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Hostages to Fortune? The Representation of Women and Ethnic Minorities in the Committee Systems of Post-Communist Legislatures

Europe (Central and Eastern)
Institutions
Parliaments
Representation
Race
Cristina Chiva
University of Salford
Cristina Chiva
University of Salford

Abstract

Two and a half decades after the collapse of communism, there has been surprisingly little scholarship on the committees systems of Central and East European legislatures, and virtually nothing on parliamentary bodies that focus on the representation of women and/or ethnic minorities. The central concern of this paper is with the question of whether, and how, these committees have become institutionalised in the legislative politics of post-communist Europe, and how such processes of institutionalisation have shaped the politics of substantive representation in the region. This paper argues that these committees’ ability to act on behalf of the group they represent is primarily driven by two factors: first, the overall profile of the legislature in terms of its representation of women and ethnic minorities; secondly, the relative institutional strength of these committees – that is, the extent to which the rules of group representation set out in these committees’ mandates are both durable and minimally enforced. I draw on Levitsky and Murillo’s (2009) two-dimensional model of variation in institutional strength in arguing that, while standing committees on national minorities helped to establish and enforce the norms of ethnic minority representation, committee structures on gender equality have been considerably more unstable and therefore less successful in terms of successfully representing women’s interests. The case studies are the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia.