Central European University Political Science, Annual Doctoral Conference, Session II

Since I talked today about blogging as an academic took, it seems only right that I would do a bit of live-blogging from the session that followed my own. Here are a few thoughts. Apologies to anyone whose ideas I have mischaracterized:

Oana Lup
The Role of Political Talk in Developing Democracies: Evidence from Hungary
Abstract Paper
discussant: Reka Varnagy

Everyday political talk seen as a border case: not quite ordinary talk but not quite political discourse. Evidence is ambiguous and often contradictory.

Being embedded in a larger or more politicized network does not make a significant difference in turnout once the most important part of social interaction is controlled for (relationship status, employment)

Those with more discussants are also more likely to make correct use of left-right heuristic.

Juraj Medzihorsky
Intellectuals, Think Tanks, and Politics in CEE
Abstract Paper
discussant: George Florea

Think tanks occupy the space between politics, academics, business and journalism. In the US, it was within this sphere with strong relationships to academia and business. In Central and Eastern Europe, initial think tanks existed in a realm with the above space but anchored on a fifth side by Western donors. Since then, however, Western donors have shifted their emphasis regionally away from CEE, think tanks have to make a choice between business or politics or to follow the Western donors’ shift in emphasis and begin focusing outside of CEE. In Slovakia, the choice seemed idiosyncratic.

Reka Varnagy (Corvinus University)
The Role of Local Politics in the Carrier Path of Political Elites
Abstract Paper
discussant: Eszter Simon

Supply Side:Governments and parties structured according to differentiated political space and territorially structured hierarchy.

Hypothesis: The movement of political career fueled by progressive ambition is unidirectional.

Local politics can be seen as a springboard or as a base office as part of a process of cumulation. Hypothesis: cumulation seems preferable. Leaders see it as the local level as a base.

Demand Side

Parties are a dominant factor with alternatives unusual.

Hypothesis: political elites with local background will become party members early in in their political career.

Empirical data: using members of parliaments who are also mayors, ladder goes in both direction. Large share of Hungarian mayors were members of parliaments /first/ before funning for mayor.

Mats Ohlen (Orebro University)
Transnational Party Cooperation in Post 1989 Europe: European Christian Democrats and affiliated parties in East Central Europe
Abstract Paper
discussant: Oana Lup
There is a triangular relationship between the European Party, the parliamentary party group and the individual national parties. Because there is a relatively weak coordination between national parties and the parliamentary party group, the European Party plays an important role in disseminating information. The European Parties also play a role in deciding who can join–which in the end means “who ‘exists'”.

In 1989 only three European parties existed: EPP, PES and ELD. Brief History: EUCD created in 1965, quite strict about membership. In 1976 EPP is created but do not admit UK and Denmark. They form EDU (of conservative parties). EPP holds dominant power position. In 1992 EPP and EDU starts to reunite. From 1995-1999, CEE parties transfer to EPP.

Problems for EPP: goal of breadth (broad inclusion) and depth (supporting Christian ideal). Must balance two.

Poland had difficult party landscape: 6 Christian Democratic parties in 1992.

EPP is represented in all EU parties in UK and is the biggest party group in the EP. EUCD served as buffer zone and waiting room. Increasing pragmatism about whom to permit.

Political Science 2.0: How Technological Change Affects Politics and Those Who Study It

Below please find notes for the talk I will give on March 31, 2008 at the Annual Doctoral Conference of the Poltical Science Department of Central European University. As befits the topic and this blog, I will be updating this page periodically to add resources and fill in the blanks. If you are reading this, I would appreciate your input in two ways:

  1. While availability permits, please take 5-10 minutes to answer a survey that will permit me to speak directly to the experience of current graduate students: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=zsU2Gt2zicoRK2LpcdaYsA_3d_3d
  2. Please leave comments in the designated section below. The more comments I can get beforehand, the better the presentation (and its successors) will be.

