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Institutional Design and Party Government in Post-Communist Europe$

Csaba Nikolenyi

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199675302

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199675302.001.0001

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(p.186) Appendix D Government Coalitions in Post-Communist Democracies1

(p.186) Appendix D Government Coalitions in Post-Communist Democracies1

Source:
Institutional Design and Party Government in Post-Communist Europe
Publisher:
Oxford University Press

Bulgaria

Since the first post-transition elections in 1991, Bulgaria had eight governments, three of which were caretaker administrations (Berov, Indzhova, and Sofiyanski). The five regular cabinets were formed by four different kinds of party coalitions: one of them was a single-party minority government (Dimitrov); two were single-party majority governments (Videnov, Kostov); one was a minimum winning coalition (Sax-Coburg-Gota), and one was an oversize majority coalition (Stanishev). Overall, there has been a strong tendency in Bulgaria towards the formation of majority governments.

The history of government formation during the first decade of the country’s post-transition period (1991 to 2001) reflected the domination of the party system by two major formations: the ex-communist BSP and the SDS/ODS. Over the first three electoral cycles (1991, 1994, 1997), the two parties alternated as electoral winners and whichever won a plurality or a majority of the seats proceed to form a government. In 1991 the SDS formed a minority government relying on the negotiated support of the DPS, while the 1994 and 1997 elections resulted in single-party majority government first by the BSP and then by the ODS.

The 2001election marked the end of the two-party era in the Bulgarian party system. The plurality winner of the election was the NDSV, which contested the polls and entered the National Assembly for the first time. Although the party won exactly 50 percent of the seats, which could plausibly have allowed it to form a single-party minority government, the NDSV started coalition talks with each of the other three parties that won parliamentary seats (BSP, ODS and DPS). In the end, a minimum winning coalition was formed with the DPS, the smallest of the four parliamentary parties.

In contrast to this narrow coalition, the 2005 election resulted in the first oversized majority coalition in the country. The 2005 Bulgarian election resulted in a significant jump in parliamentary fragmentation to 4.8 (from 2.9 in the previous polls!) while also bringing a number of new parties to the legislature. Although the BSP won a plurality of the seats and thus received the mandate to form a government it failed to forge a majority solution thus letting the next largest (p.187) party, the NDSV, to lead the next attempt. However, the NDSV also failed. Eventually, fifty-one days after the election, a new Bulgarian government was formed under the leadership of Prime Minister S. Stanishev of the BSP. The coalition included the three largest parties in parliament, the BSP, the NDSV, and the DPS (Spirova 2006: 620).

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic has had eight governments in the four Chambers of Deputies elected since the inception of the new sovereign state. Two of these (Tosovsky and Fischer) were caretaker administrations, while the remaining six were split between minority governments (Klaus, Zeman, and Topolanek) and minimum winning coalitions (Spidla, Gross, Paroubek). These six governments were formed by five distinct coalitions. Therefore, even though there has been regular alternation in office between Left and Right coalitions, there was considerable fluctuation in their composition. At the same time, it speaks to the relative stability of the Czech party system that every general election resulted in the same two parties (ODS and CSSD) winning the most seats and the one with the plurality forming the government.

Two general elections were followed by the formation of Right (Klaus, Topolanek) and Left coalition governments (Zeman, Spidla) respectively. Interestingly, the collapse of both Right coalitions was followed by the induction of caretaker cabinets, whereas the disintegration of Spidla’s government was followed by the formation of a new cabinet supported by the same coalition partners. In contrast to some of the other countries, such as Hungary or Slovakia, where the alternating governing coalitions had no overlapping members, the Czech Republic’s centrist KDU participated in coalition government of both the Left and the Right.

The 1996 election produced a six-party legislature with the center-right ODS and the center-left CSSD winning the largest number of seats. The new government was formed by the same three conservative parties (ODS, KDU and ODA) that had formed the outgoing executive. With a combined seat share of ninety-nine out of 200 seats the coalition partners came within a hair’s breadth of a parliamentary majority. The largest opposition party, the CSSD, found it impossible to propose an alternative majority coalition because neither of the other two opposition parties proved to be realistic partners. The KSCM was generally considered an “untouchable” by all other parties because of its association with the ousted communist regime. Similarly, the SPR was too extreme and radical at the other end, the far-right, of the political spectrum, which made it an impossible partner in any coalition.

