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Forschungspapiere Probleme der Öffentlichen Verwaltung in Mittel- und Osteuropa Heft 3 (005) Olaf Dahlmann Government Stability in Estonia: Wishful Thinking or Reality? An evaluation of Estonia's governments

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Forschungspapiere Probleme der Öffentlichen Verwaltung in Mittel- und Osteuropa Heft 3 (005) Olaf Dahlmann Government Stability in Estonia: Wishful Thinking or Reality? An evaluation of Estonia's governments from the 199 elections up to 003 (including a comment of the cabinet of Juhan Parts up to February 005) Lehrstuhl für Politikwissenschaft, Verwaltung und Organisation Bibliografische Information Der Deutschen Bibliothek Die Deutsche Bibliothek verzeichnet diese Publikation in der Deutschen Nationalbibliografie; detaillierte bibliografische Daten sind im Internet über abrufbar. Forschungspapiere Probleme der Öffentlichen Verwaltung in Mittel- und Osteuropa Heft 3 Herausgegeber: Druck: Vertrieb: Lehrstuhl für Politikwissenschaft, Verwaltung und Organisation Hochschuldozent Dr. Jochen Franzke Kontakt: PF , D Potsdam Tel.: Audiovisuelles Zentrum der Universität Potsdam Universitätsverlag Potsdam Postfach Potsdam Fon +49 (0) / Fax ISSN X ISBN X Universitätsverlag Potsdam, 005 Dieses Manuskript ist urheberrechtlich geschützt. Es darf ohne vorherige Genehmigung der Autoren / Herausgeber nicht vervielfältigt werden. Table of Contents 1. Conceptual Basics of Government Stability Theory of Democracy and Government Stability Government Stability as a Necessity of a Temporary Continuity of Governments Relevance of Government and Government Stability Measuring Government Stability and Criticism to a Concept of Government Stability Measuring Change of Government...7. Government Stability in Estonia: Wishful Thinking or Reality? The Estonian Context...8. Former Governments Variables of the Stability of Governments The Constitutional Framework A Fragmented Party System with Little Polarization The Parliament: Defining Features of the Riigikogu High Fluctuation and the Professionalization of the Government High Continuity of Personnel and Elite Agreement on Key Policy Issues Review of Estonia s 9 th Government Conclusion: Government Stability in spite of Frequent Government Changes...19 Bibliography...1 Appendix...3 Table of Figures Diagram 1: Influences on the Stability of Governments...7 Table 1: Previous Governments of Estonia...9 Table : Distribution of Members of Parliament according to their Experience in the Legislative Periods of Table 3: Proportion of Held Offices by Ministers ( )...15 Table 4: Composition of the Estonian Government (as of February 005)...17 Abstract This article examines the multiple governments of independent Estonia since 199 referring to their stability. Confronted with the immense problems of democratic transition, the multi-party governments of Estonia change comparatively often. Following the elections of March 003 the ninth government since 199 was formed. A detailed examination of government stability and the example of Estonia is accordingly warranted, given that the country is seen as the most successful Central Eastern European transition country in spite of its frequent changes of government. Furthermore, this article questions whether or not internal government stability can exist within a situation where the government changes frequently. What does stability of government mean and what are the varying multi-faceted depths of the term? Before analysing the term, it has to be clarified and defined. It is presumed that government stability is composed of multiple variables influencing one another. Data about the average tenure of a government is not very conclusive. Rather, the deeper political causes for governmental change need to be examined. Therefore, this article discusses the conceptual and theoretical basics of governmental stability first. Secondly, it discusses the Estonian situation in detail up to the elections of 003, including a short review of the 9 th government since independence. In the conclusion, the author explains whether or not the governments of Estonia are stable. In the appendix, the reader finds all election results and also a list of all previous ministers of Estonian governments (all data are as of July 00). This paper is an abridged version and outlines the findings of the thesis Government Stability in Estonia which the author handed in at the University of Potsdam in July 00. 1. Conceptual Basics of Government Stability 1.1 Theory of Democracy and Government Stability First of all, the term government stability is itself controversial. Linz theorizes that in order to function effectively, governments must have a specific degree of stability. Subsequently, there must also be the possibility for a change within government. Linz states that, Voters in democracy seem to share both a desire for continuity and stability and a readiness for weariness with too much of it and a yearning for change (Linz 1998: 8). What does the ideal term of office look like and does it actually exist? Harfst (001) points out that for finding an answer to that question one has to refer to basic democratic principles and therefore the author returned to Dahl s responsiveness as a democratic principle (Dahl 1971). 1 To guarantee responsiveness, a democratic system must be up to the following criteria: elections must be realised and the opposition must be able to accept the outcome of said elections. The opposition must have the possibility of an equitable competition and the ability to replace the current administration if the electoral outcome dictates a necessity for it (Harfst 001: 1). The idea of electing someone for life to exercise effective power, or representatives for unlimited time (without ever having to stand again for election) does not fit into our thinking about democracy (Linz 1998: 19). The conclusion is that elections alone can affect a change in the executive branch, but they don t necessarily need to overturn the power structure at any given time period. The relation between efficacy, the capacity to solve problems, and legitimacy is modified largely by the time perspective of the citizens (Linz 1998: 0). It becomes apparent that governments are, concerning their term of office, basically restricted by regular elections. Elected individuals must subject themselves to the political competition of elections within a defined cycle. Competition is the required component of the democratic electoral process because semi- or pseudo-democracies also have elections, but these masquerading elections are not competitive (Linz 1998: 0). In representative democracies the government is not elected directly by the public, but instead by 1 Dahl (1971) explains significant his concept of responsiveness in chapter one (pp. 1-16). 1 parliament. That is why one ascribes importance to the parliament as an institution and the political parties as actors within the parliament. A regnant administration should finally have received permanent support of the whole governmental body and should remain in office for a whole legislative period. Thus, in the end of a legislative period, regular elections confirm an administration, vary an administration s composite shape or resign it from office. 