The Neo-Communist Parties and Power in Central and Eastern Europe: Change in Political Discourses and Foreign Policy Positions

Article excerpt

Introduction

The collapse of communism across the Central and Eastern Europe was one of the final manifestations of a worldwide spread of democratization over a period of twenty years that began with South Europe in 1974, then continued in Latin America in the 1980s and subsequently moved on to Eastern Asia in the late 1980s and 1990s. Political scientists devoted much effort to account for the timing and modalities of the changes of political regimes and the structural conditions and dynamic processes that made possible this "third wave of democratization," as it is called by S. Huntington. Much of the research in political science is still influenced by an almost exclusive concern with the consolidation of basic parameters of democratic regime in the democracies of Third Wave. The debate on the role of political regimes (parliamentarism or presidentialism) for the development of the new democracies may establish correlations between executive-legislative institutional designs and durability of democratic values, but our work aims here not to discuss the typology of regimes in the new democracies, but to concentrate on the transformation of political discourse within the post-ideological transition process. Within this aspect, the study of the change in the political discourse of the former communist parties during the post-Cold War era will no doubt present the empirical originality of the post-Communist transition. For this purpose, this article focuses on identifying the adaptation process of the communist successor parties during the post-communist transition and seeks to investigate the extent to which their discourse have changed over time, particularly in accordance with the external factors (or systemic variables).

The new democracies in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) have avoided the rise to power of non-liberal forces and, in spite of widespread cynicism and corruption, there is a growing consensus regarding the desirability of markets, free media, and pluralist institutions. However the situation differs from country to country; the transitions seem to turn out to be more difficult and problematic in the south-eastern part of Europe, especially in Romania and Bulgaria, during the 1990s.

As many observers of democratic transitions have noted, the success of democratization in these countries depends on the promotion of political moderation within the major political parties; here, the former communist parties are playing a vital role in conditioning the scope and the development of politics in these new democracies, with their organizational assets and political discourses in the face of current socioeconomic challenges of post-communist transition since 1989.

Linkage between the Discourses of Foreign Policy and Political Parties: Theoretical Assumptions and Methodological Issues

When political scientists aim to analyse the outcomes of foreign policy within the decision-making process, they often take into account the discourse and decisions of the political powers. Even though the ruling bodies find their legitimacy and ideological sources within the structures and components of their national political culture, the leaders and the political bodies in government give such a direction to the foreign policy outputs of the State, by considering officially its environmental circumstances, but from a different status. The political parties' activities and discourse on the foreign policy themes are studied within the framework of "societal variables" of Rosenau's scientific study of foreign policy. (1)

Rosenau and his disciples observe the role of the political parties considered as independent agents of the political culture at the level of societal variables. (2) The political culture comprises the analysis of the traditions, historical perspectives and expectations, perceptions at societal level; within the democratic context, the political parties as structures emerged from the social realities and mosaics try to represent the sensitivity, expectations and interests of the social strata on a legally predefined basis and to develop them into a special "political rhetoric. …

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