Features of legitimation of power in post-socialist states of eastern Europe

The process of adjusting to democracy in post-totalitarian development proved  to be difficult and controversial. The analysis of two decades of practice of democratic reforms showed the presence of a number of features of political transition in the CIS. The features of the institutional space of post-Soviet states is the instability of legislation, the constant reproduction of the administrative- command methods of management, social passivity and weakness of the protest potential of citizens, which indicates that the vast area of Soviet Union so far only formed the principles of democratic legitimacy. The policy cannot be in the form  of a particular technology, divorced from the conditions of social and cultural environment. Processes of transformation of Western models of liberal democracy were not quite appropriate cultural-historical, socio-political and economic realities of post-Soviet space. Therefore the relevant question related to the characteristics of legitimation of state power in post-socialist states of Eastern Europe.

Analysis of the legitimation of power in post-communist societies of Eastern Europe shows that the transformation process in which the specificity was due to geopolitical, historical, ethnic and socio-cultural peculiarities of the region. Firstly, based on ideas and values that shaped the European culture, political forces in Eastern Europe and Central Europe managed to achieve and save national unity throughout the transition from authoritarianism to democracy, to justify the objectives of social development and to identify means of achieving them, and therefore and create more favorable conditions for the development of political process. Secondly, the formation of a new system of political relations in these countries started with to build relationships with stakeholders on the principles of political pluralism and consideration of all social interests. Of course, in every country the process of transition proceeded differently, reflecting the specific of socio-economic, political and cultural - historical development, but was based on the same type political system, similar to the distribution of power between the major branches of power and roles between the main political forces. The fall of communism brought an end to the monopoly of one party state authority. It led to the formation of a new system of political relations based on principles of political pluralism and incorporation the social concerns of all groups in society. Loss the ability to manage the company, passivity and indecisiveness of the communist elite by party helped to move the initiative to the opposition, which has received moral support from society. In this direction the most advanced, Poland and Hungary, where were the social and economic reforms, despite the opposition of the Soviet Union. The first non-communist governments appeared in these states, and they showed an example of a civilized solution to the problem of change of power, using political mechanisms. For example, the transformation of a communist society to the non-communist began with the decision of the Polish Communists to join the political dialogue with the opposition. The negotiation have allowed the opposition to legalize and opened the way to the evolutionary version.

The crisis of the communist regime the ruling elite deliberately went to the dialogue with the opposition, because it had no other way to maintain control over state power. This prompted its recognition by all political forces need to implement only a legitimate transition to democracy, by ensuring voting rights of citizens, creating conditions for a more complete representation of their interests in government. The search for optimal contradictions between the principle of representation and the task of ensuring political stability limited to a choice between majoritarian and proportional electoral systems and the preparedness of the main political parties to compromise. For this, mechanisms such as  multi-stage elections, the appointment of deputies from the top, a majority voting method were introduced in the new political system. In Poland, changes involving the emergence of a bicameral parliament, the institution of the presidency of the country have been introduced in the constitution as a result of negotiations. In Poland, the first non-coalition government was formed in September 1989, which was to form a new democratic system. Decisions have been made to terminate the political parties in the government, the abolition of state censorship, the introduction of full self- government at the level of cities and regions. Thus, Poland became the first country, freed from communism peacefully. In Hungary, the events began to move on the Polish scenario, where there is traditionally Reformed branch. In Hungary, as in Poland, the formation of the opposition started long before its legal recognition. In Hungary, the changes associated with differentiation of functions of party and state, democratization of socio-political and domestic life have been introduced in the mid-80s yet. In the elections opposition won, as in Poland. Thus, limiting the power of the communist parties, the creation of the first democratic government, uncontrollably these parties became a catalyst for the political process in all Eastern European countries. On a new type of legitimation of political power can be said with respect to the Czech Republic, where the change of political regime did not occur as a result of gradual reform, but because of the mass society of social activity organized by a single point of opposition. Known Polish political scientist  E.Vyatr  defined  this  type  of  political  transformation  of   authoritarian regimes as "demission," which means a rapid collapse, surrender of authoritarian regimes. [1]