(p.188) The premature collapse of the government led to the early elections of 1998, which produced a CSSD plurality. President Havel invited four of the five parliamentary parties to participate in the government formation process while explicitly excluding the KSCM. The exclusion of the Communist Party did not create much of a discontent as it was justified and broadly accepted on grounds of the party’s lack of democratic credentials. However, the unavailability of the communists as a potential coalition partner exerted considerable constraint on the government formation talks by reducing the number of feasible combinations. Essentially, President Havel’s decision meant that the two smaller parties, the KDU and the US, would have a veto on the formation of a majority coalition led by either of the two large parties.

In the end, the two parties were unable to overcome their coordination dilemma and thus paved the way to the formation of a single-party CSSD cabinet supported from the outside by the leading opposition party, the ODS (Nikolenyi 2030). The terms of cooperation between the two large parties were defined in a pact, known as the Opposition Agreement, that included provisions for the allocation of parliamentary and state offices, coordination between the CSSD and ODS on policy initiatives with special attention to constitutional reform, a commitment to not forming a coalition with a third party (Roberts 2003: 1301–3). The commitment to constitutional change targeted the electoral system, which the two large parties wanted to amend in order to reduce the influence of the smaller parties in the party system (Crawford 2001; Nikolenyi 2011). Whereas the ODS pledged neither to participate in the initial vote of confidence that the incoming government must receive nor to “raise a vote of no-confidence in the government nor to utilize constitutional channels leading to the dissolution of the Chamber of Deputies,” the two parties reserved their right to vote freely on any other pieces of legislation without coordinating with one another (Roberts 2003: 1032).

Although the cooperative arrangement between the CSSD and the ODS soon broke down, the government was able to remain in office for a full term. Moreover, the CSSD even succeed to win a plurality of seats in the subsequent elections of 2002 and form a bare majority minimum winning coalition government with the KDU and the US. This coalition formed three successive cabinets (Spidla, Gross, and Paroubek) during the term of the 2002–6 Chamber of Deputies.

The 2006 election resulted in the most difficult and protracted government formation process ever not only in the Czech Republic but in all of post-communist East Central Europe. Following the elections, it took 219 days for the new cabinet to be sworn-in. Although the ODS won the most seats, the freshly elected Chamber was divided equally between the two parties of the two parties of the Left (KSCM and the CSSD) and the three parties of Right and Center (ODS, SZ, and KDU). Following a failed attempt by the ODS to form a single-party minority government, a Center-Right minority coalition was formed by the aforementioned three parties. Although the coalition controlled only 50 percent of the seats, the new government led by M. Topolanek won its investiture vote of confidence thanks to the abstention of two dissenting CSSD deputies (Linek 2008: 947–9).

(p.189) Estonia

In the four legislatures that have completed their term in post-communist Estonia by 2009 political parties formed eight regular and one caretaker (Tarand) governments. Except for the latter, all other governments consisted of a distinct party coalition which indicates the unsettled and volatile character of the Estonian party system. The first two elections (1992, 1995) were followed by the formation of a government headed by the plurality party (Isaama and KMU respectively). In contrast, the party that won the most seats in the 1999 polls (EK) did not find its way to the cabinet until almost three years after the election. In 2003, two parties, the EK and the newly formed RP, tied for first place with each winning 28 percent of the seats and eventually both of them entered the governing coalition. Yet, even though the EK won the most seats in two elections (1999 and 2003), it was never able to lead a government and supply the prime minister. The history of post-communist governments shows a marked bias towards majorities as all but two of the eight governments were minimum winning coalitions. It is important to note that neither of the two minority governments (Siimann and Kallas) were immediate post-election cabinets. Similarly to Latvia, none of Estonia’s governments were formed by a Left coalition of parties.