What’s a geek like me doing in a place like this…

I. Technology and Politics

II. The Web and Politics

III. Technology and Political Science

  • Working with words
  • Working with numbers
  • Working with others
    • Web 1.0
    • Web 2.0
    • O’Reilly on Web2.0
    • http://www.oreilly.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/news/2005/09/30/what-is-web-20.html
    • Wikipedia on Web2.0 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_2

IV. Web 2.0 and political science?

  • “Good News About What You Are Already Doing”
    • Folksonomies
    • Collective Intelligence
    • Distributed Processing
    • Reputation Economies
    • Object-centered social networks
      • http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2008/mar/09/internet.web20/print
  • Andrew Chadwick’s Furl list:
  • Andrew Chadwick explains his Furl list: http://www.andrewchadwick.com/archives/2008/02/entry_188.html
  • Jo Guldi explains how she uses del.icio.us in research:
    (see: http://landscape.blogspot.com/2007/03/how-delicious-is-changing-academic.html)
  • Educause, Seven Things You Should Know About Social Bookmarking, http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI7001.pdf
  • Opportunities
  • Dangers
  • Obligations

Separated At Birth

Ceremonial president of former Czechoslovak republic seeks same. Must be medium height and and medium build, with grey hair cut short, and not unstylish glasses. Trimmed grey moustache and willingness to support the current governing coalition a plus.

Gasparovic vis a vis Klaus.  Thanks to CTK photographer for framing the shot in such a way as to point out what should have been obvious.

It has taken 15 years, many elections and several hairstylists, but Slovakia and the Czech Republic have finally begun the process of re-convergence, beginning from the top down.  Are two countries really separate if you cannot tell them apart anymore?

February 2008: Trends and Comparisons Revised, Now with MVK!

Trends and Comparisons Monthly Report

I missed the press release for MVK earlier this month and so I add its polls here with a few comments where MVK data actually changes anything. Because MVK results tend to stand between the other two surveys, the only major changes involve a gentle smoothing of trends:

Multiple-poll+average+ for +Smer+ for the most recent +4+months+ in Slovakia

With MVK added the trend for Smer between December and February is almost flat and the final average closer to 40% than to 41%, but that’s not exactly earthshaking. On all 3 occasions MVK splits the difference between UVVM and FOCUS
Multiple-poll+average+ for +SDKU+ for the most recent +4+months+ in Slovakia

This graph of recent polling results for SDKU shows no real difference with the addition of MVK: drop and then slight recovery. MVK jumps from side to side.

Multiple-poll+average+ for +SNS+ for the most recent +4+months+ in Slovakia

MVK slightly dampens the loss-gain patten of SNS here.

Multiple-poll+average+ for +MK+ for the most recent +4+months+ in Slovakia

This graph of recent results for MK shows even more stability with the addition of MVK data. As before, this data suggests that perhaps UVVM was not surveying a sufficient number of ethnic Hungarians, a problem that may have been fixed in the most recent UVVM poll.

Multiple-poll+average+ for +HZDS+ for the most recent +4+months+ in Slovakia

Adding MVK to HZDS reveals a completely flat trend. MVK tends to show lower values for HZDS than do other polls.

Multiple-poll+average+ for +KDH+ for the most recent +4+months+ in Slovakia

MVK data brings up the middle but there’s not much middle to bring up as the range is extremely narrow.
Multiple-poll+average+ for +KSS+ for the most recent +4+months+ in Slovakia

This graph of recent results for KSS shows no change because on all three occasions, the figure for KSS is the exact mathematical mean of the figures for UVVM and FOCUS.

February 2008: Trends and Comparisons

Trends and Comparisons Monthly Report

I offer here, as every month, a general and rather idiosyncratic look at poll numbers for Slovakia from rival political polling firms FOCUS and UVVM. (Toward that end, there will be a debate tonight–March 5 at 17:00–between Pavol Haulik of MVK–another of the big 3–and Ivan Dianiska from FOCUS at the Bratislavsky Institut Humanismu’s Klub BIH at Grosslingova 53). I’ll blog that if I can.

Multiple-poll+average+ for +Smer+ for the most recent +4+months+ in Slovakia

This graph of recent polling results for Smer from multiple sources shows an overall rise for Smer by 3-5 percentage points in both of the major polls. These take it back to the highs that it reached in early 2007 before declining a bit. At present there is a strong inverse correlation between Support for Smer after the 2006 election and average monthly temperature. There is no evidence, however, that /this/ summer will bring a decline in Smer support.

