Petr Kopecky, "Developing Party Organizations in
East-Central Europe: What Type of Party is Likely to
Emerge?" Party Politics , 1 (October, 1995),
Much of the new literature on political parties and party
systems in eastern Europe refers to them as being still
relatively weak and suffering from 'all kinds of "infantile
disorder"' (Ágh, 1993:242). Supported by the evidence
of the sheer number of emerging parties and movements, their
frequent dissolution and re-alignment, scholars talk about
'non-party systems' (Szklarski, 1992), while others warn us
not to describe new parties 'in terms of normal Western
criteria' (Misztal, 1992:173). At the same time, however,
the new parties in east European countries have gradually
assumed a central position among the emerging institutions.
They have come to play a decisive role in the governance of
these new democratic regimes in that the democratic
electoral contest as well as the functioning of governments
and parliaments is inconceivable without them. The
constitutional choices made are unthinkable without the
bargaining of political parties. And, as the opening
citation demonstrates, a conception of democracy prevailing
among the designers of the emerging democracies seems to be
one in which political parties are the core foundation of
the democratic political system.
Figures and Tables:
Figure 1: Development of voter preferences, December
1992-December 1994 (giving percentage of all respondents who
stated that they were certain or likely to vote).
Table 1: Party membership in the Czech Republic.
Table 2: Party membership (% of electorate).
Table 3: Summary table of party characteristics.
Although the short time perspective as well as the limited
scope of empirical material presented here do not permit
far-reaching conclusions, this article ends with a general
postulate. The brief history of east-central Europe's
post-communist development has made clear that these new
democracies,similarly to established Western democracies,
are most of all party democracies. Despite continuing
fragmentation, which is to a varying extent common to all
party systems in the region and is likely to persist for
some time to come, party politics have become a vital aspect
of the interactions within the new political class as well
as between the elite and citizens. If that is the case, the
type of party existing in the emerging democracies will also
be decisive for any judgement on the systems' quality and