Although the first post-communist election resulted in a fragmented Riigikogu, the largest party, Isaama, assumed a dominant position thanks to winning nearly 30 percent of the seats while the second and third largest parties, KK and ER, were able to capture only half of that. Upon being invited to form a government, the party reached a minimum winning coalition deal with the ERSP and the M, each having won twelve out of the 101 seats. Although this coalition of the Right-of-Center survived until the next election, Prime Minister M. Laar was replaced by A. Tarand for the last six months in a caretaker capacity after the former had been voted out of office.

The 1995 election brought the KMU to victory with 40 percent of the seats. As before, the second largest party (ER) once again captured only half of the seats grabbed by the plurality winner of the election. Although the second post-communist Riigikogu saw somewhat more turbulence in its executive politics as two prime ministers and three different coalitions succeeded one another, some semblance of stability was provided by the fact that each of these governments was formed and led by the plurality party. Following the election, the KMU formed a short-lived minimum winning coalition with the EK. After seven months in office Prime Minster Vahi was forced to step down. Although the coalition was dissolved, the prime minister was able to re-negotiate his way back to power by getting the ER, the second largest party, to form a larger minimum winning coalition with his own KMU. This coalition lasted a little longer than its predecessor but the last two years of the Riigikogu’s term were completed under a single-party KMU government led by Prime Minister Siimann.

(p.190) The third post-communist election resulted in a small reduction in the gap between the first and second largest parties’ seat shares. The relative weakening of the plurality party (EK) was also reflected in its inability to control the government formation processes during the ensuing four years. After the election, a minimum winning coalition government was formed by the I, R, and M, which were the second, third, and fourth largest parties in the Riigikogu respectively (actually, the I and R had the same number of seats, eighteen each). This government stayed in office under Prime Minister Laar for nearly three years after which it was replaced a nearly winning minority coalition of the EK and the ER. Although the plurality part had more cabinet seats in this government, the ER supplied the new prime minister in the person of S. Kallas.

The election of 2003 produced a tie between the two largest parties; the newly formed RP and the EK won twenty-eight seats each. Eventually, both of these parties found their way in a governing coalition during the term of the fourth post-communist Riigikogu which saw the formation of two minimum winning governing coalitions. The post-election government of Prime Minister J. Parts was headed by the RP and it included the ER and R as junior coalition partners. After almost exactly two years in office, the government collapsed following the prime minister’s resignation. The two smaller partners formed a new coalition with the EK, although the prime minister, A. Ansip, was supplied by the ER.

Hungary

A detailed account about government formation in Hungary is given in Chapter Four.

Latvia

Independent Latvia’s first post-communist legislature saw the formation of two minority coalition governments in relatively quick succession. Both governments were headed by the LC, the plurality winner of the 1993 election, although by different prime ministers. The LC’s coalition partner in the Birkavs government was the LZS; the two parties controlled a near majority of 48 percent of the seats. After a year in power, the LZS left the coalition. Although President Ulamis urged the formation of a conservative majority coalition between the LC and LNNK, eventually the new government was formed by the LC and the tiny (p.191) TPA, a splinter from the TSP, under the leadership of M. Gailes (Müller-Rommel and Norgaard 2001: 33).

In contrast to the first post-communist Saeima, majority coalitions dominated Latvia’s second post-communist legislature. The post-election government formed after the 1995 polls was a broadly based oversized coalition that included six (DPS, LC, TB, LNNK, LVP, and the united list of the LZS, LKDS and the LLDP) of the nine parliamentary parties with a combined share of 73 percent of the seats. The excluded parties were the pro-Russian LSP and TSP as well s the ultra-nationalist TKL-ZP, a splinter from the LNNK. Prime Minister A. Skele resigned after a little more than a year in office but was appointed by President Ulmanis to form the new government, which included all previous members of the coalition with the exception of the LVP. Six months later Prime Minister Skele resigned but the same coalition of parties re-formed the new government under Prime Minister G. Krasts, whose own LNNK had recently merged with the TB. Although DPS left the coalition in April 1998, a move that deprived the government of its legislative majority, Krasts’s government remained in power until the next election in October 1998.

