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(p. 322) 21. Post-Communist Central and Eastern Europe 

(p. 322) 21. Post-Communist Central and Eastern Europe
Chapter:
(p. 322) 21. Post-Communist Central and Eastern Europe
Author(s):

Christian W. Haerpfer

and Kseniya Kizilova

DOI:
10.1093/hepl/9780198732280.003.0021
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Overview

This chapter describes and explains the democratic transformations which occurred between 1989 and 2018 in post-communist Central and Eastern Europe. It first analyses the decline of communism and the failed attempts to reform one-party communist systems in the period between 1970 and 1988 as stage one of the democratization process in the so-called ‘Socialist Second World’. The next section deals with the final decay of communist regimes in 1989-91 as the second stage of democratization. The part which follows is devoted to stage three of the democratization process and focuses on the emergence of new democracies. The dynamics of post-communist democratization in Central and Eastern Europe can be differentiated into three separate paths of development: the core path towards consolidated and liberal democracies, a second path to electoral democracies, and a third path to emerging democracies. The conclusions present the main drivers of successful democratization in post-communist Europe.

(p. 323) Introduction

From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe, Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest, and Sofia; all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, all are subject, in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but also to a very high and in some cases increasing measure of control from Moscow.

Winston S. Churchill

This famous speech by Winston S. Churchill, on the occasion of accepting an honorary degree at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri on March 5, 1946, is regarded as the commencement date of the Cold War between a democratic Western world and the communist Eastern bloc. Between 1946 and 1989, the so-called Iron Curtain forced many Central and Eastern European countries to accede to the communist bloc under the leadership of the Soviet Union and the full control of the USSR’s capital city Moscow as the centre of communist power.

The Iron Curtain was finally lifted on June 27, 1989 in Central Europe at the border between Austria and Hungary. The Hungarian foreign minister Gyula Horn and his Austrian counterpart Alois Mock took down the barbed-wire fence in a joint symbolic political action with far-reaching historical consequences. This first crack in the long border of concrete walls and barbed-wired fences between the free ‘Western World’ and the communist ‘Eastern Camp’ in mid-summer 1989 marked the beginning of the final collapse of communism, which occurred simultaneously in many socialist states in Central and Eastern Europe in November and December 1989. The abolition of the Iron Curtain coincides with the termination of the Cold War, signifying the end of this crucial and dramatic period of European and world history. In November 1989, those communist political regimes in Central and South-East Europe, which had been dominated and controlled by the Soviet Union since the end of World War II, commenced their journey towards democracy. The end of the Cold War contributed to the beginning of wide-spread democratization within the sinking world of communist rule.

Following the political and ideological climate change marked by the student upheavals in Western Europe and in particular the student revolution in France and Germany in May 1968, the global wave of democratization began in Southern Europe in the early 1970s (see Chapter 19). The process of democratic change in former communist Europe constitutes an important sub-wave of democratization, which has arguably not yet ended. The complex transformation from communist regimes towards alternative democratic forms of government and political order, which took place in the 28 years between 1989 and 2018, has not been concluded as a historical process. Democratization in Central and Eastern Europe is still a work-in-progress and we are still far away from the final victory of democracy and any form of the ‘end of history’ (Fukuyama 1992) in the region. Over the years of political transition democratization in Eastern Europe and the Balkans experienced several backlashes which though did not change the overall vector of transformations allow the suggestion that democratization is an oscillatory rather than a linear process.

The process of democratization in post-communist Europe can be understood as a series of subsequent phases of political change. First the region had seen long-lasting stagnation and a steady decline of the old communist regime over the course of the 1970s and 1980s. Some innovative communist leaders like Josip Broz Tito in Yugoslavia or Janos Kadar in Hungary attempted to reform the political and economic system of communist rule to ensure its survival but failed to rescue the faltering communist states by structural reforms in the long run. The second stage relates to the period of revolutionary overthrow of communist regimes and was characterized by the collapse of communist systems in all communist countries in Eastern Europe, between Warsaw and Sofia, and took place, as mentioned previously, between November 1989 and 1991. Many theories of democratization focus exclusively on this phase of regime change thereby neglecting previous and later stages of the democratization process. Though overthrow of communist regimes and transfer of political power to the new democratic elite is extremely important and designates the actual ‘birth’ of the new political system, analysis of the earlier and subsequent stages in the democratization process provides information on the context and background of the democratic development and (p. 324)

Table 21.1 Paths of Political Transition in Eastern and Central Europe

Path

Towards

Features of the regime

Path 1

Consolidated democracy

Sustainable and efficient democratic institutions, free and fair elections, separation of power, democratic political culture: transparency, respect for human rights etc.

Path 2

Electoral democracy

Formal democratic institutions, free and fair elections, separation of power, clearly articulated democratic vector of political development, low-level of democratic culture of the population, possible lack of transparency, corruption

Path 3

Emerging democracy

Pro-democratic political institutions (though with low efficiency and transparency), regular elections (possible of questionable fairness), articulated democratic vector of political development, low-level of democratic culture of the population, lack of transparency, corruption

the different starting positions of Central and East European states in their transformations, and as a result, on the reasons for the success or failure of democratization in a given society.

The third stage of democratization was constituted by the creation of new political regimes out of the ashes of communism: in most cases, a new democracy (Haerpfer 2002). The specific characteristics of post-communist democratic transition in comparison with other forms of democratizations—like in Southern Europe—is that we are confronted with a threefold revolution: a political revolution from a communist one-party state to a democratic multi-party system, an economic revolution from a centrally planned command economy to a free market economy, and a social revolution from a communist society with a small political upper class (nomenklatura) to a modern and open society with a broad middle class (Popper, Ryan, and Gombrich 2013).

The fourth stage of democratization in the region varied somewhat between countries, with the consolidation of new regimes down three different paths of political transformation (see Table 21.1). Countries following the first path achieved the transition to a consolidated and full democracy. The second path of democratization concerns those states which achieved the status of an electoral democracy, a type of political regime characterized by competitive elections, but lacking some other features of full liberal democracy such as equality, extensive freedoms, and civic culture. Finally, the third path concerns those states which can be classified as emerging democracies with partial autocratic elements.

Key points

  • Democratization in Central and East Europe consists of four stages: decline of communism; fall of communism; emergence of new democracies, development and consolidation of the new democratic system.

  • After the establishment the new democratic regime follows one of the three paths: towards consolidated democracy; towards electoral democracy; or towards emerging democracy.

  • A distinctive feature of the post-communist transition was that three transformations had to be achieved: from a communist one-party state to a pluralist democracy; from a collective command economy to a free market economy; from a communist society to an open society.

