tóka in 1999. My task was to discuss the first workshop panel: “Contemporary Challenges to Party Systems”. Chaired by Zdenka Mansfeldová, the panel featured two of her co-authors as presenters (Radosław Markowski, Gábor Tóka). Additional papers were presented by Oľga Gyárfášová, Comenius University in Bratislava, and Peter Učeň, Michel Perottino, Charles University Prague, Dragomir Stoyanov, University of Sussex, and Plamen Ralchev, University of National and World Economy, Sofia. read more

Demokratie im postkommunistischen EU-Raum. Erfolge, Defizite, Risiken

(i.E.), Springer Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2021 (Mitherausgeber: Günther Verheugen und Karel Vodička)

Wie gefährdet ist die Demokratie in Osteuropa? Beflügelt von den Krisen der Europäischen Union, mobilisieren Populisten und Extremisten Unzufriedene. Mehrere Regierungen demontieren rechtsstaatliche Kontrollen und beschränken die Meinungsvielfalt. Korruptionsaffären und dubiose ökonomische Interessen scheinen die Politik zu beherrschen. Dieses Buch schaut genauer hin. Renommierte Länderexpert*innen analysieren Defizite, Erfolge und Risiken der demokratischen Entwicklung in den postkommunistischen EU-Mitgliedstaaten und in Ostdeutschland. Sie liefern ein systematisch vergleichendes und nuanciertes Gesamtbild – eine Generation nach den demokratischen Umbrüchen und im Blick auf Europas neue Gegensätze. read more

Rekindling Democracy’s Promise in Europe

An Op-Ed for “The European” and “Balkan Insight“, jointly written with A. Bekaj

A little more than 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the jubilation felt over the dawning of democracy in Central and Eastern Europe has dissipated. The region faces challenges that make the promise of democracy look like a mirage.

Anti-government protesters march in Belgrade, Serbia, in April 2019. Photo: EPA-EFE/Srdjan Suki

Over time, regimes in countries such as Poland, Hungary, Serbia and Bulgaria have taken steps to curtail civic space, undermine checks and balances and concentrate power in the hands of a few. read more

Potentials and Constraints of a Visegrád Cooperation

Published in “The New European Union and its Global Strategy: From Brexit to PESCO”, ed. by. V. Naumescu, Newcastle 2019, 258-275.

At the European Council of 28 June 2018, the Visegrád states successfully convinced the other European Union member states to refrain from a mandatory relocation of persons in need of international protection. The EU agreed to organize the relocation and resettlement of refugees and other recognized asylum seekers on a voluntary basis. This decision implied the abandoning of plans to reintroduce a mandatory relocation scheme similar to the temporary mechanism that had been adopted against the votes of the East-Central European EU member states in September 2015. read more

Czechoslovakia, Czech and Slovak Republic

State Formation and Administrative-Territorial Organization

Forthc. in Handbook of European Regions 1870-2010, ed. by J. M. Henneberg, Cham, Switzerland: Springer Nature

My contribution to a fascinating new handbook explores how administrative-territorial divisions in the Czech and Slovak Republics are rooted in historical processes of state formation.

Author: J. Pieper

Compared to most West European nation states, Czechoslovakia was established lately. It emerged from the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy after the First World War and existed until 1992, interrupted by the German annexation and the creation of an independent Slovak state between 1938 and 1945. The Czechoslovak state was composed of the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic, two territories with distinct historical identities. read more

The Quality of Democracy in Central and Eastern Europe

Contribution to “Democracy under Stress“, ed. by. P. Guasti and Z. Mansfeldová, Institute of Sociology, Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague 2018, 31-53.

 

The young democracies in East-Central and Southeast Europe have been particularly susceptible to the wave of populist, anti-establishment and extremist political forces that now challenge liberal democracy across the globe. These challengers claim to represent the opinion of the ordinary people against a political establishment that is portrayed as corrupt, elitist and controlled by foreign interests. Their polarizing and anti-pluralist ideological stances have contributed to a more confrontational political competition. Several countries have also seen “democratic backsliding”,  an erosion of the institutions and mechanisms that constrain and scrutinize the exercise of executive authority. Illiberal policies have targeted opposition parties, parliaments, independent public watchdog institutions, judiciaries, local and regional self-government, mass media, civil society organizations, private business and minority communities. Incumbent elites have justified these policies as measures to strengthen popular democracy and to fulfill the promises of the post-1989 democratic transitions.

The legitimatory references to popular democracy, the incremental nature of institutional change and the embeddedness of governmental actors suggest an analytic approach that places instances of democratic backsliding into a broader theoretical context. Such a framework should specify criteria of democratic quality that allow to assess legitimatory claims and to analyze how the incremental manipulation of interlocking democratic institutions affects democracy as a whole.

This chapter sets out such a conceptual framework based on democratic theory and the scholarly debate about the quality of democracy. The insights from this debate are applied to identify attributes of democratic quality that are then employed to structure the empirical analysis. Key attributes include public accountability, government responsiveness, and policy performance. The chapter maps selected developments in 17 CEE countries with regard to these three attributes.

Following a qualitative and inductive approach, the paper tries to integrate individual causal process observations into larger trends that characterized the situation in the region in 2017. The empirical analysis draws mainly on country reports that have been prepared in early 2017 for a global expert survey, the so-called Transformation Index, a comparison and ranking of democratic and economic developments in 128 countries. Three main empirical findings are presented in this chapter.

Firstly, governing political elites in some countries intentionally weaken the mechanisms and institutions of public accountability.

Secondly, political competition has become more confrontational, resulting in more exclusionary government.

Thirdly, most CEE countries have failed to achieve an economic performance meeting the expectations of citizens who have associated EU accession with rapid convergence to West European levels and tangible prosperity gains. .

These developments have evolved in parallel and are causally linked, but none is fully endogenous. The concluding section suggests an interpretation to account for the reasons that have motivated populist governing parties to weaken public accountability, but the chapter does not aspire to fully disentangle the causal interdependencies linking the three trends. Rather, its aim is more modest, that is, it focuses on providing empirical evidence for the trends and seeks to demonstrate that the proposed conceptualization of democratic quality yields analytic benefits.

The chapter is based on a paper I presented at the Conference “Measuring Democracy: What are We Measuring and How Does CEE Fit in? , Prague 21-22 September 2017

Can Responsiveness Substitute Accountability?

Lessons from the Central and East European Laboratory of Populist Democracy. A paper presented at the conference ” Totalitarian Reverberations in East-Central Europe”, Faculty of European Studies, Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, 26 October 2018.

Responsiveness characterizes a democratic process that „ induces the government to form and implement policies that the citizens want” (G. B. Powell). Populist parties advocate public policies that reflect the preferences of ordinary citizens, and their electoral success indicates that people believe their claims. Governing populist parties in Hungary, Poland and other Central and East European countries have systematically eroded institutions of democratic accountability, justifying these policies as measures to strengthen popular democracy and to fulfill the promises of the post-1989 democratic transitions. Although this erosion has been criticized as democratic backsliding and illiberal drift by scholars and international institutions, significant shares of voters continue to view it as steps towards a more responsive democracy. read more

Herausforderungen der Europäischen Union

Internationales Doktorandenkolloquium der Andrássy Universität Budapest, Babeș-Bolyai Universität Cluj-Napoca und der Universität Passau, 13.-15.9.2018, Budapest

Andrássy Universität Budapest

Die Rechtsstaatsprobleme in Ungarn und Polen sowie die Interventionsmöglichkeiten der EU waren ein zentrales Thema des internationalen Doktorandenkolloquiums am 13.-15.9.2018 in Budapest. Diese von den Europastudiengängen der Babeș-Bolyai, der Budapester Andrássy und Passauer Universität gemeinsam veranstaltete Tagung diente dazu, geplante, laufende und vor kurzem abgeschlossene Dissertationsprojekte vorzustellen und zu diskutieren. read more

Patterns of Democratic Backsliding

A paper for the ECPR General Conference, Hamburg, 25 August 2018, Panel 408: Same ingredients, different recipes: EU leverage and democratic backsliding in new member states and candidate countries

The subsequent economic and refugee crises have weakened the credibility of mainstream political parties in East-Central and Southeast Europe (ECSE) since prosperity and security no longer appear to be guaranteed consequences of European integration. The declining legitimacy of incumbents has provided opportunities for populist and anti-establishment mobilization. While these crisis-induced influences have been similar in all ECSE countries, the extent to which populist challengers have been able to win elections and form governments has varied significantly across countries. To explore these differences and assess the likelihood of populist electoral victories and subsequent illiberal policies in ECSE, the paper combines case studies of Hungary, Macedonia and Poland with a multivariate analysis of party systems, issue dimensions and cleavage configurations. It is argued that populist parties have attained political majorities through bipolar party competition, facilitated by congruent cleavages, particularly the congruence between sociocultural and EU-related cleavages. Based upon a comparison of the country cases, the paper discusses conditions that could constrain the illiberal erosion of democracy in ECSE.

Illiberal Drift and Proliferation

A comparative study on the state of democracy and market economy in East-Central and Southeast Europe

In recent years, the illiberal tendencies characteristic of several East-Central and Southeast European countries have taken their toll on nearly all segments of society, from opposition parties to parliaments and judiciaries, to oversight institutions, local and regional self-governing administrative organs, the media, NGOs, the private sector and minority groups as well. This process can best be described as “illiberal drift,” because key democratic institutions – free and competitive elections, political participation rights and individual liberties, separation of powers and rule of law – are not abolished or fundamentally questioned. Rather these institutions are, over time, re-interpreted and subject to changes that pull them increasingly further away from the understanding that led the democratization processes of the 1990s and the enlargement of the EU in the 2000s. In recent years, the dismantling and erosion processes in Hungary and Poland have raised particular international attention. However, illiberal thinking and acting have meanwhile proliferated to numerous states of East-Central and Southeast Europe.

My regional report is part of the Transformation Index project, a global comparison and expert survey on democracy, market economy and governance in developing and postsocialist countries.

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