Academic journal article Studia Politica; Romanian Political Science Review

Post-Communist Romania: A Peculiar Case of Divided Government

Academic journal article Studia Politica; Romanian Political Science Review

Post-Communist Romania: A Peculiar Case of Divided Government

Article excerpt

If for the most part of its post-communist history, Romania experienced a form of unified government based on political coalitions and alliances which resulted in conflictual relations between the executive and the legislative and even among the dualist executive itself, it should come as no surprise that the periods of divided government are marked by strong confrontations which have culminated with two failed suspension attempts.

The main form of divided government in Romania is that of cohabitation, and it has been experienced only twice, for a brief period of time: in 2007-2008 under Prime-Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu of the National Liberal Party and again, starting May 2012, under Prime Minister Victor Ponta of the Social Democratic Party. It is important to note that, on both occasions, the President in office has been Traian Basescu of the Democratic Liberal Party, and that none of these cohabitations are the result of any type of elections. Even though these two periods of cohabitation are quite similar, the consequences they determined are far more dramatic than those experienced by any other European country with a semi-presidential regime.

This study is dedicated to a theoretical and empirical examination of divided government, as it has manifested itself on the Romanian political arena. Employed to characterize several central governments in the history of post-World War II United States of America, the concept of divided government has managed to expand to such an extent that it is now widely used in scrutinizing semi-presidential regimes throughout Europe, proving that it is not specific to presidential regimes. Throughout the first part of my paper, I will present an extensive theoretical explanation of what "divided government" and "cohabitation" mean, focusing on a significant correlation between cohabitation and semi-presidentialism, which is the source of the peculiarity of Romanian government.

Furthermore, an analysis of the Romanian case represents the central section of my paper, in which I embark on an empirical assessment of the degree and the respective manner in which divided government has occurred in our country. I find that the theoretical models and explanations on the emergence of divided government in semi-presidential regimes are not applicable to the Romanian case, thus rendering it as an exception, by contrast with other cases throughout Europe.

Finally, the last part is dedicated to an explanation of the consequences divided government is most likely to produce and I contend that the Romanian post-communist instances provide for the most dramatic such effects of divided government.


The literature on divided government has emerged in the late 1980s and is mainly represented by the seminal works of scholars such as Morris Fiorina, Gary Cox, Kernell Samuel and Gary Jacobson in which they analyze the concept of "divided government" as it is illustrated by the American example, some focusing on revealing the conditions which lead to the emergence of this phenomenon, while others are dedicated to measuring its effects and establishing whether they are positive or negative. However, a decade later and after numerous research on the causes and consequences of divided government, this concept has expanded its significance and is now considered to be applicable not only to presidential regimes, but to parliamentary and semi-presidential regimes as well, with all of their respective varieties. In this section of my paper, I explore the conceptual delimitations that have been suggested throughout time by the scholars on this topic.

The studies on divided government first began with James Sundquist's article in Political Science Quarterly1, in 1988, and the election of George Bush as President against a Democratic-dominated Congress, when it became apparent that the phenomenon of divided government was a recurrent theme in American politics and even "a legitimate form of party control"2. …

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