Stage One: Failed Reforms and the Decline of Communist Regimes, 1968–88

Four attempts at political and economic reform were made in communist political systems in Central Europe. The first partial attempt took place in 1953 in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany, GDR) when—after the death of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in March 1953—the GDR government introduced a number of measures to ease the speed and economic burden of the ‘systematic implementation of Socialism’ and reparation payments. This attempt to amend the course of political and economic development of GDR and to reduce the consequences of deep post-war social and economic crisis came in too late, and lead to a massive working class uprising in June (p. 325) 1953. The uprising was suppressed by the local police forces and Soviet army tanks. The upheaval failed and gave an opportunity to the GDR government led by Walter Ulbricht to absolutize the pro-Soviet course and significantly reduce the number and strength of the political opposition forces.

A similar revolt of Hungarian people against the Soviet-imposed policies of the Hungarian government took place in October–November 1956, started by a student demonstration in Budapest. The Hungarian revolution of 1956 was inspired by the Poznan uprising which took place earlier that year in June in Poland; both aimed to articulate non-acceptance by the country’s population of the Communist Party politics and repression. The revolution in Hungary, despite leading to a resignation of the pro-Soviet government, was violently suppressed by the Soviet army and ended in bloodshed. In January 1957, the new communist government was installed in Hungary by the USSR.

Within the context of the May Student Revolutions in spring and summer of 1968—which took place in Western democracies like France, Germany, and the US—the ‘Prague Spring’ in Czechoslovakia in the same year tried to develop a ‘third way’ of political and economic regimes as an alternative to communism on the one hand and democracy on the other (Sik 1976). ‘Socialism with a human face’ was a political programme proposed by the Czechoslovak leader Alexander Dubček in January 1968 and aimed at democratization and political liberalization, with the Communist Party still maintaining the central power in the country. This programme called for greater civic participation of people, freedom of press and culture, without questioning the main communist course of state development. Like the Hungarian revolt of 1956, the Czechoslovak liberalization initiative was destroyed in the autumn of 1968 with the military power of the armies of the Warsaw Pact—countries-participants of a defence treaty signed by the Soviet Union and seven of its satellite communist states in Central and Eastern Europe in 1955 as a counterweight to NATO.

The final revolt against Soviet-communist rule occurred in Poland in 1980, when the Catholic trade union Solidarność (Solidarity) tried to challenge the Polish communist regime. The Polish Unified Workers’ Party and the Polish army suppressed this reform attempt with a hybrid regime of joint communist and military rule, thus preventing an invasion by the Warsaw Pact armies, on a comparable scale to the previous military interventions in Hungary and Czechoslovakia.

While the attempts at reforms of the communist regimes in Hungary and Czechoslovakia failed, they caused the introduction of small-scale reforms, which did not openly threaten the main principles and doctrines of orthodox Marxism-Leninism. Such early and minor reforms, mainly in the field of the economy, were planned and implemented over the course of the 1980s in Hungary, Poland, and Yugoslavia. In Hungary, the communist leader Janos Kadar allowed private ownership of farms and small enterprises and freedom of travel to other parts of the world. In Yugoslavia, the communist leader Josip Broz Tito tried a ‘third way’ between communism and capitalism with co-operative ownership of enterprises and allowed the citizens of Yugoslavia to travel widely outside the Eastern bloc. In Poland, the communist leaders Edward Gierek and Wojciech Jaruzelski implemented small-scale capitalist reforms in the agricultural sector including private ownership of modest quantities of farm land and farm animals. These early economic and political reforms in Hungary, Poland, and Yugoslavia became the basis for the subsequent accelerated economic transition towards free market economy started in those three countries after the end of communism in 1989. These small-scale entrepreneurs, capitalist islands within the centrally planned economy, formed a group of proto-capitalists, who were later able to contribute to the take-off of a new ‘capitalism without capitalists’ (Szelenyi et al. 2001).

Key points

  • In Central Europe, there have been four failed attempts to reform the communist system: German Democratic Republic 1953, Hungary 1956, Czechoslovakia 1968, and Poland 1980.

  • During the 80s, the Hungarian communist state introduced small-scale capitalist reforms in agriculture and business, which facilitated the economic transformation from a planned economy to a free market economy after 1989.

  • In Yugoslavia and Poland, modest forms of proto-capitalism developed within a communist economy, mainly in agriculture and industry.

  • The most ambitious and wide-ranging reform in politics and economy was perestroika in the Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev between 1985 and 1991. Its failure triggered the collapse of the Soviet Union in December 1991 and the end of communism in Europe and Eurasia.

(p. 326) Stage Two: The End of Communist Political Regimes, 1989–91

The collapse of communist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe occurred in November 1989 in many Central and East European countries. One critical factor for ‘the fall’ of communism (Saxonberg 2000) in the region was that the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who was concentrating on his ambitious domestic reform programme perestroika within the Soviet Union, chose to rule out open military intervention by the Warsaw Pact army in other communist states as a strategic political option to stabilize the communist empire. The absence of this military option and of direct political orders from Moscow caused a political paralysis within the national communist political elites, for example in the GDR, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia, which had been used to unreserved obedience to the central power in Moscow since 1946. This absence of international armed and security forces took away a military umbrella and security ‘insurance’ from many national communist elites and reduced their military and political weaponry to respond to democratic challenges. This window of non-intervention by the Soviet Union opened the opportunity for regime change in many communist states. The process of regime change from communist one-party states to new democracies occurred in most countries in a peaceful manner, without physical violence. A strong dissident movement and previously suppressed civil society achieved a ‘velvet revolution’ in Czechoslovakia: the communist leadership left their offices of power and government in Prague silently and without open resistance.

Regime change and transition also took place in the form of so-called ‘roundtable agreements’, especially in Hungary and Poland. These roundtables transferred the political conflict between the ‘old communist elite’ and the ‘new democratic elite’ from the streets of capital cities like Budapest and Warsaw into conference and meeting rooms, where the old and the new elite met and sat at a round table. Sometimes, respected authorities from the areas of religion, arts and academia acted as moderators and mediators of the roundtable talks. The strategic and sole aim of these talks was to ensure a peaceful, non-violent, and orderly hand-over of power from the communist power elite to the emerging new democratic elite. In some countries the transfer of power and change of political leadership was initiated not by the new pro-democratic forces, but by the members of the communist party themselves. Thus, the non-violent end of the rule of the Bulgarian communist leader Todor Schivkov was the result of a non-violent coup within the elite of the Bulgarian Communist Party in Sofia.

Not all transitions were peaceful. The violent end of the regime of the Romanian Dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena—which culminated in the televised execution of both by the Romanian security forces—was a coup within the communist elite in Bucharest. The then president of Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic—in stark contrast to Gorbachev— decided to keep the military oppression of Yugoslav Republics like Croatia or Bosnia-Herzegovina as political option in order to preserve communism as well as the territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. This massive use of military power by the central government in Belgrade caused a prolonged, bloody, and bitter war between Serbia on the one hand and Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina on the other. Hence, the process of democratization and national independence for Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina started with an extremely violent civil war that cost thousands of lives.

Key points

  • The changing nature of relationship between the USSR and the Central and East European ‘satellites’ during the perestroika period opened the opportunity for regime change in many communist states.

  • The process of regime change in most countries occurred in a peaceful manner, without physical violence.