Multiple-poll+average+ for +SDKU+ for the most recent +4+months+ in Slovakia

This graph of recent polling results for SDKU shows a decline that is roughly inverse to Smer’s rise, though the average of UVVM and FOCUS did not change over the last 3 months. March should tell us what the sudden visibility of leadership questions in the party have on its overall popularity. I would suspect the effect is small, and may be clouded by the effects of problems within KDH. Next month might show lots of change, or it might show no change at all in a way that hides lots of countervailing shifts in party preference.

Multiple-poll+average+ for +SNS+ for the most recent +4+months+ in Slovakia

This graph of recent results for SNS shows movement without fundamental change. The party floats consistently now between 11% and 14%

Multiple-poll+average+ for +MK+ for the most recent +4+months+ in Slovakia

This graph of recent results for MK shows why poll averaging is important: individual poll changs tend to combine to reflect the overall stability that MK possesses on the basis of its strong ethnic support.

Multiple-poll+average+ for +HZDS+ for the most recent +4+months+ in Slovakia

This graph of recent results for HZDS showsa slight recovery in both FOCUS and UVVM for February but not enough to counteract the significant decline from Nov.-Jan. in the wake of the SPF scandals.

Multiple-poll+average+ for +KDH+ for the most recent +4+months+ in Slovakia

This graph of recent results for KDH shows gentle decline. We shall see whether the departure by Palko and Miklosoko affects the overall party performance. Loss of 2 of the 4 most popular individuals might hurt it somewhat, but it will be stabilized by the preservation of the party’s organizational base and by the fact that Palko et al did not immediately create a new party (which seems like a major tactical error, but perhaps one they could not avoid without prematurely reveailing their intentions). Supporters of Palko and Miklosko as of yet do not have anywhere else to go. It is interesting that in his recent interviews Palko has talked about a “party of patriotism” that would seek voters as much from SNS as from KDH. Whether this is realistic is an open question, though the potential erratic ebbs and flows of SNS leadership suggest that there is a tradeoff: a new party has a small change to make big gains at the expense of SNS, and a big chance to make small gains at the expense of KDH. As always, much will depend on timing.

Multiple-poll+average+ for +KSS+ for the most recent +4+months+ in Slovakia

For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, both UVVM and FOCUS show a significant and similar 2-point decline for KSS over the last 4 months. I hope at some point to write a brief note about the usefulness of maintaining party brand names because of their potential to re-emerge (KSS in 2002, SNS in 2006 in Slovakia; SZ in the Czech Republic) but I’m not sure they can successfully re-emerge twice.

Multiple-poll+average+ for +SF+ for the most recent +4+months+ in Slovakia

This graph of recent results for SF shows a flat line, as do results for ANO. It will take a lot for these to re-emerge.

But enough about Slovakia…

Thanks to Michaela Stankova for her story on my research in The Slovak Spectator: http://www.spectator.sk/articles/view/30859/12/far_more_than_a_research_project.html
She did a good job of transforming a rambling interview into a coherent narrative.
For those who just can’t get enough, the full interview is on our Goat Street blog: http://bridgetmail.wordpress.com/2008/03/01/why-i-am-here-more-or-less/

Exit, [Void] and Loyalty

(or why Dr. Sean hits the nail on the head)

Kudos to Sean Hanley for his recent post, Do Slovak and Czech Christian Democrats have a prayer? Dr. Hanley, whose blog (Dr. Sean’s Diary, http://drseansdiary.blogspot.com/) has long been my model for public, academc discourse on postcommunist Europe, yet again calls attention to precisely the questions I am trying to think about. Not only does he do an an excellent job of covering the dilemmas of the Christian Democrats in the Czech Republic, a realm that nobody knows better than he, but he also offers provocative thoughts about intra-party struggles, coalitions and election results in Slovakia:

And generational renewal? Commentators and politicians in CEE are always harping on about this, but it’s hard to see quite newer or younger will necessarily mean better. Such comments are, usually a disguised call for in political renewal or cleaner, better, more liberal government – amen to that, but even though there is no primaries system there is ample scope for new parties to emerge or young technocrats to parachute themselves into organizationally weak, elite-led parties. The Slovak experience suggests that many voters don’t want renewal of this kind, but stability. Is the Slovak Barack Obama actually Robert Fico?