As a result, the first democratic elections took place a kind of differentiation among the countries of Eastern Europe. In most of them opposition democratic forces came to power. In Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, new political forces were able to practically implement their programs, to move from an administrative-command system to a market economy, to create a socio-economic and socio-psychological conditions for the development of civil society. Elections in these countries have opened a new stage of legitimization of power, which included the legal consolidation of the political victory of democratic forces and the institutionalization of democracy, achieving a positive relationship between democratic legitimacy and economic efficiency as a necessary condition for  citizens accustomed to the new system of political power. At the same time, the process of institutionalization in Eastern European countries represented by the recovery process interrupted tradition, back to the basics of European culture and civilization. The political aspects of post-communist development in Eastern Europe conceptualized as a process of European integration, reducing the main European political tradition - the tradition of parliamentarism and European democracy. For example, the tradition of parliamentarism the Czech Republic considered one of the most powerful in Europe. Thus, the strong tradition of parliamentarianism is another feature of the legitimation of state power in Eastern Europe. In most countries of Eastern Europe Parliament has played a leading role in forming the government, although the initiative in this matter belongs to the president. Accountable to each other is a feature of the relationship between president and parliament in Eastern Europe. Procedures for the dissolution of Parliament are drafted in such a way as to avoid possible abuses or political instability. For this purpose, a mechanism for consultation between the president and the leaders of Parliament, parliamentary leaders, the government provided for in the constitutions of several countries, in addition, there are quantitative restrictions on the dissolution of parliament. In Hungary, under the constitution the president has the power to dissolve the parliament only twice during his tenure, in Romania - only once during the year, at the same time, the direct responsibility of the president before the parliament has not been established in the constitutions of most countries of Eastern Europe. Despite some differences in the distribution functions of the main centers of state power (i.e. the parliament, the president, the government), in most countries of Eastern Europe has created the following features of the political system. This is the final word in the Parliament in the procedure of forming the government, the dependence of presidential initiatives in forming a government on the correlation of forces in parliament, the establishment of parliamentary control over government activities, strengthening the president  the right to dissolve the parliament in case it would be unable to form a government, strict regulation of procedure of the dissolution of Parliament, providing qualitative and quantitative restrictions, the responsibility of President for violation of the constitution and laws of the state, crimes.

The trend toward decentralization is another feature of modern European democracies. According to the UN Development Program, Europe has achieved some of the highest levels of decentralization in the world. It started in the 80s, when laws were passed on local government. This meant protecting the interests of territorial minority to the will of the Democratic majority, which is well within the logic of the liberal paradigm of democracy. In Europe more and more competences are transferred to local authorities. For example, in Slovakia more than 400 competencies transferred to local communities, previously been in charge of national authorities. It is assumed that the decisions, are taken at the local level, have greater democratic legitimacy than the decisions at the national level. In this case we are talking about the powers relating to local affairs. It should be noted  that it is local authorities are most supported the idea of strengthening European integration; unnecessarily in this case, they receive greater guarantees of its sovereignty over the national government. Local government is inspired by the  idea that citizens of the territories have greater competence in managing their local community than a national government, which represents the whole nation. Thus, we form a sphere of civic competence; government at the national level is complemented by mechanisms such as local self-government or e-democracy.

Thus, the particular legitimacy of state power in Eastern Europe lies in the fact that they, firstly initially confessed involvement in the European civilizational component and the prospect of joining the European Union, meaning the mandatory adoption of Western standards of democracy. Secondly, there is an experience of representative democracy in a historically recent past. Thirdly, the presence of a powerful public opinion led to the impossibility of restoration of authoritarian and totalitarian tendencies.

In liberal democratic political party was an important institutional structure. The party is a specific type of organization for articulating and promoting the power of particularistic class interests. According to Duverger, "the party lead to the crystallization of public opinion: they give the skeleton of this formless, gelatinous education. And finally, they concentrate identical views, smoothing individual differences, taking personal identity, as if they melted them into several large families of thought" [2]. The legitimization of state power in Eastern Europe due to the fact that the elite of society and able to achieve national consensus on what  they want. They wanted to return to Europe, so they dismantled the old system, have abandoned the monopoly of one political group by choosing fair elections, separation of private property and political power.

European societies are undergoing profound restructuring of its political system, the formation of new institutions and mechanisms of legitimation. New elements  of institutional communication occur with the development of liberal democracy. There are the trade unions, various social movements that cause the need for new forms of collective will and clarify communication in society. Currently, the rise of right-wing parties, the development of e-democracy and local self-government are these forms.


  1. Lectures on political science. – Tallinn: Panor-Press, 1991 – p
  2. M. Political parties. Translated from the French, the third edition. 3-M: Academic Project – 2005 – p. 441.
Year: 2011
City: Almaty