  • While in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Poland the change of the regime was initiated by the new pro-democratic forces, in Romania and Bulgaria it was executed by the members of the communist party itself.

  • The end of communism changed the political geography of the region: Czechoslovakia split into Czech Republic and Slovak Republic in 1992; Yugoslavia split into Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia.

Stage Three: The Creation of New Democracies

The collapse of the communist one-party system at the second stage of democratization produced a dangerous vacuum of political institutions and values. (p. 327) New regimes had to be established in a swift and orderly manner. As mentioned earlier in this chapter, the particular difficulty for post-communist regime change was that three transformations had to be achieved: from a communist one-party state to a pluralist democracy; from a collective command economy to a free market economy, and finally, from a communist society to an open society. The historical advantage of third-wave democratization in Spain, Portugal, and Greece was that they required only political transitions, because a market economy and a slowly modernizing society were already in place during regime change in Southern Europe. The historical need for a threefold transformation required a full-scale destruction of the three old areas of politics, economy and society and a simultaneous construction of a new pluralistic democracy, a new market economy and a new open society, which put millions of post-communist Central and East European citizens under enormous pressure and produced a high level of transition stress for families and citizens, who were forced to reorganize and restructure their family and work life in a deep, dramatic, and unprecedented way.

The third stage of democratization, i.e. the creation of new democracies, took place in Central and East European countries in a relatively short period of time, between the end of 1989 and the end of 1991. All communist states in the region used the period of liberalization in USSR politics to announce the regime change and set up the legal framework for the functioning of the new regime. New constitutions (or adoptions into the existing constitutions) claiming parliamentary democracy as the form of governance, multi-party pluralist systems, a broad scope of democratic freedoms, and guarantees of respect for human rights, as well as the formal establishment of democratic institutions were accepted in almost all countries in 1989–92. The only exception here is the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, established in 1992 by Serbia and Montenegro after the other members of the greater Yugoslavia (Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia which existed in 1943–92) announced their independence in 1991–92 and were recognized by the EU and the UN. In 1992–2000, Serbia and Montenegro remained under the power of autocratic leader Slobodan Milosevic, and only joined the path of democratic transition after his death in 2000. The first several years after the collapse of communism in these countries were spent on resolving ethnic and national cleavages without clearly articulating the democratic vector of national development.

From New Democracies towards Consolidated Democracies

The fourth and final stage in the democratization process in Central and Eastern Europe varied between the states. Using the typology, we propose to further differentiate between the paths of transition—towards a consolidated democracy, towards an electoral democracy, or towards an emerging democracy. This variety in the fourth stage of the transition process could be described and explained as the actual level of progress reached in the formally declared movement towards liberal democracy caused by the existing economic resources, cultural specificities, geopolitical orientations, and past experience of democratic rule. Thus, differences in the levels of democratic governance achieved in practice in the post-communist societies have proven to be an important factor, to a large extent explaining the success of the transition process in Czech Republic, for example.

The fundamental difference between the three types of regimes established after the collapse of the communist system could be observed in the level of democraticness of the governance and the level of consolidation of the democratic regime. The relation between emerging democracy, electoral democracy, and consolidated liberal democracy could therefore be described via a scale of different levels of democratization (see Table 21.1). In this regard, democratic transition sometimes can occur as a linear process carrying political system from emerging democracy through the electoral democracy towards consolidated form of democratic rule. At the same time, depending on the social, political and economic conditions, some political systems can ‘skip’ certain stages of transition reaching the level of consolidated liberal democracy faster. Also, not all political systems manage to reach the final consolidation of the new democratic regime and can remain balancing at the stage when immature forms of democracy (emerging or electoral) prevail. Duration of each stage can also vary significantly depending on a country’s resources and cultural peculiarities. In this way, some political systems did manage to transit in just a few years while other states still remain at the early stages of democratization. It is also important to stress that the possibility to allocate different types of regime and pro-democratic rule in the form of a line does not mean that movement (transition) along this line is linear. Young democracies are (p. 328)

Table 21.1 Schematic Model of the Levels of Democratization

Table 21.1
Schematic Model of the Levels of Democratization

frequently negatively affected by economic stagnation and financial crisis—which does not only affect the economy, but also causes conservative, pro-autocratic wave in the politics. Hence, the democratization process in the ideal case can be linear but can also in its trajectory combine elements of reverse or cycle development.

The optimal path of democratization in post-communist Europe is that from a new democracy towards a ‘consolidated democracy’. A new democracy can be described as consolidated when it fulfils the criteria for a complete or liberal democracy: it must have the rule of law, a clear separation of powers, a vibrant civil society independent from the state, a democratic constitution and associated constitutionalism, pluralism of political actors and institutions, full respect for human and political rights and complete freedom of media, freedom from unlawful arrest and of political association with interest groups and political parties. In addition to these criteria, a new democracy must fulfil the minimum criterion of free, fair, and competitive multiparty elections as well as a successful consolidation of its political, administrative, and legal institutions. Finally, a clear absolute majority of the citizens must support those democratic rules and principles as the only game in town.

The process of democratization can be measured by a variety of empirical indicators and indices (see Chapter 4). In order to analyse the progress of democratization in post-communist Central and Eastern Europe, two such indicators of democratization have been selected: the ‘Index of Electoral Democracy and Polyarchy’ and the ‘Index of Liberal Democracy’ from the V-Dem—Varieties of Democracy Program of the University of Gothenburg and Notre Dame University (see Tables 21.2, 21.3, and 21.4). We use the liberal democracy index to support the proposed classification of the three types of the new emerged democratic systems with the empirical evidence and propose the following correlations: liberal democracy index values from 7 to 10 (max) correspond with the concept of consolidated democracy; index values from 5 to 7 correspond with the concept of electoral democracy; finally, index values from 0 to 5 correspond with the concept of emerging democracy. As free and fair elections constitute an important component of liberal democracy, the electoral democracy index is secondary in characterizing the consolidated democratic regimes. At the same time, since free and fair elections is only one element of the democratic political system, which is technically easier to organize and control (rather than the system as a whole), the values of electoral democracy index for all Central and East European states are higher than the liberal democracy index and for the group of countries which we identify as ‘electoral democracy’ reach high scores of 7 and 8 (with the liberal democracy index still being below 7).

