Redeeming the Communist Past: The Regeneration of Communist Parties in East Central Europe

By Anna M. GrzymaŁa-Busse | Go to book overview

3
Developing Programmatic Responsiveness

Once the communist successor parties began to change their organizations, they still had to convince both the voters and other parties of the sincerity of their metamorphosis, and of their ability to govern democratically. Voters had little faith in the parties at the outset – over four decades of communist repression left profound suspicions regarding the successors' motives and intentions after 1989. Yet without such public trust, the communist successors could not function as democratic parties – they would not be able to obtain electoral support, represent their chosen constituencies, or cooperate with other parties in the legislature.

Moreover, practical considerations mandated that the parties turn to the electorate to survive politically; the first free elections awaited most of the successor parties within a few months after the regime collapses in 1989.1 The communist successors now had to persuade the public of their democratic intentions and their ability to respond to popular concerns – that despite the communist parties' history of duplicity, authoritarianism, and lack of real liberalization, the parties' new commitments to democracy and the free market were real. In other words, the communist successors would try to prove that they were now dedicated to the very political system their predecessors had spent nearly five decades attempting to eradicate. Moreover, they had to prove that despite their authoritarian past, they could now legislate, represent, and govern well: in a responsive and efficient manner. As we will see in the next chapter, while all the parties did relatively poorly in the first elections, their subsequent electoral success was directly predicated on their ability to convince the

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1
These were held in June 1990 in Czechoslovakia, March 1990 in Hungary, and October 1991 in Poland, with a presidential election in December 1990.

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