In the run-up to the “Velvet Revolution” of 1989 that overthrew communism, Czechoslovakia was routinely and accurately styled one of the “Gang of Four” most repressive regimes in the Soviet bloc. Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan's typology of communist regimes assigned the country to the category of “frozen totalitarianism,” in which “despite the persistent toleration of some civil society critics, … almost all the other control mechanisms of the party state stay in place and do not evolve” except by decay. Despite this inauspicious starting point, and the prompt dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1992, the new Czech Republic successfully democratized, marketized, and integrated into the complex of European institutions. Of the OECD countries, only Poland and Slovakia showed more robust growth in 2007, and the Bertelsman Transformation index of 2008 ranked the Czech Republic as the leading consolidated democracy in the region.
In this chapter, I shall explore the evolution of the Czech post-communist regime in three stages. First, I will unpack some important historical legacies of the multiple regimes the Czech Republic experienced in the twentieth century – parliamentary democracy in the interwar First Republic, the Nazi “protectorate” in the Second World War, and the communist state. I will then examine the institutional framework for democratic decision-making. The final step will be to analyze the broad political process under this system, emphasizing some of the distinctive dynamics that have created accountability problems in Czech politics and left some key transition problems still unresolved.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Sciences(all)