The most successful examples of democratization in post-communist Central and Eastern Europe are represented by the Czech Republic and Slovenia. Both are post-communist countries located in Central Europe and have attained the top index value of ‘8’ and ‘9’ in the measurement of democratic change (see Table 21.2). The Czech Republic is the leading model of a successful transformation from a communist state to a consolidated and liberal democracy. Similarly to other Central and East European former communist states, the Czech Republic started its democratization process in 1990 by adopting the first laws to establish a multi-party pluralist political system. The new party system stabilized quickly, and the first parliamentary elections took place in 1992. Given the highest percentage of state-ownership in the Czechoslovakian economy as compared to the other Central and East European communist states, privatization became one of the major economic reforms initiated in the country in 1990–92. Similarly to the quickly reached stability in the political sphere, privatization was accomplished by the mid-1990s. Another important factor, which predefined successful democratic transition of the Czech Republic was the involvement of the country in international organizations starting from joining the International Monetary Fund in (p. 329)

Table 21.2 Consolidated and Liberal Democracies in post-Communist Central and Eastern Europe

Country

89

90

91

92

93

94

95

96

97

98

99

00

01

02

03

04

05

06

07

08

09

10

11

12

13

14

15

Czech Republic

Electoral D

2

8

9

9

9

9

9

9

9

9

9

9

9

9

9

9

9

9

9

9

9

9

9

9

*

*

*

Liberal D

0

7

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

*

*

*

Slovenia

Electoral D

*

*

7

7

7

7

8

8

8

8

8

8

7

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

Liberal D

*

*

*

6

6

*

7

7

7

7

7

7

6

7

7

7

7

7

7

7

7

7

7

7

7

7

8

Poland

Electoral D

4

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

Liberal D

2

7

7

8

8

8

7

7

7

7

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

7

8

8

8

8

8

7

7

7

Croatia

Electoral D

*

*

*

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

7

8

*

8

7

7

7

7

7

8

8

8

8

*

*

*

Liberal D

*

*

*

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

*

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

7

7

7

*

*

*

Slovakia

Electoral D

*

*

*

*

*

6

7

7

7

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

8

*

*

8

8

7

8

*

*

*

Liberal D

*

*

*

*

*

5

5

5

5

5

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

7

7

7

7

*

*

*

Source: Varieties of Democracy research project (V-Dem7.1 data-set), University of Gothenburg and Notre Dame University; source: https://www.v-dem.net

(p. 330) 1993, which also allowed the country to attract foreign capital and further investments into the Czech economy. The Czech Republic joined the OECD in 1995, NATO in 1999, and finally the EU in 2004. In its political governance, the Czech Republic can be identified as a consolidated representative and liberal democracy, which was reached already in the mid-1990s. During the next ten years of transformations, the political system in the country was further decentralized. While at the beginning of transition the country was governed by the same public earlier involved in the events of the ‘Prague Spring’ in 1968, by the beginning of 2000s the ruling class in the country was essentially replaced by the new pro-democratic elite. Since its foundation, the Czech Republic has provided and guaranteed its citizens a broad scope of freedoms. Hence, the two distinguishing features of democratization in the Czech Republic are the high speed of democratization, which was more or less accomplished by 1995–98, and the high stability of the political system since then. The indicator for electoral democracy in the Czech Republic reflects the high efficiency of the political system in 1991–2012 and never went down from a maximum of ‘9’. The index of liberal democracy of ‘8’ for the Czech democratic regime was also the highest amongst all post-communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe in 2012. Complementing the time series of the Varieties of Democracy project indexes—which for the Czech Republic ends in 2012—with the similar data from the Freedom House Program, we can however note a slight increase in the levels of corruption and decrease in the levels of media independence, civil society, and overall national democratic governance in this country since 2013–14. Since 2013, when a populist centre-right party came second (2013) and then first (2017) in the Czech Legislative Elections, the Czech Republic has arguably joined other European states in the ‘democratic backslide’.

The second rank of an optimal transformation into a full democracy is occupied by Slovenia, which was a member state of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia during the communist era. The high level of liberal democracy in Slovenia has been stable since 2002. Similar to the Czech Republic, Slovenia also used to be a part of the Austro–Hungarian Empire. Though in its history the country never experienced a full national independence until 1991, the population historically was characterized by a high educational level and high civic engagement. The Slovenian path to democracy and independence was started in 1987, when a mass pro-democratic movement forced the Communist Party to begin the liberalization of the political system. As a result and following a number of political reforms and constitutional amendments, parliamentary democracy was introduced in the country. The first democratic elections were organized in Slovenia in 1990 with the country gaining full independence in the summer of 1991 and adopting a new constitution in December of that year. Democratic transition in Slovenia was hence started at least a year earlier than in all other Central and East European communist states. In a similar way to the Czech Republic, Slovenia was quick in organizing the legal framework for the denationalization and privatization processes in its economy. Another interesting feature, which both Czech Republic and Slovenia have in common, is the nation-building process which took place in parallel with the democratization, as both countries originated from greater territorial units which ceased to exist after the end of communism. All the political reforms organized in Slovenia were aimed at establishing a multi-party pluralist democratic political system. Though Slovenia was slower than the Czech Republic in joining international and inter-governmental organizations, the country’s openness and possibility for its citizens to travel abroad (granted in the time of Yugoslavia in 1960s) became important factors for an efficient finalization of post-communist transition and the restoration of high levels of economic growth after the mid-1990s. After joining the EU, Slovenia was affected by the world financial crisis of 2007–10, and Measures undertaken by the government to fix the economy caused unrest among the population in 2012–13. Similar to other Balkan states, one of the essential problems in Slovenia remains corruption. Economic crisis and corruption scandals led to a political crisis in 2013 when the government coalition ceased to exist, and early elections were called for mid-2014. Seven new political parties have been established and participated in the Slovenian Parliamentary Elections in 2014, with one of them winning the elections with a third of the vote. Despite the post-crisis economy and recent political crisis, on all the democratic scores Slovenia continues to maintain its high position in Europe and in the world.

While the Czech Republic and Slovenia appear to be clear cases of successful democratization, Poland shows a very different trajectory of democratization. (p. 331) The process of democratization can be described as a flat bell shape from a slow and difficult start between 1990 and 1998—with a dysfunctional party system with a large number of new political parties, a temporary peak between 1999 and 2012, and a subsequent decline or ‘back-sliding’ of democracy since 2012 (see Mechkova, Lührmann, and Lindberg 2017). Poland is the interesting case of a two-stage political transformation of a new political system, with democratization in the first stage of transition and emerging pro-autocratic trends at the second stage. ‘Autocratization’ is here understood as the stepwise removal of elements of a liberal democracy and their replacement by the elements of an illiberal autocracy. ‘Autocratization’ refers to the vector of development of the political system and is not the same as ‘consolidation of autocracy’. The current process of autocratization and democratic backsliding in Poland includes attempts by the incumbent government to limit the independence of the judiciary and the courts and to increase government’s control over the country’s legal system (via the right to appoint and dismiss court judges). It also entails attempts to alter the Polish constitution in the direction of a pro-autocratic system and to limit the freedom of printed and electronic media in Poland. The introduction of autocratic elements in the political system is embedded in a rise of right-wing extremism and nationalism in Polish society and politics.