Though the comparison may not be desirable to some partisans of Obama or of Fico, there are important similarities that must not be overlooked. I continue to wrestle with the concept of “populism” since in its common usage it is both vague and highly normative:

Populism Definition


But if populism does mean anything–and I think it does mean something despite all of the accretions over time–it is a sense that politics is broken. It is a feeling (though not quite an ideology) that those in public office–both those in power and those in opposition–are the cause of the problem. By this standard, of course, nearly every American politician is a populist, but if you compare them to many of their European counterparts, that is actually a fairly accurate characterization. While I have not done the spadework to explain why, I suspect that America’s relative exceptionalism in this regard has a lot to do with its presidential system, the dominant role of media, the relative absence of party organization. Many European countries are moving in this direction, however and postcommunist Europe appears to be in the vanguard. In this sense, both Fico and Obama have become preferred choice for those voters who are tired of “politics as usual” and who seek something different. Those are different kinds of voters compared to their overall electorates, but that is a different story.

Party renewal

There is a lot more to say about the question of populism, and I hope to do so over the coming months. In the meantime, however, I want to point out one very important difference between Obama and Fico and one that goes to the heart of Prof. Hanley’s question: Barack Obama is still a member of the Democratic Party and it is hard to imagine him leaving the party if he loses the nomination; Robert Fico, on the other hand, left his original party and formed a new one.

Fico is not alone in this. Indeed questions of internal-party change and party defection are central to the course of Slovakia’s politics and to the politics of many countries in the region. Dr. Hanley is right to point out that the question is not whether parties can achieve generational change; renewal can easily occur within a single generational cohort. Rather, the question is whether renewal can occur within a single party. Two phenomena mark Slovakia’s political party system: the relative infrequency of institutionalized leadership change and the relative frequency of party splits and splintering.

Loyalty: The Rarity of Party Leadership Change

Parties in Slovakia rarely change leaders and they almost never undergo institutionalized leadership transitions. Among Slovakia’s current parliamentary parties. As the table below shows, the average tenure of the chairmen of Slovakia’s current parliamentary parties is between 8 and 9 years (depending on the method of calculation), and this represents an average of 67%-71% of their parties’ respective lifespans.

Party Founding Date Number of leaders since founding Current leader Date assumed leadership Duration of leadership Length of leadership as % of length of party existence
Party of the Hungarian Coalition (MKP/SMK) 1990 2* Pal Csaky 2007 1 year 6%
Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) 1990 2 Pavol Hrusovsky 2000 7 years 41%
Slovak National Party (SNS) 1990 5 Jan Slota 1994 9 years/13 years** 53%/76%**
Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) 1991 1 Vladimir Meciar 1991 16 years 100%
Smer 1999 1 Robert Fico 1999 8 years 100%
Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU) 2000 1 Mikulas Dzurinda 2000 7 years/9 years*** 100%
Mean scores 1993 2 1999 8-9 67%-71%
http://www.terra.es/personal2/monolith/slovakia.htm* Party formed from merger of Hungarian Christian Democratic Party (MKDM) and Coexistence in 1998
**Jan Slota rejected his removal in 1999 and formed the rival “Real” Slovak National Party (PSNS) during his period out of leadership in SNS.
***Mikulas Dzurinda led the Slovak Democratic Coalition before leading the SDKU

Indeed three parties, Smer, SDKU-DS and HZDS (which together hold almost 2/3 of the deputies in parliament), have had the same leader for their entire existence. The same is true in practice for several significant parties that are currently no longer represented in parliament (ZRS, ANO). Other parties have undergone leadership transition by default as founding party leaders became president (SOP, HZD) or withdrew from politics (KDH). Only a handful of parties have enjoyed (though for them, “enjoy” may not have been the right word) contested leadership struggles that actually changed the course of party leadership. The Party of the Hungarian Coalition (MKP/SMK) resolved internal leadership questions when it formed from its component parties in 1998 and underwent a leadership shift again in 2007. The Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) underwent major leadership transitions in 1996 and 2001. The Slovak National Party (SNS) is the closest to demonstrating regular leadership change (1990, 1992, 1994, 1999, 2003) but change in party leadership after 1992 has been fraught with difficulty and appears for the moment, to be at an end.