The third post-communist Saeima saw the formation of three distinct coalition governments among four political parties. As in previous cases, the party that represented the country’s Russian-speaking minority, TSP, was excluded from these coalitions. The election was followed by the formation of a minority coalition of the Right-of-Center (LC, LNNK + TB, and the recently created JS) that resolved to support the candidacy of V. Kristopans to the post of head of government. In order to buttress their legislative support base, the coalition partners tried to attract Prime Minister A. Skele’s newly founded TP, which actually won the most seats in the election, into cabinet. When the talks broke down over the allocation of specific portfolios (EECR 7:4), the coalition turned to the LSDA. Although the party did not formally join the conservative coalition, it agreed to sending one minister, P. Salkazanovs to occupy the portfolios of Agriculture, upon successful completion of an accord with Prime Minister Kristopans in February 1999 (EECR 8:1). Technically, this accord transformed the minority status of the governing coalition into a minimum winning one.

Securing continued cooperation among the coalition partners proved to be an uneasy task. Although the government survived an early confrontation between the LNNK + TB and the JS over ministerial appointments as well as the splintering of the three-party coalition during the presidential balloting in the summer of 1999, the prime minister eventually resigned on July 5, 1999, when the opposition TP and the LNNK + TB signed an agreement of cooperation. Within two weeks, A. Skele was sworn in as prime minister of a minimum winning coalition government comprising the TP, the LC, and the LNNK + TB, the three largest parties in the Saeima (EECR 8:4). In the following May, the government underwent yet another change both in the person of the prime minister (A. Berzins) and in its party composition. The last government that was formed in this Saeima (p.192) included all four parties that had formed the previous two cabinets, i.e. TP, LC, LNNK + TB, and JS. Thus, the last government of the third post-communist Saeima was extremely broadly based as it included four of the six parliamentary parties controlling 70 percent of the seats.

The fourth parliament continued the same pattern as three governments succeeded each other within a span of four years. Also repeating the previous pattern, each of these governments consistently excluded the party that represented the Russian-speaking minority, this time the PCVTL, which meant that the three government coalitions were formed by different combinations of the five Latvian parties that won seats in the parliament. The post-election coalition was a four-party minimum winning majority led by the largest party, the JL under Prime Minister E. Repse. The plurality party had only a single seat advantage over the second largest party, the PCTVL, and formed a narrow majority that was but five seats over the majority threshold. The coalition included the JL, the TB + LNNK, ZZS and the LPP. When the prime minister’s party pulled out of the coalition, a minority government was sworn in headed by I. Emsis of the ZZS that also included the LPP and the TP. The third government was formed in December 2004 following the failure of the Emsis government to have its budget accepted by the Saeima. Although the incoming prime minister, A. Kalvitis of the TP, was at first able to put together heading an oversized majority coalition, with the cooperation of the LPP, ZZS, and the JL, the latter withdrew from the coalition in April 2006 letting the Kalvitis government finish the reminder of its term in a minority status.

Lithuania

The history of government coalitions in post-communist Lithuania is unique among the post-communist democracies in that political parties have formed every main type of coalition with almost the same frequency. Altogether fourteen governments were formed in the four completed post-communist parliaments, five of which were caretaker administrations (Lubys, Degutiene-I, II, Gentvilas, and Balcytis). The nine actual governments were formed by six distinct coalitions, which indicates that a number of these coalitions suffered with internal instability. In particular, coalitions of the single-party majority and the over-sized majority type changed several prime ministers and cabinets during their term in office, while minority coalitions and minimum winning majorities were always terminated when the government that they supported changed. The temporal sequence in which the different types of coalitions were formed is indicative of the gradual fragmentation of the Lithuanian party system. In the first two post-communist elections, the largest party was able to win either an actual parliamentary majority (p.193) (1992) or near majority (1996). In the former, the majority party (LDDP) formed single-party majority governments, while in the latter (the TS) it opted for oversized coalitions. In the subsequent two elections (2000 and 2004), the plurality party no longer enjoyed the same kind of numerical advantage as it won only 36 percent and 27 percent of the mandates, respectively. It was in these later Seimases that minority and minimum winning coalitions succeeded each other. Except for one instance (Paksas 2000), governments and governing coalitions were always led by the plurality, or majority, party, which also supplied the prime minister.