The process of democratization towards a full and liberal democracy showed a different pattern and trajectory in Croatia and Slovakia. Both countries emerged from larger territories: Croatia left Yugoslavia after military conflict with Serbia, and Slovakia split in 1992 from the Czech Lands in a peaceful way following the ‘Velvet Revolution’ in 1989. The process of democratization in Croatia and Slovakia was much slower than in the Czech Republic and Slovenia. The main reasons for such delayed democratization were the attempts of President Vladimir Meciar in Slovakia and President Franjo Tudjman in Croatia to avoid a full democratization and to achieve an autocratization during the 1990s. Post-communist transition in Slovakia—similarly to the Czech Republic—started in 1993 and also included the establishment of a legal framework for the democratization: the adoption of the new constitution, which presumed separation of the three power branches, pluralist multi-party democratic system, human and civil rights and democratic freedoms. Shortly after independence, the course of democratic transition and consolidation was significantly halted by autocratic political forces. Free competitive parliamentary elections, which first took place only in 1998 after the gradual decrease of confrontations, conflicts, and tensions in Slovak politics, became a turning point in the democratization process in post-communist Slovakia. The period of political confrontation in the mid-1990s slowed down the further development of democratic institutions, which were frequently paralyzed and not functioning properly. As a result, in 1999 Slovakia was not accepted to join NATO—unlike the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary. The political system finally stabilized after the following parliamentary elections in 2002, where the position of anti-authoritarian centre-right parties was strengthened. Due to the numerous challenges which are still faced by the Slovakian political system, some scholars question the ‘consolidated’ status of the Slovak democracy. In comparison with neighbouring Central and East European states, Slovakia has slightly higher level of corruption, and lower levels of democratic governance, media and judicial system independence. At the same time, the electoral process and the civil society development in Slovakia correspond with the same levels in consolidated Western democracies.

The declaration of independence by Croatia in 1991 marked the beginning of a four-year-long Croatian War of Independence. Unlike Slovenia, Croatia was not an ethnically homogeneous state, and the Serbian population residing in Croatia was aspiring to unification with the Serbian state. Though Croatia won the war in August 1995, the human and economic losses from the war were tremendous. The war also delayed Croatia’s political consolidation and joining of the major international organizations, which largely started after 2000. In the democratization of its political system, Croatia has undertaken a number of controversial measures: from one side, a new constitution claiming a democratic vector of country’s development was adopted in 1990; from the other side, cautious politics of the President Franjo Tudjman, little transparency, and freedoms, as well as the war for independence, prevented the development of democratic institutions and consolidation of the political system in the early 1990s. The inconsistent and unclear politics of Tudjman led also to exclusion of Croatia from the EU-support networks, which further delayed the privatization and other economic reforms in the country. The situation (p. 332) began to change with the parliamentary elections in 2000 when, after the death of Tudjman, the centre-left coalition won the elections. As a consequence of the lack of efficiency and clarity in the democratization process in the initial stages, both Slovakia and Croatia subsequently had a slow process of democratization between 2000 and 2005. Finally, Slovakia and Croatia achieved the status of liberal democracy in the period between 2006 and 2012 (see Table 21.2). Available indexes and measures of democratic development suggest that there has been little progress made since 2007. Croatia is evaluated lower in terms of national democratic governance when compared to the neighbouring Slovenia and Slovakia who also feature as ‘delayed’ models of democratization. Croatia is criticized for higher levels of corruption, lack of media, and judicial system independence. The situation in all these spheres has not changed essentially since 2007.

Most consolidated democracies within this first group—with the exception of Poland— commenced a process of deep democratization. Most of these examples of successful democratization, like the Czech Republic and Slovakia, have a democratic path-dependency of previous periods in their history, when they experienced early forms of democracy and democratic culture, of democratic behaviour and proto-structures of civil society, which were introduced in the times of the First Czechoslovak Republic, which existed in the inter-war period of 1918–38, after the collapse of the Austro–Hungarian Empire, to which the territory formerly belonged. The Czechoslovakia of that period could be categorized as a parliamentary democracy with the state being governed by the National Assembly, whose members also elected the president every seven years. At the time ethnic minorities were given a special protection and a possibility to use their language in everyday life. The stability of this democratic system, developed by the first President of Czechoslovak Republic, Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, was reproduced by the coalition of five well-organized political parties, who cooperated within the government. The redistribution of lands in agriculture, which started in 1919, was organized as a gradual process with the old owners being offered significant contributions. Hence, in 1989 when the communist regime fell, both the Czech Republic and Slovakia had past experience and knowledge on the transformation of the political system from an autocratic rule to a pro-democratic political system. The comprehensive nature of this past experience, which included both the practices of equal rights provision, establishment and functioning of parliament and a multi-party system, differentiation between the branches of power, and elections, as well as economic reforms, to a large extent predefined the success of the Czech Republic and Slovakia in accomplishing the threefold process of post-communist transition.

Key points

  • The first and optimal path of democratization is from a new democracy towards a consolidated democracy.

  • A new democracy can be described as consolidated when it fulfils the criteria for a complete or liberal democracy.

  • The best achievements of democratization in post-communist world have been found in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, and Poland.

  • Factors favouring successful democratization include: past experience of democratic governance; social cohesion and national identity; quick introduction of economic and political reforms; clear vision on the priorities and vectors of national development; involvement into the regional and international organizations, and the absence of violent conflicts and wars.

From New Democracies towards Electoral Democracies

The second path of political transformations and democratic revolutions refers to those countries, which have not yet managed to achieve the top status of a consolidated and liberal democracy but have nevertheless been able to reach a middle stage of an electoral democracy. A political regime can be described as an electoral democracy when it fulfils a minimum definition of democracy: i.e. when a political system holds competitive and multiparty elections, it can achieve the status of an electoral democracy. This concept of electoral democracy is restricted to the institutions and processes of nationwide elections and does not account for the democratic character of political institutions and the quality of democracy above and beyond elections. It therefore does not consider the democratic performance of actors and institutions, e.g. the national government, in the period between nationwide (p. 333) parliamentary and presidential elections. An electoral democracy is not obliged to fulfil all the criteria for full or consolidated democracies, such as the rule of law, separation of powers, civil society, constitutionalism, pluralism, human and political rights, or freedom of media and opinion.

An important feature which distinguishes consolidated democracy from the other forms and types of democratic and pro-democratic governance is the deep embeddedness of the democratic principles and behavioural patterns in the political culture of the population and the elite. While there is a general agreement in the literature that the formal institutional prerequisites of democracy have been fulfilled in the Central and East European post-communist societies, the issues of consolidation in democratic behaviour and political culture of the population are much more complicated (Kaldor and Vejvoda 1997). The absence of a past experience of democratic governance, forced implementation of the principles of socialist rule on all levels, and a non-participatory political culture throughout the communist period explains the lack of a deep embeddedness of newly established democratic practices, principles, and mechanisms. This applies to both the culture and collective memory of the populations and political elites of several new European democracies and can be identified as one of the crucial factors preventing final consolidation of these democratic regimes. Arend Lijphart, an American political scientist of Dutch origin, identified as a temporal criterion for the ‘persistence of democratic rule’ a period of time of ‘at least thirty to thirty-five years’ (Lijphart 1984). Hence, we can conclude that the current achievements of emerging democracies and electoral democracies do not constitute the final point in their post-communist transition and can still be improved by these states in the next decade or so of political transformations and democratization processes.