Exit: The Frequency of Party Splintering

New party leaders in Slovakia are more likely to be leaders of new parties than new leaders of old parties. Whereas the six parties listed above have collectively only experienced seven or eight leadership changes (depending on calcuations), they have collectively experienced at least ten significant splits and splinters of parliamentary deputies or prominent party leaders. Secession is far more common than succession. It is difficult to find struggles between party incumbents and party insurgents that have left a party intact: SDL in 1994 (to the extent that Peter Weiss’s withdrawal was not entirely voluntary), SNS in 1992 and 2003, and MKP/SMK in 2007. Far more common is struggle followed by departure of the loser to form a new party: SNS in 1994 and 1999, SDL in 1999 and 2001 (and, to the extent there was a real struggle, with the departure of Luptak in 1994), KDH in 1991, 2000 (related to the dissolution of the SDK coalition) and 2007 (just last week, in fact), SDKU in 2003 and the seemingly annual HZDS splinters in 1993, 1994, 2002, 2003, (and in miniature formjust recently). In fact the only parties in which party struggles have not led to departure are the Hungarian Coalition (which is limited by the inability of Slovakia’s 11% Hungarian population to support two parties that can overcome the 5% threshold), new parties that have died before a split could occur (SOP, ANO, ZRS) and a variety of smaller parties that never by themselves passed the 5% threshold (indeed Slovakia’s small parties such as the show more robust leadership rotation and a greater ability to survive leadership struggles, perhaps because they are too small to lose any members without disappearing entirely. See The People’s Front of Judea).

Why do Slovakia’s parties splinter so easily? This is a complicated and fascinating question that I am currently working on in greater detail. Institutional barriers to entry for new parties are low, but not much lower than in other parliamentary/proportional-representation systems in Europe. A stronger answer may lie in perceptions of cost and benefit. The perception of departing may be relatively low in Slovakia because certain splinters have demonstrated electoral success (DU and ZRS in 1994, Smer in 2002) and other parties have demonstrated an ability to go from nowhere to election in a matter of months (SOP, ANO). I do not, however, have the evidence to say whether these cost perceptions are lower than in countries with fewer splinters. The second part of the answer may lie in the perceived costs of remaining within a party. This in turn relates to the perceived absence of voice.

Voice: It’s (Not) My Party

My initial observations suggest that Slovakia’s centralized party organizations make it difficult for dissenters to remain. When parties remain in the hands of their founders, as in the case of Smer, HZDS and SDKU, or become tightly bound up with a successive leader, as in the recent case of SNS, those who wish to change the party may have no choice but to go elsewhere, particularly if they openly challenge the leadership. The strength of this conclusion is mitigated somewhat by the fact that even the more collegial SDL and KDH have produced a significant share of Slovakia’s splinters, and even some in the vulnerable Hungarian Coalition appear to have considered departure. Nevertheless, it is hard for me to believe that structures more conducive to internal democracies, structures that took party control out of the hands of the founder, could produce more renewal and fewer departures. I have not read Hirschmann in a long time, but it seems like introducing genuine opportunities for voice could provide an alternative both to frustrated loyalty and to destabilizing departure.

In this regard, recent discussions within the current opposition are a very positive sign. It would appear that the current infighting within parties that are already at a low point in their political fortunes will only make matters worse–and in the short run this is true–but in the long run, the kinds of discussions emerging among second-rank leaders in SDKU, KDH and MKP/SMK are potentially conducive to long-term survival, party renewal (much needed) and electoral success. By this standards the current governing parties have a short-term advantage in internal cohesion, but are at greater risk of long-term difficulties because they include some of the most centralized parties that Slovakia has ever seen. In terms of broader patterns, the news is good because it is potentially quite normal: parties in power put themselves at risk by failing to adapt; parties out of power learn how to renew themselves and eventually rise to the challenge. If Slovakia’s current opposition can manage to find mechanisms for voice and reform from within, Slovakia could experience the novelty (for Slovakia, at least) of an opposition-coalition struggle that is not also the struggle between old parties and new.