The first post-communist election to the Seimas of newly independent Lithuania produced a majority winner in the LDDP, the communist successor party. Despite its extremely strong electoral mandate, the LDDP tried to form a broadly based coalition government with Sajudis, its principal opposition, which won only twenty-eight seats against the LDDP’s seventy-three (Rommel and Hansen 2001: 42). Eventually, the efforts failed and the LDDP had to assume alone the responsibility of government. Even so, the new prime minister, B. Lubys, agreed to take office on a caretaker basis until the presidential elections that were due in early 1993. The LDDP’s candidate, A. Brazauskas, swept the presidential polls and in March 1993 the party formed an actual working government under the leadership of A. Slezevicus. After three years in office, he lost a vote of confidence and thus the LLDP government finished its last year of its term under Prime Minister L. Stankevicius.

The electoral pendulum shifted markedly in 1996 when the principal party of the re-organized Right, TS (LK), won one seat short of a majority in the country’s second post-communist parliamentary election. The plurality winner formed an oversized coalition government that included the second largest party, the LKDP, and the LCS. Although the TS-led coalition government lasted a full term, it was headed by three different prime ministers in the short span of four years: G. Vagnorius, R. Paksas, and A. Kubilius.

The third and fourth elections produced considerably more fragmented Seimases where, for the first time, different party coalitions replaced one another in government during the same inter-election period. After the 2000 election, the second and third largest parties, the LLS and NS formed a minority coalition government led by R. Paksas. This government, however, was replaced by a minimum winning coalition government formed by the NS and the LSDP, the party that won the most seats at the polls, after less than a year in office. The new prime minister, A. Brazauskas, served until the next elections of 2004, and then again in the new parliament until the summer of 2006 at the head of a four-party minimum winning coalition comprising the LSDP, the newly formed DP, which was also the largest party in the Seimas, the SLP, and the New Union. In the aftermath of Brazauskas’ resignation, two alternative party blocs attempted to form a new government. On the Left, the coalition of the LSDP, the Peasant People’s Union and the CDP, a splinter from the disintegrating DP, put forward Z. (p.194) Balcyts as their candidate for prime minister with the support of the Liberal and Center Union. On the Right, a coalition of the HU, the Liberal Movement and the New Union nominated former Prime Minister A. Kubilius as head of government. For his part, the president tried to broker an agreement between the LSDP and the HU to form a broadly based coalition government by the two larger parties of the respective blocs.

Once the president’s attempt failed, he appointed Balcytis to stand for a vote of confidence in the Seimas. Although this vote failed, a slightly re-organized coalition of the Left, including the LSDP, LCU, CDP, and the LPPU succeeded to secure the investiture of G. Kirkilas of the LSDP, who proceed to form a minority coalition government consisting of ministers from these four parties. In January 2008, the coalition became broader when the SLU decided to join the government formally.

Poland

Polish political parties formed ten governments in the country’s five complete post-communist legislatures. Four of these (Olszweski, Suchocka, Belka, and Marcinkiewicz) were undersized minority cabinets while the other six were minimum winning coalitions (Pawlak, Oleksy, Cimoszewicz, Buzek, Miller, and Kaczynsky). However, the tendency toward minority governments is even more acutely demonstrated when considering that three of these minimum winning coalitions (Buzek, Miller, and Kaczinsky) actually turned into minority governments as a result of the break-up in the coalition arrangement that supported them in the first place. Yet, most of the post-election cabinets that were formed after the general elections were majority coalitions (Pawlak, Buzek, and Miller).