At the time of writing, within Central and Eastern Europe, five new democracies can be identified as electoral democracies, namely Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, and Albania (see Table 21.3). With the exception of Hungary, all other electoral democracies are located in South Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Hungary is a very interesting case of political transformation in Central Europe. In the period between 1991 and 2009, Hungary was considered a successful case of transformation from a communist one-party state to a full democracy. As a consequence of the Hungarian proto-capitalism during the 1990s, the Hungarian economy boomed and attracted high levels of foreign investment. However, since 2010, the process of successful democratization has been halted and reversed by a conservative and centre-right government under Prime Minister Victor Orban. As in Poland under the former Prime Minister Jaroslav Kaczynski, Orban stopped further democratic improvements in Hungary and commenced the gradual process of autocratization of the Hungarian political regime in 2010. Hungarian autocratization included an anti-democratic reform of the constitution, attempts to bring the electronic and printed media under the government control, attempts to ban international and domestic NGOs, and increased political control of the judiciary branch of courts and public law by the government. Since 2010, Hungary has been characterized by an open right-wing nationalism by the government and the ruling party (Buzogany 2017).

The second post-communist country to achieve the transformation from a new democracy to an electoral democracy is Bulgaria. The beginning of democratization in this Balkan state was rather promising between 1992 and 2007, with a high value of ‘7’ on the scale of liberal democracy (see Table 21.3). Unfortunately, the process of democratization slowed down after 2007 and Bulgaria is now at a similar level of democratization to Hungary. Bulgaria shows a very high level of corruption in politics, economics, and organized crime. The situation in Romania is very similar to that political transformation in Bulgaria. After the collapse of communism, the new political system in Romania never reached values for electoral democracy like ‘8’ or ‘6’, which occurred in Hungary and Bulgaria. The value for a liberal democracy in Romania improved from ‘4’ in the period between 1993 and 2006 to ‘5’ since 2009. As in Bulgaria, political corruption forms a structural and persistent problem in the political system of Romania.

The beginning of the democratic transition in Serbia was delayed by its authoritarian leader Slobodan Milosevic, who, remaining the leader of the state until 2000, did not introduce a new system of democratic institutions and the principles of democratic governance, but instead maintained his key decision-making power in all aspects of country’s development. As a result, pro-democratic political reforms and marketization of the planned economy were only started in 2001, when the first post-Milosevic government was (p. 334)

Table 21.3 Electoral Democracies in Post-communist Central and Eastern Europe

Country

89

90

91

92

93

94

95

96

97

98

99

00

01

02

03

04

05

06

07

08

09

10

11

12

13

14

15

Hungary

Electoral D

3

7

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

8

7

8

8

8

7

7

7

*

*

*

Liberal D

2

6

7

7

7

7

7

7

7

7

7

7

7

7

7

7

7

6

7

7

7

6

6

6

*

*

*

Bulgaria

Electoral D

1

6

6

7

7

7

7

7

7

7

7

7

7

7

7

7

7

7

7

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

*

Liberal D

0

4

5

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

5

5

5

5

5

5

*

Romania

Electoral D

1

5

5

5

5

5

5

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

7

Liberal D

0

3

3

3

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

5

5

5

5

5

5

5

6

Serbia

Electoral D

1

2

1

2

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

5

6

6

7

7

7

7

7

6

6

6

6

6

*

*

*

Liberal D

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

3

4

5

5

5

5

5

5

5

5

5

5

5

*

*

*

Albania

Electoral D

1

2

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

5

5

5

5

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

*

*

*

Liberal D

0

0

2

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

*

*

*

Source: Varieties of Democracy research project (V-Dem7.1 data-set), University of Gothenburg and Notre Dame University; source: https://www.v-dem.net

(p. 335) elected. The new government was quite successful in establishing formal democratic institutions and initiating a number of pro-democratic changes in political, social, and economic life, and a new constitution was finally accepted in Serbia in 2006. Despite this major breakthrough in 2001-2004 as compared to the Milosevic era, in from 2005 to 2010, stagnation was a prevailing feature Serbia’s transition process. This indicates a gap between the formal introduction of the new institutions and the available democratic resources necessary for their sustainable development and their stable functioning. Since 2010, similarly to other young democracies in Eastern Europe, signs of recession in Serbia’s democratic transition have been observed. This is related to the relatively high levels of corruption in Serbia (higher than in other Balkan states, according to the Freedom House Index), a decrease in the media freedom, and lack of progress with reforms in the judicial system. Serbia’s elections are still categorized as primary free and fair, though the quality of elections has been on the decline since 2008.

Similarly to Serbia, democratization in Albania was delayed by several years due to internal conflicts and civil war. The new Albanian Republic, declared in 1991, was still governed by the Communist Party, who got a majority of votes at the parliamentary elections that year. The pro-democratic parties came to power after the subsequent elections, which were organized in 1992. The reforms organized by the democratic party lacked efficiency and hence did not bring observable progress and improvement in the country’s democratic governance and economic performance. After a short period of democratic revival, the governance style of the president Sali Berisha became more autocratic, with an increasing pressure on the media, civil society, and political opposition. However, after this period of democratic recession, Albania came back to the path of democratization in 2001, and for the next ten years moved towards a model of consolidated liberal democracy. Prior to this, the country’s social and economic transition was also halted by an economic crisis and a civil war. The lack of experience in market economy and private entrepreneurship led to high popularity of financial banking pyramid schemes (Ponzi schemes), which, after their collapse, caused a wave of violent civil unrests in 1996–97. Following the resignation of the government and the president, the crisis was resolved with the support of the international organizations and UN peacekeeping forces. After a short period of political stabilization, the country was affected by the Kosovo war in 1999. Similarly to other countries with such ‘postponed’ transition, the constitution of Albania—which fixed parliamentary democracy as the form of governance and basic liberties and freedoms for the population—was accepted only in 1998. Although Albania has seen progress in its democratic rule compared to the situation in 1990, there is still a lot of improvement required for the country’s economy and political system. Albania has a high level of corruption (in particular, political corruption is higher than in Serbia), its elections cannot be fully identified as free and fair, and improvement of the quality of elections is considered to be one of the main pre-conditions for Albania to join the European Union. Similarly, the freedom of media and the independence of the judicial system are frequently questioned in Albania, and the country requires more time to further consolidate its political and economic system.

Hence, after a long, controversial, and sometimes dramatic period of transformations, Serbia and Albania have also become electoral democracies. The process of democratization in both countries can be characterized as very slow over the last 15 years. The level of liberal democracy remains very low in both countries, but the quality of democracy has improved since 2002 to an index of ‘5’, which is on a par with Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary. Albania can be labelled as an electoral democracy with an index of ‘6’ since 2006.

Key points

  • A political regime can be described as an electoral democracy when it fulfils a minimum definition of democracy: when it holds competitive and multiparty elections.

  • Within Central and Eastern Europe, five new democracies have been identified as electoral democracies, namely Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, and Albania.

  • These countries achieved transparency in their electoral process and have free and fair elections; further efforts are required for the improvement of social and political integration, consolidation of the political system, higher political participation and engagement of the population, clear division between the branches of power, and media independence.

