The first elections in which real competition between political parties was possible took place in most of the post-communist countries at the beginning of the 1990s. In the ensuing years, all those countries have modified their electoral designs in particular ways. Post-communist countries thus provide electoral studies with a unique opportunity to explore a wide range of topics both in narrow, specific analyses and in extensive comparative work. This Special Issue Section of the journal European Electoral Studies intends to outline some of the challenges and questions connected with elections in post-communist countries.
Stanislav Balík and Jan Holzer focus their paper on the general question of the role of elections in evaluating the nature of a regime. The democratization of political systems in Central and Eastern Europe did not proceed at a uniform pace and with uniform success across the region and electoral competition is therefore a fascinating criterion for classifying those processes. On the basis of critical reflections on earlier studies the authors arrive at an important distinction in the role of elections. Elections are a key factor separating democratic regimes from their non-democratic counterparts, but using them as a way of differentiating the various types of non-democratic regimes is rather problematic.
Roman Chytilek and Jakub Šedo study electoral reforms and their effects with a wider comparative perspective. They provide a brief evaluation of the second electoral reform in 15 post-communist countries. These reforms were mostly expected to advantage strong and established political parties in party competitions. The authors then test the advantage ratio, understood as an indicator which should best serve to identify the real effects of the reforms: whether the strongest party was truly advantaged after the second reform, and if so, how much. The test has shown that it is difficult to predict the outcome of electoral reforms and that the actors quickly adapt to new conditions.
Jean-Benoit Pilet and Jean-Michel De Waele examine electoral reforms in a specific post-communist country, Romania, where they observe the gradual reduction of inclusiveness of the electoral system. Their analysis focuses both on the rules used in Romania and on the attitude of political parties, which generally lend their support to the process leading to a less inclusive electoral system. They also look into the causes of this attitude, which – given the conditions of extreme volatility – could seem paradoxical.
Politics of Electoral Reforms in Post-Communist Countries. Advantage of backwardness?
Stanislav Balík, Jan Holzer:
This article describes and analyses current trends in classifying non-democratic regimes. A brief overview of the basic typologies (J. J. Linz, S. P. Huntington, W. Merkel) is given first. The article then focuses on the methodology currently used for classifying non-democratic regimes, one which is connected to a significant degree with the theory of so-called hybrid regimes. Placing a strong emphasis on the texts of L. Diamond, A. Schedler, S. Levitsky and L. A. Way, the authors attempt to illustrate the methodological consequences the application of this theory has for the relevant area of political science. The authors particularly concentrate on the exclusive role of the elections as a variable of classification, or, respectively, on the concept of elections as a criterion applied in a continuum between electoral democracies at the one end, and competitive authoritarianisms at the other. This paper provides a critical reflection on this approach and points out its methodological limits. According to the authors, elections can be used to discriminate between democracies and non-democracies, however, within the category of the non-democratic regime one needs to apply a different set of criteria in order to be able to discriminate further.
Keywords: Theory of non-democratic regimes, democracy, authoritarian regime, theory of hybrid regimes, liberal democracy, electoral democracy, pseudodemocracy, electoral authoritarianism, ambiguous regimes, competitive authoritarianism, hegemonic authoritarianism, minimum criteria for democracy.
Roman Chytilek, Jakub Šedo:
The text analyzes the character of the second wave of electoral system reform in post-communist countries. It describes the direction of the change in status quo after the first reform, which was usually implemented by participants on the basis of imperfect or incomplete information. We claim that the character of the second reforms favored the bigger and established parties and accentuated the tendencies towards establishing electoral competition between political parties at the expense of other participants (independent candidates). We furthermore use a sample of 40 electoral events in 15 post-communist countries to analyze the potential of the strongest electoral parties and other parliamentary parties to transform votes into seats, and we connect this characteristic with the electoral changes made, arguing that the logic of the electoral rules and the effects arising from the actual shares of the vote won in elections sometimes reinforced one another but – at least in some electoral events – also ran in opposite directions.
Keywords: Post-communist countries, electoral systems, electoral reforms, advantage ratio.
Jean-Benoit Pilet, Jean-Michel De Waele:
After the fall of the communist regime, Romania chose to adopt a very inclusive electoral system, namely PR with low threshold and a guaranteed representation of minorities. Since then, the story of the Romanian electoral system is the story of a movement to make the electoral law less inclusive. Legal thresholds have been introduced and raised, and proposals to shift to a majoritarian system are gaining ground among Romanian politicians. In this article, the main motivations pushing for a less inclusive electoral law are examined. It appears that the largest Romanian parties hope the reform will strengthen their political representation. Yet, by proposing a less inclusive electoral law, they are playing a risky game in a political system still marked by high electoral volatility. Furthermore, the dominant model of democracy that guides the choice of electoral rules has evolved. The new model of democracy gives a reduced role to parties and a bigger role to individual politicians. Finally, the memory of the democratic interwar period is losing influence among the Romanian political elite. Consequently, the proportional representation (PR) system in use during this period is losing its attractiveness.
Keywords: Electoral reforms, elections, Romania, electoral systems, institutional choice
Lukáš Linek, Pat Lyons:
There has been much scholarly debate over the measurement of party identification and the degree to which closeness to parties is an enduring stable attitude. This research investigates an important puzzle where two post-European election surveys undertaken during June 2004 yield significantly different estimates of citizen closeness to political parties. The key difference between both survey projects was the implementation of middle response options. This question format change did not have uniform effects. In these two countries there were relatively few differences in estimates of party closeness. However, in a majority of countries this methodological change had significant effects. In eleven EU member states estimates of party closeness increased: while in nine others it declined. Such evidence suggests that European citizens’ closeness to parties is not fixed, and the dynamics of party identification have an important contextual component. Building on this insight we argue in this paper that the differences in estimates of party closeness observed tells us important things about the nature of party identification in contemporary Europe.
The article deals with the March 6th 2005 parliamentary election in the Republic of Moldova. It mentions the changes that occurred in the electoral system after the 1991 declaration of independence of the country. The article cites electoral legislation, describes the running of the electoral process and analyses the election results of the 2006 process. It also contains information about the implication of international bodies in the Moldavian elections.
Keywords: Republic of Moldova, parliamentary elections, electoral regulations, the running of electoral process, election results.