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Local Political Leadership in Central and Eastern Europe: The case of Poland and Slovakia

Open Panel

Abstract

The decade of 1990s brought extremely important changes on the Central and Eastern European political scene, and it was also a decade of a revival of local democracy in this part of Europe. However, after the process of restoration of local government more attention has been paid to the quality of democracy. Local political leadership has become a key issue in many countries of the region. In many cases it has been proved by the institutional changes. Several CEE countries have decided to replace the old leadership model by introducing new solutions. Very popular was e.g. the idea of direct elections of mayors. That was introduced at the beginning of 1990’s in Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia, Albania, in 1994 in Hungary and finally in 2002 in Poland. However there are significant differences between the CEE countries, the main hypotheses of the paper assumes that the local leadership is gaining its importance. And although many other changes have been introduced to improve efficiency of public services, issue of local leadership emerges as even more critical in the context of local governance. Large and complex localities need influential and enabling leadership, firmly placed in institutional, political and social structures therefore the role of so called “political leader” is put forward. This process is even more important and crucial in Central and Eastern Europe than in Western democracies. The authors pose a following questions: how have changed the local political leadership in Poland and Slovakia during past two decades? how does (if) differ local leadership in these post-communist countries (e.g. in type and style)? what is (if) the impact of local leaders on local governance? The authors base their analysis on neoinstitutional theory and support it by the empirical data (surveys, interviews). The expected output of the paper is a diagnosis of local political leadership in Poland and Slovakia.