(p. 336) From New Democracies towards Emerging Democracies

The final path of political transformation which we shall consider for this region is towards an ‘emerging democracy’. An emerging democracy has a far lower level of democratic quality than a liberal democracy such as the Czech Republic or Slovenia, but also compared to electoral democracies like Bulgaria or Romania. An emerging democracy refers to the initial, immature stage of democratic rule; its main attributes are the declared vector of democratic development, the introduction of some (or very little) of the necessary democratic institutions and the set-up of a general legal framework (constitution) for the pro-democratic development of the state. Such a type of regime can be lacking democratic institutions, and the existing institutions usually operate in a way far from the principles of efficiency and transparency. Finally the free and fair character of elections as the fundamental constitutive process of democracy still needs to be reached. Emerging democracies can be described as ‘work-in-progress’, where democratic intentions and expectations frequently exceed actual success in the democratic transition of a political system. The difference between an emerging democracy and autocracy or electoral autocracy is in the consistency of the state authorities in the introduction of the democratic institutions and principles as well as in the prevailing support for democracy as the preferred form of governance among the population. The reasons for the immature state of democracy, which countries with emerging democratic rule feature, could be found in their history (lack of national cohesion, lack of democratic experience in the past, periods of violence and conflicts); ongoing disagreements within the political elite on the priorities of national development and means to achieve them (lack of efficiency); and clientelism and the prevailing role of agency over institutions in the political sphere (ODI briefing paper 2013).

Emerging democracies have been located exclusively in the South East of the region, in former regions of Yugoslavia, which are now independent states or territorial units. Emerging democracies have been found in Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Bosnia-Herzegovina (see Table 21.4). An index of democratization of ‘5’ has been found in Kosovo, Macedonia, and Montenegro. The level of democratization is stable and constant over time in Kosovo and Montenegro. The process of democratization in Macedonia displays a bell-shaped pattern. Between 1992 and 1998 the index of democratization increased slowly from ‘2’ to ‘6’. The quality of democracy was rather high with ‘6’ between 1999 and 2009, but in the last nine years democratic backsliding has brought Macedonia to a very low democracy index of ‘4’. By far the lowest level of democratization in Central and Eastern Europe is in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The index of liberal democracy in this post-Yugoslav country is constantly at a very low level of ‘2’ and the index of electoral democracy is at ‘3’, displaying a very weak level of democratization. All the Balkan states and territories that belong to the ‘emerging democracy’ type are characterized by lower levels of the rule of law (separation of power branches and in particular, independence of the judiciary system); stability and performance of democratic institutions, their commitment to democratic principles; political and social integration and political participation of the population. Indicators of economic development, market organization, currency and price stability are often closely correlated with the success of the political transformations in these countries.

Key points

  • An emerging democracy is a relatively unstable political system with a formally set up democratic agenda and the announcement or partial introduction of some formal prerequisites of democracy

  • Emerging democracies have been located exclusively in the South East of the region, in former regions of Yugoslavia, and can be found in Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

  • All the Balkan ‘emerging democracies’ are characterized by lower levels of the rule of law and unclear separation of power branches; lack of independence of the judicial system; unsatisfactory performance of democratic institutions; lower political and social integration, and insufficient political participation of the population.

(p. 337)

Table 21.4 Emerging Democracies in Post-communist Central and Eastern Europe

89

90

91

92

93

94

95

96

97

98

99

00

01

02

03

04

05

06

07

08

09

10

11

12

13

14

15

Kosovo

Electoral D

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

1

1

3

5

5

5

5

5

5

4

5

5

*

5

5

5

5

Liberal D

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

1

1

2

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

Macedonia

Electoral D

*

*

2

2

2

4

4

4

*

6

5

4

*

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

6

5

5

4

4

4

4

Liberal D

*

*

2

2

2

3

3

3

3

4

4

3

3

4

5

5

5

5

5

4

4

3

3

3

2

2

2

Montenegro

Electoral D

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

4

4

4

5

5

5

5

5

5

5

5

5

5

5

*

*

*

Liberal D

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

3

3

3

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

4

*

*

*

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Electoral D

*

*

*

2

2

1

1

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

3

Liberal D

*

*

*

1

1

0

*

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

2

Source: Varieties of Democracy research project (V-Dem7.1 data-set), University of Gothenburg and Notre Dame University; source: https://www.v-dem.net

(p. 338) Conclusion

This chapter has provided solid empirical evidence that the process of democratization is not linear and identical in all 14 post-communist political systems. The most important conclusion of this chapter is that democratization is not an inevitable and necessary, quasi-natural transition from a communist one-party state towards a full and liberal democracy. Quite the contrary, democratization deals with an open process of political transformation, which can take the form of three different paths of democratization: towards full, consolidated democracy, electoral democracy, or emerging democracy. The first path of successful democratization leads from a new democracy towards a consolidated democracy, a full member of the group of liberal democracies of the world. The best examples of such a successful democratization are the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Croatia. The optimal path of democratization in post-communist Central and Eastern Europe has been identified in the Czech Republic, followed by Slovenia.

The trajectory of democratization in Poland appears to be very different from the pattern observed in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Croatia. The curve of democratization in Poland has a bell shape with improvement of democratic structures at the beginning of transition and with a backsliding of democracy and ‘autocratization’ since 2012. Slovakia and Croatia experienced failed attempts of autocratization by Presidents Meciar and Tudjman during the 1990s, but successfully reinstated the path towards full and liberal democracy since 2000.

In the Balkans, the predominant path of political development is that towards an ‘Electoral Democracy’. The political systems and the political culture in Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, and Albania have not achieved the highest level of democratization to a full and liberal democracy, but they managed to achieve the status of partial and electoral democracies, which still have the potential to transform towards full and liberal democracies in the foreseeable future.

The comparative study of democratization in Central and Eastern Europe found two post-communist regimes, which started the process of democratization in a very promising way during the 1990s but have been backsliding away from liberal democracy and commencing an anti-democratic process of autocratization. The first such case is Poland—as we have discussed—and the second case of autocratization is Hungary. In Hungary the current right-wing nationalist government of Prime Minister Orban is attempting to gain full political dominance and control by the government over the legal system, the media system, civil society and parliament, altogether the dissolution of the constitutional separation of powers in a liberal democracy. The current political regime in Hungary is also characterized by high levels of xenophobia, especially against Jews and Arabs, open chauvinism, and an extreme rejection of European identity and European integration.

Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, and Albania are all at the same level of democratization after 15 years of political transformation, but all four political systems are still plagued by high levels of political and economic corruption. Nevertheless, all four Balkan countries have still the potential to evolve into full and consolidated democracies like Slovenia or Croatia, if they manage to introduce structural reforms of accountability and transparency and achieve a significant reduction of corrupt structures in government and administration.

