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The Repositioning of Opposition in East‐Central Europe

  • Paul G. Lewis


THE EVENTS OF 1989 IN EASTERN EUROPE HAVE BEEN INTERPRETED in diverse and often contradictory ways: from the end of history to its rebirth, as both negotiated revolutions and popular uprisings. In many countries a fundamental repositioning of opposition and dissident forces was observed — changing from groups of anti-system activists quite outside the political establishment into major statesmen and national leaders involving, in some cases, rapid transformation into the occupants of major or even prime ministerial roles. Similarly, the former monopolistic ruling parties often found themselves quickly relegated to the margins of political life as oppositions of dubious legitimacy and minuscule political influence. Yet these roles were also subject to rapid reversal and further repositioning in a number of countries. The major difference now was that former governments became formally constituted oppositions rather than political pariahs or enemies of the people. That was a measure of the significance of the change that had been effected.



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1 I discuss the nature of democratic consolidation in the region in ‘Patterns of Politics: Central Europe’, in White, , Batt, J.S. and Lewis, P. G. (eds), Developments in Central and East European Politics, London, Macmillan, 1998.

2 Preface to Dahl, R. A. (ed.), Political Oppositions in Western Democracies, New Haven, Conn., Yale University Press, 1966, p. xvi.

3 ibid., pp. xiv–xv.

4 Sartori, G., ‘Opposition and Control: Problems and Prospects’, Government and Opposition, Vol. 1, No. 2, 1966, p. 151.

5 Dahl, op. cit., p. 372.

6 See Lewis, , ‘Democratization in Eastern Europe’, in Potter, D.P.G. et al. (eds), Democratization, Cambridge, Polity, 1997, p. 416.

7 Lewis, P. G., ‘Political Participation in Post‐communist Democracies’, in Democratization, ibid.

8 Dahl, R. A., ‘Some Explanations’, in op. cit., p. 366.

9 ibid., p. 400.

10 Janos, A. C., ‘Continuity and Change in Eastern Europe: Strategies of Post‐communist Politics’, East European Politics and Societies, Vol. 8, No. I, 1994, p. 4.

11 Lewis, , ‘History, Europe and the Politics of the East’, in White, S., Batt, J. P. G. and Lewis, P. G. (eds), Developments in East European Politics, London, Macmillan, 1993, pp. 265–66.

12 Mason, D. S., ‘Attitudes toward the Market and Political Participation in the Postcommunist States’, Slavic Review, Vol. 54, No. 2, 1995, pp. 388, 391.

13 Gati, C., ‘The Mirage of Democracy’, Transition, Vol. 2, No. 6, 1996, pp. 811.

14 Lewis, P. G. (ed.), Party Structure and Organization in East‐Central Europe, Cheltenham, Edward Elgar, 1996, pp. 1415.

15 Mair, P., ‘What is Different about Post‐communist Party Systems?’, Stein Rokkan Memorial Lecture, University of Bergen, 1995.

16 Markowski, R. and Toka, G., ‘Left Turn in Poland and Hungary Five Years after the Collapse of Communism’, Sisyphus, Vol. IX, 1993, p. 85.

17 Szakolczai, A. and Fustos, L., ‘Changing Values Leave Ex‐communists Behind’, Transition, Vol. 2, No. 22, 1996, p. 46.

18 See Lewis, , ‘Party Funding in Post‐communist East‐central Europe’, in Burnell, P. P. G. and Ware, A. (eds), Funding Democratization, Manchester University Press, 1997.

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The Repositioning of Opposition in East‐Central Europe

  • Paul G. Lewis


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