Polish governments regularly alternated between Left and Right although the ten governments were formed by seven different coalitions. Similarly to Hungary, there was considerable stability and continuity in the composition of the coalitions that formed the governments of the Left and four of them (Pawlak, Oleksy, Cimoszewicz, and Miller) were formed by the same two parties; the reformed communist SLD and the PSL. While there was one other Left government formed by the SLD by itself (Belka), all five governments of the Right were formed by a different coalition, which points to the more general state of instability on that part of the ideological and political spectrum.

The Polish party system underwent major changes during the first two post-communist decades as it moved from being the most fragmented to having one of the least fractionalized systems of party competition in the region. Thanks to an extremely permissive and proportional electoral system, the first post-communist Sejm had eleven effective parliamentary parties with the largest controlling no (p.195) more than 13.5 percent of the seats. Two Right-of-Center governments were formed in this Sejm (Olszewski, Suchocka) in quick succession each of consisting of a minority coalition of four and seven parties respectively. While Olszewski’s cabinet barely controlled more than a quarter of all seats, Suchocka’s came closer to the majority threshold with a combined strength of 40.9 percent. Eventually the Sejm dissolved itself after only two years but passed a new electoral law that would significantly reduce the number of parties in the new parliament to be elected in 1993.

Although neither minority governments in the outgoing Sejm included the plurality party, the SLD, the formation of all subsequent governments would be headed by the party with the most seats. In the 1993 Sejm, the plurality party was the SLD, with 37.2 percent of the seats, and it formed three successive governments with the same coalition partner, the PSL, which was also the second largest party in the Sejm with 28.7 percent of the seats. In the immediate post-election government, the prime ministerial berth went to the junior partner, which was more a reflection of the high degree of presidential interference in the internal politics of the cabinet than the genuine outcome of bargaining between the coalition partners. Avowedly anti-communist, President Walesza insisted to appoint W. Pawlak as the prime minister of the incoming Left coalition government as well as dictate the appointment of his preferred candidate to the three presidential portfolios in the cabinet.

The general election of 1997 resulted in the victory of the AWS, an electoral coalition of right and center-right formations, which proceeded to form a minimum winning and ideologically connected coalition with the UW. In contrast to the previous SLD–PS coalition, the difference in the parliamentary weight of the coalition’s partners was much more substantial with the AWS having 43.7 percent and the UW only 13 percent of the seats. Also, the margin by which the AWS–UD controlled the legislatures was significantly smaller. Whereas the SLD–PSL coalition had controlled more than two-thirds of the seats in the Sejm, the AWS–UD coalition commanded only 56.7 percent of the seats. The 2001 election produced yet another SLD plurality, with 47 percent of the seats, and a coalition government with the PSL. However, this time the overall the size of the coalition (56.1 percent) and the size of the junior partner (9.1 percent) were much smaller than was the case in the 1993–7 period.

Although the Sejm that was elected in 2005 was very short-lived, it saw the formation of two governments, both headed by the plurality party, the PiS. Throughout the election campaign the two leading parties of the re-organized Polish Right, the PiS and PO, promised the electorate that they would form a coalition government should they win the elections. However, for the first time ever in Poland’s post-communist electoral history, the presidential elections and the parliamentary polls were held in very close temporal proximity. Although the two parties did win a landslide in the parliamentary elections, their cooperation gave way to conflict and competition as their respective candidates (L. Kaczynsky (p.196) of the PiS and D. Tusk of the PO) also came to dominate the presidential race. Thus, the PiS proceeded to form a minority government, with the support of the smaller and ideologically more extreme SRP and LPR, headed by K. Marczinkiewicz. After only half a year, this informal arrangement was replaced by a formal coalition government of the three parties led by J. Kaczynszky, the twin brother of the winner of the presidential race.

