The Roundtable Talks of 1989: The Genesis of Hungarian Democracy : Analysis and Documents

The Roundtable Talks of 1989: The Genesis of Hungarian Democracy : Analysis and Documents

The Roundtable Talks of 1989: The Genesis of Hungarian Democracy : Analysis and Documents

The Roundtable Talks of 1989: The Genesis of Hungarian Democracy : Analysis and Documents

Synopsis

This book provides analysis and documentary history of the Roundtable Talks, the major event of Hungary's 'negotiated revolution'. These occurred during the summer months of 1989, between the Communist Party, the Opposition Roundtable, and the so-called Third Side.

Excerpt

András Bozóki

This book deals with the history of the 1989 Roundtable talks in Hungary, unfolding and analyzing its history on the basis of primary sources recently published in Hungarian in eight volumes . The authors of this book are all of the opinion that in Hungary—as opposed to certain other Central European countries—these Roundtable talks amounted to much more than a mere side-show; in fact they constituted the hub of a total revolutionary transformation. The history of the change of regime in Hungary is unintelligible without a clear insight into the history of the Roundtable talks.

A change of regime is a political transformation of institutional and revolutionary character which effects a transition from a dictatorial type of political system into a democracy. This involves such aspects as dismantling the old political system and laying down the foundations of a new institutional order, but it does not necessarily include the long process of economic transformation. Democracy in Hungary was instituted first—capitalism came only later. The change of regime as a political transition can be regarded as complete when the nascent system contains that “minimum of democracy” which Robert A. Dahl described as comprising the following elements: citizenship becomes universally recognized, law-and-order becomes a fundamental constitutional principle, judicial independence is assured, those in power are elected through a democratic process, elections are free and clean, all possess the right to freedom of speech and to alternative sources of information, freedom to assemble, even to form political organizations, and finally, control over the armed forces is exercised by civilians .

Needless to say, the institutions of democracy were not realized in Hungary overnight and we must have a clear view of the problems of the last ten years in Hungary, even of the occasional deficiencies in democracy . The above criteria were listed to indicate that the concept of the change of regime (or transition) in this book is not understood in any broad sense and ideologically, but rather retrospectively. This definition is not contingent on the transformation of political culture, the completion of privatization or the possible ratification of a new constitution—but is used as a synonym for the transformation of political institutional order. The change of regime in Hungary has—in what historically speaking must be called a very short period of time—by now been completed.

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