Post Communist Politics in Czech Republic
Ten years after the revolution that brought down Communism in Czechoslovakia, the Czech Republic is still plagued by Leninist legacies that prevent it from transitioning fully into a successful liberal democracy. On the superficial level, it appears as though the Czech Republic is progressing well into the realm of a viable democracy. Its economy, thanks to the liberal policies of Vaclav Klaus, is arguably one of the strongest in the region. Its constitution mandates the rule of law that was so lacking under the Soviet hegemony, and its President is a man that has been dubbed by many to be a “philosopher-king,” one which was expected to lead his country out of the moral decay of the Communist rule.
These institutional changes, however, are marred by the social and cultural norms that refuse to die. Ken Jowitt argues that, “Eastern European elites and social audiences have inherited what is for the most part a suspicious culture of mutual envy fostered by a corrupt neotraditional Leninist despotism.” After forty years of life behind the Iron Curtain, the Czech people are not accustomed to the civic and political participation that is necessary to sustain a viable democracy. The nation as a whole is suspicious of a government that they feel doesn’t accurately represent their views. The political world is still seen as “suspect” and therefore unseemly. Their apolitical views and perceptions are fostered by the behaviors of their elected officials. The elite political traditions have not been radically shifted. As in the Communist Era, the elite structure of the Czech Republic remains unresponsive, and many of the former elites still controlled several key administrative functions. Certain political parties have been banned, and “cultrs of personality” are still fostered around political leaders, namely Vaclav Klaus, the head of the ruling party.
It should first be noted that the dramatic change from a rigid Communist society to a Westernized state occurred a mere decade ago, and it should be expected that the virtues of liberal democracy have not been incorporated into the heart and mind of every Czech citizen. As Robert Zuzowski puts it, “change of habits lags behind institutional change - the iron law of social life.” 1 Zuzowski, Political Change in Eastern Europe since 1989 - pg. 101 After forty years of Communist rule where a strict dichotomy of the public and private sphere existed, it is easy to see how many are reluctant to take the plunge into the public sphere, especially since the elite structure is not conducive to popular participation.
A recent study in the New Democracies Barometer found that widespread skepticism predominates of the fifteen institutions across nine Estern and Central European countries.2 journal of politics, may 1997 v59 n2 p418 (william mishler; richard rose) Even though the levels of trust varied amongst nations, the results clearly...