Romania

Romania had nine governments in the four parliaments that completed their term by 2009. It is indicative of the volatile state of party politics in the country that three of these governments were temporary caretaker administrations (Dejeu, Athanasiu, and Bejinariu) and that each of the six regular cabinets were supported by a different party coalition. At the same time, Romania displayed a pattern of regular alternation in executive between Left and Right, each pole forming governments after two elections respectively; the Left after 1992 and 2000, and the Right after 1996 and 2004. Similarly to Poland and the Czech Republic, minority governments abounded in Romania (Vacariou, Nastase, and Tariceanu), although none of the majority coalitions were of a minimum winning size. Thus, Romania defies the regional pattern in that the type of government that is formed the most frequently in the region, i.e. minimum winning majority coalitions, never obtained there. Another important characteristic of the history of Romanian governments pertains to the role of the president. Since parliamentary and presidential elections are always held at the same time and given the powerful nature of the Romanian presidency, plurality parties could form a government in Romania only if their candidates also won the presidential race. In other words, winning the presidency has been a better predictor of who forms the government than winning a plurality in the election.

The 1992 election was followed by the formation of single-party government by the FSDN under Prime Minister Vacariou, himself a non-partisan candidate. Although the FSDN was dissolved as an organization during the term of Vacariou’s government, its successor, the PDSR, continued to support the government coalition with the PUNR and then again by itself when the PUNR withdrew from the coalition four months before the 1996 elections. In spite of the changes that took place both in the partisan composition of the coalition and the organizational identity of the party that formed Romania’s first post-communist government, Vacariou remained in office for a full term.

The next parliament elected in 1996 produced five prime ministers including the three caretaker heads of government, none of which was undersized. The election was won by the Right, whose main protagonist, the CDR, controlled not (p.197) only a plurality of seats in both chambers of parliaments but also the Presidency. Yet, instead of going it alone, the CDR opted to form oversized coalitions with the UDMR and alternating between the USD (Ciorbea, Isarescu) and PDSR (Vasile).

The 2000 elections returned to power the Romanian Left, headed by the PDSR, both in parliament and the presidency. With 44.9 percent of the seats in the lower house, the PDSR won the largest plurality in any Romanian election before and since. Of the four other parties that won parliamentary representation, only the extreme right PRM was excluded from the ensuing coalition formation talks. In the end, the PDSR could only secure a “non-aggression pact” with the UDMR and the PNL as opposed to their full participation in a coalition cabinet. Thus, Romania was once again governed by a single-party minority cabinet (Nastase) for a four-year period.

The 2004 elections produced a split outcome: the Presidency was won in an extremely tight and narrow contest by the T. Basescu, the candidate of the opposition PNL-PD alliance, while the incumbent PSD, in coalition with the small PUR, won a plurality of seats in the legislative polls. The newly elected President gave the mandate of government formation to his own PNL-PD, which proceeded to form a minority coalition upon securing the participation of the UDMR and, surprisingly, the PUR. Thus, for the first time ever since the inception of Romania’s post-communist democracy, a “coalition of losers” (Popescu 2004: 232) assumed government of the country. This was all the more perplexing because for the first time the Romanian electorate returned the incumbents with a legislative plurality.

Slovakia

Slovakia’s pattern of government formation is unique among the post-communist democracies for a number of reasons. First, of all ten states Slovakia has had the fewest governments per legislature. In each of the four parliaments there was only one government formed, and with minor changes in their composition, they all lasted for a full four-year term. Although there was considerable stability in the composition of the governments that the two main partisan blocs formed respectively, none of these coalitions was exactly the same. Second, Slovakia is also the only state in the region where political parties never formed a minority government; instead all but one of the coalitions was minimally winning. The exception to this pattern was the Dzurinda-I government, which included two smaller parties (MK and SOP) even though either of them would have given the two larger members of the coalition (SDK and SDL) a parliamentary majority. Third, while plurality parties formed most of the governments most of the time in the other East Central European democracies, this was not the rule in Slovakia. Even thought the (p.198) HZDS won the most seats in each of the first three elections (1994, 1998, 2002), it could lead a winning coalition only once, in 1994.

Following its electoral victory in 1994, the HZDS formed a majority coalition with the SNS and the ZRS. The HZDS and the SNS would find themselves in the same coalition once again after the 2006 election as junior partners in the Smer-led government. In contrast to these three-party coalitions of the Left, both the 1998 and the 2002 elections resulted in the formation of four-party Right-of-Center coalitions led by the SDK, and its successor, the SDKU, respectively. While the ethnic Hungarian SMK was a member of both of these coalitions, the other two members changed: in 1998 the SDL and the SOP, in 2002 the KDH and ANO supplied ministers in the new government.

