From Opposition to Government Coalition: Unity and Fragmentation within the Democratic Convention of Romania

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Over the past eight years, there has developed an important literature on Eastern European party and parliamentary systems. This literature has examined the nature of these systems by creating party classifications or addressing the process of parliamentary institutionalization (Roskin 1993; Olson and Norton 1996). However, relatively little of this literature has explored the nexus between Eastern European party and parliamentary coalitions. While theories of parliamentary activity have been developed to explain the composition of ruling coalitions (Riker 1962; Dodd 1976) or committee system behavior (Krehbiel 1991), these theories often fail to consider the development of what I term a "party electoral coalition." This type of coalition is composed of individual member-parties that form an electoral coalition which is transformed into a parliamentary coalition. The German Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Socialist Union coalition would be an example of a party electoral coalition, and these coalitions have figured prominently in the creation of parliamentary coalitions throughout Western Europe; however, they are even more important in Eastern European parliaments because of the large number of parliamentary parties. This article examines the broader relationship between party electoral and parliamentary coalitions by examining Romanian opposition politics. Romania provides an excellent case study in which to explore why Eastern European party electoral coalitions are so temporary. By understanding the nature of party electoral coalitions, we will better understand the difficulty of political transformation in this region.

THE CASE OF ROMANIA

In this article, I examine why the Romanian opposition movement and its party electoral coalition, the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR), fragmented in early 1995 and how this fragmentation actually assisted the CDR in the 1996 national elections. Based on a 1994 survey of CDR party leaders, I provide evidence which demonstrates that these elites had different perceptions regarding the nature of this coalition. Moreover, the fragmentation of this coalition provides some general evidence concerning the nature of these coalitions, and in the context of Romanian politics, the splintering of the Romanian opposition movement has already had a significant consequence for the future of Romanian politics. Before addressing those issues which contributed to the fragmentation of this coalition, it is instructive to discuss the basic features of this party electoral coalition.

In November 1991, Romanian opposition parties began their initial discussions concerning the formation of a party electoral coalition, and the CDR was the result of these discussions. Although many of the members of the coalition have changed since its inception in late 1991, there was a core group of parties in the CDR when this survey was conducted in May 1994: The Civic Alliance Party (PAC), the Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania (UDMR), the Liberal Party '93 (PL '93), the National Liberal Party-Democratic Convention (PNL-CD), the National Peasants Party-Christian Democratic (PNT-CD), the Romanian Ecological Party (PER) and the Social Democratic Party of Romania (PSDR). In addition, several associations and civic organizations are still members of this coalition. These associations include organizations such as the Civic Alliance and the Association of Former Political Detainees of Romania. While these associations did not field their own parliamentary candidates, these associations promoted the candidates of the CDR and had a significant influence on the internal structure of the organization. These associations have representation on the CDR Executive Committee and the Convention Council, and they are responsible for adopting protocols and directives which involve CDR political strategy and tactics.

The CDR was initially conceived as a party electoral coalition for the local elections in March 1992. …