This volume on Cabinets in Eastern Europe is a parallel work to the volume on Cabinets in Western Europe which first appeared in 1988 and had a second edition in 1997. The evolution of Eastern Europe in the course of the 1990s seemed to entail that an inquiry be made into the way post-communist countries were being governed, intrinsically because of the extraordinary changes which had taken place after 1989 in the way the national executive was being organised in these polities and practically because of the high probability that some, if not all, the countries of the area would sooner or later join the European Union. As a matter of fact, what was striking was the extent to which the new regimes of Eastern Europe were modelled on those of Western Europe – much more so, for instance, than those of the countries belonging to the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
It is particularly interesting to study the way the national executive has been restructured in Eastern Europe because what the cabinet system of government has been adopted everywhere in an area in which one might have expected a form of presidentialism to prevail, as indeed it has tended to be the case further East, whether in Russia or in other republics, even if in a manner different from the presidentialism of America and Latin America.
The cabinet system has been praised for generations for having enabled Britain and several other countries to move smoothly towards a responsible system of executive rule: but the cabinet system has been successful in a minority of countries only, principally Western European or in parts of the Commonwealth. Examples of failure have been numerous, not just in Africa after 1960 but in Western Europe itself. Post-First World War Italy, Weimar Germany, Republican Spain, Third and Fourth Republic France or 1967 Greece are only some of the examples of the pathology of cabinet government. Meanwhile, other countries ruled by cabinet government are sometimes regarded as providing examples of difficulties and perhaps ineffectiveness, an accusation which was even levelled at Britain in the 1970s.
These difficulties stem in large part from the fact that cabinet government, which takes place in the context of the parliamentary system, is rather like a complex instrument which can work very well when all the parts are in order but can easily be disrupted if one or more parts are deficient. The cabinet system requires among other things a working party system, a spirit of collaboration among the parties and in particular among their leaders and a high level of trust between politicians in government and