After the collapse of the communist regime in November 1989, the Czech Republic took a path of profound transformation in virtually all aspects of social life. Democratization, along with the renewal of a market economy, was among the most important aims of the change ( Musil 1992).
The process of democratization affected all structural layers of the Czech society--not only the global level but also that of local societies. In fact, establishment of local democracy, including democratic local government and decentralization, was one of the cornerstones of the post-November political transformation. In the founding 1990 parliamentary elections, it was a part of the programs of all important political parties ( Illner 1992a). Local government may contribute in four different ways to the overall goals of the transformation processes ( Baldersheim and Illner 1996). One is that of providing opportunities for broad segments of the population to participate directly in government through elective offices and to watch government at work at close quarters. This may help the diffusion, learning, and acceptance of new role models and practices. Second, the elective and administrative roles that have to be filled create opportunities for the formation of new elites at the local level; political skills may be developed, necessary to act as a check--a countervailing force--to a national government and required to participate in national political life. Third, local governments may become arenas for experiments with a broad range of policies and alternative strategies of development. To the extent this occurs, local government may contribute to the development of the new regime's overall learning capacity. Fourth, decentralization prevents overload from developing at the center.
There are historical and geographic reasons why in the Czech lands, in
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Publication information: Book title: Participation and Democracy, East and West:Comparisons and Interpretations. Contributors: Dietrich Rueschemeyer - Editor, Marilyn Rueschemeyer - Editor, Björn Wittrock - Editor. Publisher: M. E. Sharpe. Place of publication: Armonk, NY. Publication year: 1998. Page number: 51.
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