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Attila Ágh, "Defeat and Success as Promoters of Party Change: The Hungarian Socialist Party after Two Abrupt Changes," Party Politics, 3 (July 1997), 427-443.

First Paragraph:
There has been a growing literature on the 'return of the postcommunist vote' as some well-documented and objective approaches show (see e.g. Gonzales, 1995b). But some analysts just consider it as the 'return of the old communists', without even making a meaningful distinction between East Central Europe (which includes Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Slovenia and Croatia) and Eastern Europe proper. Linz and Stepan (1996) also note that many observers 'saw the return to power of former Communist political leaders and parties in such vanguard transitions to democracy as Poland, Hungary and Lithuania as a "return to Communism" and as a major reversal of democracy'. They then 'argue why such an analysis is faulty, both conceptually and politically' (Linz and Stepan, 1996: 435). In the same spirit, this paper is intended to show that some former ruling parties in East Central Europe have undergone a deep transformation - above all in Hungary and Poland - and that they have basically changed. As Linz and Stepan argue, "the reform Communist coalitions accepted the democratic rules of game in how they contested the election and later how they ruled...Strictly speaking, in comparative terms, the Lithuanian, Polish and Hungarian elections represented a peaceful democratic alternation of power...the reformed Communists in Lithuania, Poland and Hungary were extremely eager to demonstrate that they would govern as democratic parties...To make this point they are holding themselves in some respects to somewhat higher standards of civil liberties than did their predecessors in Hungary and Lithuania, who occasionally violated civil liberties in the name of their nationalist and anti-Communist 'mandates' (Linz and Stepan, 1996: 454-5).

Figures and Tables:
Table A1: HSP membership according to education (percentages in parentheses)
Table A2: HSP membership according to age (percentages in parentheses)

Last Paragraph:
The cases of the Slovak and Czech Republics show not only a fragmentation of the left with early institutionalization but also a deep ideological division in the post-Czechoslovak states between the reorganized communist-type parties and the social democratic ones, with the growing dominance of the latter. The reorganized communist-type parties have played only a marginal role in Hungary and Poland, and the social-democratization of the leftist parties has dominated since 1989. This comparison demonstrates that, in various ways, there have been deep transformation processes in the left spectrum of East Central European party systems. The institutionalization process of the reformed parties has made considerable strides in Hungary and Poland, where they are already reaching relative consolidation. The social-democratization of the leftist parties has been accomplished to a great extent in all four countries discussed above in various ways, but the absence of a vision of the future and their unclear programmatic profiles are still striking weaknesses. Thus, their structural place is ready as Europeanization- and modernization-oriented, centre-left parties. But there is a long process of internal change ahead to achieve the Europeanization and modernization of their own parties and the creation of specific leftist political and policy alternatives.