Slovenia

Slovenia’s record of government formation stands out from among those of the new post-communist democracies because of the pivotal position played by one political party, the LDS, in nearly every Slovenian cabinet coalition during the period examined. The LDS won a plurality of seats in three of the four elections (1992, 1996, 2000) and headed four of the country’s six governments (Drnovsek-I, II, III, and Rop), three of which were led by the same prime minister. Each and every Slovenian government was formed by a multi-party coalition, two of which were undersized (Drnovsek-II, Bajuk), three were oversized (Drnovsek-I, Drnovsek-III, Rop), and one was minimally winning (Jansa). The composition of the party coalitions that formed and supported these governments was unique in every case except for the Rop government that continued the same coalition line-up as the previous cabinet when its prime minister, J. Drnovsek, had to step down upon winning the 2002 election to the Slovenian presidency. Otherwise, the LDS changed its coalition partners during both the Drnovsek-I and -II governments.

The first government in Slovenia’s new post-communist legislature was formed by a grand coalition of four political parties. The plurality party, the LDS, which had also headed the last government in the outgoing transitional parliament, formed a new government with the second and third largest parties, the SKD and the ZLSD respectively, as well as the smallest parliamentary party, the SDS. Although Prime Minister J. Drnovsek remained in office for a full term until the next elections, the grand coalition changed its composition during the parliamentary cycle as both the ZLSD and the SDS eventually departed from its ranks. Nonetheless, changes in the composition of the coalition did not bring about the need to form and choose a new government.

The second post-communist parliament, elected in 1996, witnessed the formation of two governments (Drnovsek-II and Bajuk). The LDS was once again (p.199) returned with a plurality of seats in the Assembly but this time it formed a minimum winning majority coalition government that included the second largest party, the SLS, and the second smallest party, DESUS. Although the two largest parties controlled a near majority of the seats, forty-four out of the ninety, they did not proceed with the formation of a minority government. The decision by the SLS to join the LDS-led coalition government was puzzling in the light of the fact that the party had contested the election as part of a three-party Right-of-Center Slovenian Spring Alliance, including the SKD and the SDS, which actually won exactly half of the parliamentary seats. Moreover, the SLS did not even support Drnovsek’s election to the post of prime minister, which he secured due to the support of the LDS, ZLSD, DESUS, SNS, the two minority representatives in the Assembly as well as a single defector from the SDK (Müller-Rommel and Gaber 2001: 99).

After a little more than three years in office, the Drnovsek-II government collapsed upon losing a no-confidence vote prompted by the departure of the SLS from the coalition. The new government was formed by a minority coalition of parties, called Coalition Slovenia, consisting of the now merged SLS + SKD and the SDS. In other words, the Center-Right coalition that contested the election as a bloc eventually assumed power under Prime Minister A. Bajuk.

The third post-communist election once again produced an LDS plurality and the return of J. Drnovsek to the prime ministership. Exploiting its centrist pivotal position the LDS successfully proposed and formed a four-party surplus majority coalition that included two parties from the Left-of-center, DESUS and ZLSD, and one from the Right-of-Center, SLS-SKD. The same coalition remained in office when Drnovsek was elected to the presidency in 2002 and was replaced by A. Rop as the head of government.

The fourth post-communist election was the first in which Slovenian voters denied the LDS a legislative plurality. As in all previous elections the parliamentary balance between the two main blocs was extremely tight. Although the SDS won the most seats in the Assembly, the three-party Right-of-Center electoral alliance that it had formed with the NiS and the SLS won exactly 50 percent of the seats. In a surprise move, DESUS, a partner of the LDS in several previous coalition governments, cast its support behind and joined the SDS-led coalition (Toplak 2006: 829).

Notes:

(1) . In addition to the sources indicated, this section also draws on the Parliament and Government Composition Database (at: http://www.parlgov.org/).