Transition to Democracy Lectures The Executive Powers By Jan Holzer CDK & FAT, Chiang Mai, November 2011
The executive power • The executive branch is one of the three main pillars of power in the state. • The division of state powers into executive, legislative, and judicial is typical for democratic regimes. • In non-democratic regimes the statepower is in the hands of a monopolistic actor, typicallyan army, a leader or a monopoly party. The division of powers, if it exists, is only a formal. • The executive branch is represented by two institutions, the head of state and the government.
Government and head of state The main role of the government are to: • Propose the laws; • Propose the state budget and to collect taxes; • To implement the policies within the frame of constitution and law, and by using the state budget; • To coordinate, organize, and oversight the social, economic, cultural andotherspheres. • To manage the state bureaucracy. The main role of the head of state is to represents the state to the outside world.
Executive branch under communist rule • The Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ) had dominant position over all institutions of the state. The power of the KSČ is additionally guaranteed by the SSSR and Warsaw Block. • Typical disparity between the formal constitutional system on one hand and everyday political practice on the other. Formally the government was the highest executive organ and it was answerable to the National Assembly. • In reality the government was not assembled based on the results of free andcompetitiveparliamentary elections. Governments ruled in accordance with the directives and orders issued by the organs of the KSČ.
Role of the government in the transition • Communist Party (and not the government) was the real power-holder. In the late 1980s the first voices suggesting limited reforms came from within the government and the bureaucracy, especially in the economic and cultural spheres. • The government was not the initiator of the reforms. However, some individuals within these structures (the so-called reform wing) were more inclined towards dialogue with the unofficial opposition. • These partsof the government and the bureaucracy were somewhat receptive to the idea of reform because they had to face the growing problems in societyandlackof legitimity oftheregime. They saw how country was lagging in the economic and social indicators behind the countries of Western Europe.
Role of the government in the transition • During the decisive weeks of the 1989 the Communist party top leadership was not able to react on the new situation. It was the people around the government who arranged the first contacts with the opposition. The dialogue between the government and opposition headed off the use of violence by the army or police. • The naming of a government of national reconciliation (December 10, 1989) was a success for the opposition. The government included representatives of the oppositionalCivic Forum (OF) and officials from the KSČ. • Memberof KSČMarián Čalfa was named a newpremier. The main goal of the new government was to lead the country to free and democratic parliamentary elections.
The significantstory of Marián Čalfa • The formerly highly placed and loyal official of the Communist Party quickly realized the advantages of presenting himself as a useful partner for the opposition. His reward after the parliamentary elections of 1990 was again the post of premier. • Marián Čalfa represents an example of the quick adaptation by former communist to the new democratic conditions. • This story is nothing exceptional. Vice versa - a certain degree of participation by representatives of the former (non-democratic) regimes in building the new (democratic) regime is regarded as an important andprobablynecessarypart of the long-term success of any transitionadndemocratization.
First (optimistic/realistic) explanation for the Czechoslovak transition • After the university students´ demonstrations, the police intervention and mass protests, unofficial dissident opposition came out with a project of democratization which quickly gained the support of a decisive segment of the awakening Czech and Slovak public. • The communist authorities proved to be unprepared to effectively react to the new situation. The KSČ was unable to mount a resistance to the awakening opposition. It capitulated quickly, and more or less without a fight. • Decisive factor of the change has been society’s yearning for freedomand democracy (optimistic), orsocialandeconomic boom (realistic) which gave people the courage to stand up to communism
Second (sceptical, conspirative) explanation for the Czechoslovak transition • The simplicityofthetransition, and the lack of resistance by the KSČ, was due to a quiet agreement between a significant part of the so-called nomenclature and the opposition. • Argument: in the subsequent economic transformationandprivatizationofficials of the old/prior regime used their contacts to make out better than ordinary citizens. • Decisive factor of the change:strategic calculation by part of the communist elite that they had no more interest in prolonging the non-functional communist model, and that it would be better to adapt to western standards, especially in the economicsphere.
Czech transition phases • November 17, 1989 - the police intervention against the student demonstration followed by strike and mass protests. • End of November - the small unofficial dissident opposition took the initiative, established Civic Forum (OF) and came out with a project of democratization which quickly gained the support of a decisive segment of the public. The communist authorities proved to be unprepared to effectively react. • November 21, 1989 - The dialogue between the government and opposition. • December 10, 1989 - The naming of a government of national reconciliation. The newgovernment included representatives of the OF and the KSČ; itsmaintask was to lead the country to free and democratic parliamentary elections.
The 1st phase: From Nov 1989 until Jun 1990 • Three governments (Czechoslovak, Czech, Slovak) were formed on the basis of behind-the-scenes political agreements.The main trend: (1.) the growing influence of the democratic forces, and (2.) the weakening of the ability (and willingness) of the old regime to block change. • The federal governmenttookthemost important steps: it started reorientation in the foreign, economic, andsocialpolicies. • December 10– The abdication of the long-standing Communist president Gustav Husák. • December 29– The election of Václav Havel, the most prominent representative of the Czech anti-communist opposition, as the new president.
June 1990 – the first freeandcompetitive elections • A key change was brought by the first free andcompetitiveparliamentary elections. • The elections were a typical plebiscite on the former regime. Itwasfor many voters not a choice among a number of new political parties but a dilemma between communism and democracy. The crushing victory by the OF gave democratic forces the legitimacy to continue with reforms. • New threegovernments were formed. They had a two-year mandate. The new federal government was again headed by Marián Čalfa. The key posts were filled by representatives of the OF and VPN (Slovakoppositionalmovement); and the government had a majority in the Federal Assembly.
The 2nd phase (1990-1992) • The parliamentary elections in 1990 began the second phase of the transition: the communists were defeated, and anti-communist unity was no longer a necessity.The broad opposition camp started to split, mainly over the future direction of transformation, and the issue of the design of institutional structure of the common state of Czechs and Slovaks. • The post-election governments of the OF and VPN launched the process of economic transformation. At the same time they were forced to deal with the future of the federal state itself. • July 5, 1990 - Václav Havel was re-elected as President of Czechoslovakiaby members of parliament, albeit this time by a freely-elected parliament.
2nd parliamentary elections (June 1992) • The party systemwas becoming increasingly polarized. The broad opposition movement of the Velvet Revolution was replaced in the Czech lands by the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), and in Slovakia the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS). • Their leaders, Václav Klaus and Vladimír Mečiar, agreed to break up the federation and create two independent states, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic, as of January 1, 1993. • The center of executive power in the Czech lands shifted to the new Czech government. The federal government went out of existence on December 31, 1992.VáclavHavel resigned as president as of July 20, 1992.