087 Territoriality in the National and Regional Vote in Central and Eastern Europe

Tuesday, June 25, 2013: 4:00 PM-5:45 PM
A1.18D (Oudemanhuispoort)
The number of regional elections in Eastern Europe has increased significantly over the past decades. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Romania, Russia and Serbia and Montenegro (until 2006) hold regional elections since the end of Communist rule, Poland and Hungary introduced regional elections in the 1990s and the Czech Republic and Slovakia followed in the early 2000s. Despite this trend regional elections in Eastern Europe are practically not studied, in particular in comparative perspective. Tucker (2002) reviews studies on Eastern European elections published during the period 1990-2000 and one of his conclusions stands out. Out of 101 articles only 8 studies analyzed local elections, which were all focused on Russia, and two articles analyzed local and national elections in Romania and Kyrgyzstan.

This limited attention is not that remarkable when one realizes that most countries in the region are small and have no or weak regional governments (Hooghe et al. 2010). In other words, these elections do not matter which is signified by low turnout and the lack of electoral competition. Indeed, turnout in the 1994 and 1998 Hungarian county elections was below 46%, and average turnout was below 60% in the Romanian local elections of 2002 (Soos and Kalman, 2002; Pop, 2002). The lowest turnout figures can be found for the Slovak regional elections which have not been able to attract more than 30% of the voters (Bucek, 2002).

Another concern is that electoral competition is quite low. In Hungary, the candidate to position ratio lies just above two for the county mayor elections (Sooìs and Kaìlmaìn, 2002). Electoral coalitions are quite common in the region and these tend to win majorities in all the regions. For example, in the 1997 county assembly elections in Croatia the HDZ, as a senior partner in electoral coalitions, won absolute or relative majorities in 20 out of 21 regions (Ivanisevic et al., 2001). In Slovakia we may even find electoral coalitions which mixed governing coalition parties with opposition and non-parliamentary parties (Bucek, 2002). Together these observations lead to the hypothesis that regional elections in Eastern Europe are typical second-order elections, that is, voters do not care about regional elections.

But in how far is this picture of second-order regional elections correct? In most of the countries there are regional parties which attract significant vote shares in regional and national elections. For example, in Croatia we may find the Istrian Democratic Assembly, the Slavonia-Baranja Croatian Party, the Alliance of Primorje-Gorski Kotar, and the Megimurje Party. Across the countries we may find parties which attract the vote of ethnic minorities and especially where ethnic minorties tend to be territorially concentrated regional election results differ substantially from those for national elections.

The papers in this panel systematically explore the territoriality of the vote in national and regional elections in Central and Eastern European countries by looking at congruence between regional and national elections and second-order election effects (turnout and vote share changes for parties in national and regional government).

Régis Dandoy
Arjan Schakel
Regional Elections in Croatia: From Third-Order County Elections to Genuine Regional Politics
Ivan Kopric, University of Zagreb; Daria Dubajic, University of Zagreb; Tijana Vukojicic Tomic, University of Zagreb
Regional Elections in the Czech Republic: Springboard for Regional Elites
Michael Pink, Masaryk University – Faculty of Social Sciences
Regional Elections in Hungary: Second-Order Elections or Not?
Gábor Dobos, Hungarian Academy of Science; Réka Várnagy, Corvinus University of Budapest
Regional Elections in Poland: Beyond the Second-Order Elections Thesis
Wojciech Gagatek, University of Warsaw; Michal Kotnarowski, Polish Academy of Sciences
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