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Political Parties after Communism

, 240 pages
April 2002



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Political Parties after Communism

Developments in East-Central Europe

After forty years of one-party rule under communist regimes, how were the countries of East-Central Europe to get back to the business of competitive politics in 1989? One key factor was the resumption of party politics, and this book reviews the postcommunist development of political parties in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary. Tomáš Kostelecký describes party history up to 1947—some earlier parties were resurrected in 1989—and then covers the communist and postcommunist periods. Historical, cultural, and social factors in party development are all taken into account in this synthetic work.

The core of the work studies three crucial factors: historical and cultural factors, social cleavages, and electoral rules. In general Kostelecký sees a move toward more organized political parties, greater rational choice and self-interest in voters' decisions, and better structured, stabler politics. In other words, East-Central European politics is transforming itself from simply a reaction against the politics of the preceding regime to a situation in which diverse groups in society will find their interests institutionalized in diverse political parties, not unlike the politics of Western Europe.

Tomáš Kostelecký is senior researcher and scientific secretary, Institute of Sociology, Czech Academy of Sciences. He was recently a JSPS fellow at the Slavic Research Center, Sapporo, Japan. He was a Fellow of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in 1996-1997.

"A trim, lucid, first cut at the evolution of party systems in postcommunist Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia... a very clear, informative and thoughtful comparison."

"A thoughtful overview of the development of party politics and party systems."

"The great merit of Kostelecký's book is the author's ability to bring together both the established classics such as Lipset and Rokkan, and much of the burgeoning literature on party systems in post-communist Europe (particularly the works written in the languages of the region) under one roof."

"This is a timely review of almost ten years of study of electoral behavior in East Central Europe, providing, for the first time, an understanding of the general trends in party formation and support since the collapse of communism in the region. It is clearly written and well organized, accessible to scholars and students alike."

"Like many studies of postcommunism in East-Central Europe, the underlying question driving this lucid overview of political parties in the region is whether Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia are becoming more like their Western European neighbors."

"One of the great attractions of the book is that it... seeks to move beyond a traditional area studies approach."

"A very good review of general party developments in these four 'Visegrád states' and provides a solid basis for future inquiry into party development."

"Highly recommended."

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