Over the thirty years since the fall of communism in the region, democratisation saw the development, in most countries of the region, of political parties whose roots sprang directly from the communist former ruling parties. Although some of these parties – often but not always ostensibly social-democratic – have fallen by the wayside, others have survived and prospered in the new environment, dominating the political scene, and running government for much of the period.
In recent years however, there are some signs that this “communist legacy” hegemony may be in decline. Grass roots protest against the corruption of the established political class has grown and some new, alternative parties, free from the communist legacy, are beginning to establish themselves; Romania is a particular example here. Nonetheless, these parties have maintained a strong core of support among certain sections of the population.
The webinar will compare the situations in Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro, and examine their implications for the long-term political development of these countries. While political elites in the region are far from lilywhite, irrespective of their party affiliation, the electoral dominance of the communist legacy parties has entrenched their ability to exploit power both to enrich themselves personally and to sustain their political hegemony. Against a background of popular protest, is this sustainable? Or does the protest signal a secular change within the political class in these countries?