Local community transformation
The Czech Republic 1990–2000 1Zdenka Vajdová
The first moments after the November 1989 regime change caught local communities in the Czech Republic unprepared. Moreover the further from Prague – the centre of the civic mobilisation and the subsequent political changes – the more uncertain the situation became. Other major cities such as Brno and Plzeň quickly assumed a similar role as epicentres of change, but in most localities people had difficulty comprehending what was happening, and the first few months of 1990 were critical in determining future developments: the danger was that apathy, mistrust and indolence would prevail. Civic Forum played a vital role at this time by opening information channels between the cities and rural or peripheral parts of the country. Students were the principal actors, tirelessly attending public meetings organised by local activists and authorised by the local authorities (still then known as national committees). These citizens' meetings became fora for expressions of courage, for the acquisition of trust and for the activisation of values which had long been disengaged.
The initial political changes at the local level concerned the creation of legislative and institutional foundations for the renewal of municipal self-government and for the democratic functioning of local public administrative organs. The resuscitation of representative bodies and of their autonomy in decision-making about public affairs was the first step in the transformation of public administration within the context of each municipality. In part this involved the decentralisation of competences from central institutions to municipal councils and administrations: the first major step towards territorial reform was taken in May 1990, when regional national committees, the key component of the old centralised system of public administration, were abolished. 2 The second phase of the democratisation of local government culminated in November 1990, when municipal elections installed the first generation of democratically elected councillors as a new local political elite.
The period from the fall of the communist regime to the first municipal elections had a number of special characteristics which were often decisive