The third path of transition into an emerging democracy in post-communist Europe displays the lowest level of democratization. Post-Yugoslav countries and territories like Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Bosnia-Herzegovina have transformed since 1991 from new democracies into emerging democracies, which can also be labelled as ‘Proto-Democracies’. The political regime in those four countries in South Eastern Europe is characterized by first elements of democracy like general elections but is still missing crucial pillars of electoral and liberal democracy. These results also provide clear scientific evidence that democratization in Central and Eastern Europe is still a work-in-progress, with oscillations between democratization and autocratization and with unknown outcomes in the near future of democratic politics in this region.

(p. 339) Questions

  1. 1. How did the main pre-conditions and drivers of the post-communist transition differ in Central and Eastern European states?

  2. 2. What contributed to the success of democratization in Czech Republic, Slovenia, and Poland? What do the political systems in these countries have in common? Which peculiarities of the transition process were different there?

  3. 3. What are the main obstacles for the democracy development in the Balkan states? What do you think about the potential enlargement of the European Union with the inclusion of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia?

  4. 4. What are the main distinctive features of liberal democracy as compared to electoral or ‘minimalist’ democracy? Do you find the concepts of ‘emerging’ or ‘electoral’ democracies feasible and helpful to reflect the differences in the state of democratization in Europe and around the globe?

  5. 5. What would be your thoughts about the future for democracy in Hungary and Poland given the emerging new trends?

Visit the online resources that accompany this book for additional questions to accompany each chapter, and a range of other resources: www.oup.com/uk/haerpfer2e/.

Further reading

Ágh, A. (1998), The Politics of Central Europe (London: Sage Publications). This leading Hungarian political scientist describes the initial transformation to democracy in Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, and Albania. An excellent and detailed historical account of democratization in these countries.Find this resource:

    Buzogany, A. (2017), ‘Illiberal Democracy in Hungary: Authoritarian Diffusion or Domestic Causation?’, In: Democratization, 24/7: 1307–25. This article analyses the democratic involution in Hungary, which was followed by the country embracing a pro-Russian policy in 2010. These processes came to be viewed as a rare case of authoritarian diffusion taking place towards an EU member state. Based on the discussion of interest versus ideational appeal as factors of authoritarian diffusion, the article develops a relational and dynamic framework to analyse the question of authoritarian diffusion.Find this resource:

      Dawisha, K. and Parrott, B. (1997), The consolidation of democracy in East-Central Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). Outstanding comparative analysis of democratization in Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.Find this resource:

        Dawisha, K. and Parrott, B. (1997), Politics, Power, and the Struggle for Democracy in South-East Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). Regional analysis of democratization in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria, and Romania.Find this resource:

          Derleth, J. W. (2000), The Transition in Central and Eastern European Politics (New Jersey: Prentice Hall). Systematic comparative analysis of democratization in an historical and contemporary perspective regarding Russia, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Poland.Find this resource:

            Fukuyama, F. (1992), The End of History and the last man (Glencoe: Free Press). The book discusses the establishment of the western-style liberal democracy as an end-point of the cultural and ideological evolution of humans. Western liberal democracy is also considered as a universal form of governance which will be gradually accepted by all the states of the world.Find this resource:

              Haerpfer, C. W. (2006), ‘Hungary. Structure and Dynamics of Democratic Consolidation’, in: Klingemann, H. D. (ed.), Democracy and Political Culture in Eastern Europe (London and New York: Routledge Publishers), 148–71. The book discusses such questions like the relationship between democracy and political culture in countries undergoing major systemic change; to which extent the subjective political orientations of citizens have been important in shaping the development of democracy in Central and Eastern Europe after the fall of communism etc. This particular chapter focuses on the process of democratic transition and consolidation in Hungary.Find this resource:

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                Haerpfer, C. W. (2002), Democracy and Enlargement in Post-Communist Europe. The Democratisation of the Mass Publics in 15 Central and Eastern European Countries, 1991-1998 (London & New York: Routledge Publishers). The book presents the principal findings of a unique in-depth study of the birth of democracy and the market economy in 15 post-communist countries. Analysis employs information collected by the New Democracies Barometer public opinion surveys to provide an overview of the process of democratization across Central and Eastern Europe. This is an extremely valuable resource and will be useful for all those interested in the European Union, comparative politics and democracy and the communist legacy. It contains data from Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania the Russian Federation, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Ukraine.Find this resource:

                  Kaldor, M. and Vejvoda (1997), Democratization in Central and East European Countries, International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944–), 73/1 (Jan. 1997), 59–82. Excellent account of democratization in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Romania, and Bulgaria by Central and Eastern European scholars.Find this resource:

                    Lijphart, A. (1984), Democracies: Patterns of Majoritarian & Consensus Government in Twenty-one Countries (Yale: Yale University Press). A great example of in-depth, comprehensive and systematic comparative analysis of the democratic political systems in 21 countries. Very helpful for understanding the similarities and discrepancies between the democratic systems and the how they work.Find this resource:

                      Mechkova, V. and Lührmann, A., and Lindberg, S. (2017), ‘How Much Democratic Backsliding?’ Journal of Democracy, 28/4: 162–9. The article employs data from the Varieties of Democracy to analyse the trends of democracy development in the world in the period between 2011 and 2017.Find this resource:

                        Menocal, A. R. (2013), Emerging Democracies. Rising to a Challenge. Briefing paper of the Overseas Development Institute. The paper discusses the concept of ‘emerging democracy’, its distinctive features and historical preconditions of its development. The paper discussed both the theoretical frame as well as the existing measures and indexes of democratic rule.Find this resource:

                          Popper, K. R., Ryan, A., and Gombrich, E. H. (2013), The Open Society and Its Enemies (Princeton: Princeton University Press). The book belongs to the field of political philosophy and describes the advantages of the open society and liberal democracy.Find this resource:

                            Saxonberg, S. (2000), The Fall: A Comparative Study of the End of Communism in Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, and Poland (London & New York: Routledge Publishers). The book provides a comparative analysis of the cases of the collapse of the communist system in the four states aiming to explain why the collapse took place and why this happened in different ways in those four countries.Find this resource:

                              Sik, O. (1976), The Third Way (White Plains, NY: International Arts and Sciences Press). The books provides a summarizing overview of Hungary’s development and its social and political transformations as well as proposes a new societal model of development.Find this resource:

                                Szelenyi, I., Eyal, G., and Townsley, F. (2001), Making Capitalism without Capitalists (London & New York: Verso Publishers). This book is aimed at contributing to a deeper understanding of the origins of modern capitalism. While the classical social theory explored the process of transition from feudalism to capitalism, the current book focuses on the transition from socialism to capitalism, where capitalism system is developed without the actual capitalist class. The book hence provides reflection on the sociological characteristics of the breakdown of the communist system in 1989-91 and offers a theory of social structure of post-communist societies.Find this resource:

                                  Zielonka, J. (2001), Democratic Consolidation in Eastern Europe. Volume 1: Institutional Engineering (Oxford: Oxford University Press). Comparative study of the role of new constitutions and constitutionalism in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, and Poland, mainly by Central and Eastern European scholars.Find this resource: