The Constitutional Premises of Subnational Self-Government in New Democracies

Paul Blokker


The paper discusses the significance and role of subnational democracy in the context of new European democracies in flux. In a context of fragile democratic traditions, the displacement of national sovereignty, and increasing civic adverseness to national politics, local forms of representative and direct democracy might – in advantageous circumstances – help to re-attach citizens to the democratic process. What is more, enhanced civic input into local and regional policy-making may enhance local capacities and strengthen forms of local cooperation. Subnational democracy might therefore work as a partial antidote to problems of European democracies, and in particular in the post-communist context. Local forms of democratic interaction have particular significance in the new democracies in that legacies of paternalism, hyper-centralized politics, socialist legality, and deeply engrained distrust towards politics tend to discourage democratic participation. Democracy on the local and regional levels is of a particularly intricate nature in that it is dependent on the way it is institutionalized and constitutionalized, and thus on legal guarantees of autonomy as well as on distinct values of self-government as communicated by constitutions. The paper will discuss the promises and problems of subnational democracy, and will subsequently briefly explore the constitutional premises of subnational self-government in the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland. The emerging picture shows both an increasing role for subnational self-government and significant hurdles to more widespread democracy on the local level.


constitutionalism; East-Central Europe; subnational self-government

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ISSN: 2062-087X

DOI: 10.14267/issn.2062-087X