1. Government Stability as a Necessity of a Temporary Continuity of Governments As aforementioned, governments are temporary limited by elections. Governments are principally able to stay in office for more than one legislative period. However, theory of democracy demands for the majority of a population to affirm an administration s legitimacy. In this manner, elections legitimate administrations to assume responsibility for a certain period of time. Democracy is government pro tempore as Linz mentions (Linz 1998: 19). The period of office is established by the constitution and, consequently, an ideal reign would exist if government remains unmodified for the whole term in office. Administrative stability refers merely to the stability in this specified period, which is defined by the constitution. For the particular case of Estonia, the time limitation of a given administration would be four years ( 60 Estonian Constitution). Thus, theory of democracy defines a temporary maximum for the term of administrative stability. Following from the definition of a temporary maximum, the reader questions whether there is also an existing temporarily defined minimum of administrative duration? When are governments still stable and when are they unstable? According to the consolidated findings, all cabinets staying less than one whole legislative period in office must be classified on principle as unstable. Governments need time to implement their political projects and programs. This is also the reason to give new cabinets 100 days time after the assumption of office before judging their mistakes (see Linz 1998: 35). But as for defining the minimum of a term, this proposal is lacking. This time frame does not point out that governments have to spend time, for example, implementing political and administrative structures, passing laws and providing budgets. Finally, governments should have the ability to observe the results of their policies and to take corrective actions in the case of doubt (see Harfst 001: 1). Linz argues that governments are acting in cycles which influence the electoral-democratic process (Linz 1998: 33). In addition to the economic, social and international cycles, the budget is particularly important. Linz annotates that, after assumption of office, cabinets mostly have to adopt the budget of the previous government. Thus, there is only little scope for realising their own policy programs: A government may come into power to operate, at least, until the next budget making process within the constraints decided by its predecessor and it might leave its successor with the budget designed for continuing in power (Linz 1998: 33). As already mentioned, an administration should have the opportunity to evaluate their policies and, if necessary, to correct them. The best circumstances arise when an administration has the chance to pass its own budget bill. It becomes apparent that defining a minimum of government duration is intractable. If procurable, a minimum period of two years is adequate. 1.3 Relevance of Government and Government Stability Confronted with the so-called dilemma of simultaneity governments in the CEEC could be regarded as the crucial actors of transition. The government is responsible and puts forth the general guidelines of policy. In reference to the transition wave in CEE, it is characteristic that governments are subject to external interaction, which has not taken place in previous transitions. In other words, today s neo-democracies have much less time to catch up and many fewer degrees of freedom in dealing with their respective citizenries. [ ] And, even if the demands of their own citizens could somehow be deferred, neo-democratic politicians would still be hit with deadlines imposed by such external conditioners as the International Monetary Fund, the European Union, or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (Schmitter and Santiso 1998: 74). In this manner, governments in the CEE have to cope with the transition process inwardly and outwardly. Besides national embarrassments, CEE governments also must fulfil the requirements of international standards and that further complicates the process. Detailed discrepancies emanate from international organisations, which are outside of the realm of governmental authority. However, decisions have to be made and the electorate must legitimise these. Scores of cabinets failed and could not be affirmed in elections. Anyhow, parliament and government are The term dilemma of simultaneity derives from Claus Offe (1991). 3 authorised as democratic institutions, responsible for decision-making and implementation of the results of the decision-making process. Consequently, governments are further on a decision-making board whose functioning and stability is fundamental for academic research. 1.4 Measuring Government Stability and Criticism to a Concept of Government Stability Thus, it appears that in academic discourse, an integrative concept of government stability does not persistently exist. In addition, context and interpretation further cloud what little definition there is. What kind of benefit does the concept of stability conceal? How can we define stable and unstable governments? Is academic debate critical to a concept of government stability? Laver and Shepsle propose to categorize a government as stable if a government can survive dramatic changes in its political environment while still managing to hold on the reins of power (Laver and Shepsle 1998: 8). A government is instable, in contrast, if it cannot survive even small changes to the environment in which it originally took office (ibid.). It is therefore mandated to examine the political context in which a cabinet took office, and the context in which it was forced to give up government power. Even though democracies exhibit regular requests for changes of government, governments with a short tenure are evaluated negatively: Short-lived cabinets are regarded as ineffective policymakers (Lijphart 1984: 165). Government instabilities or short tenures of cabinets are not only generally seen as negative, but they are also seen as indicators for larger systemic crises or a symptom of a potential breakdown of the political system (Linz 1978: 110 et sqq.). The main argument is that government instability prevents the formulation and consistent implementation of public policies (Linz 1998: 8). In contradiction to this argument, one can state that rapidly changing governments could be able to solve mounting and successive problems qualitatively better and faster than could be done by a single stable coalition or a minority government without support (see Williams 1964: 46 et sqq.). Sartori concurs with this judgment by stating that governments can be long lived and impotent in the following sense: Stable government may be a facilitating condition, but is certainly not a sufficient condition for effective government (Sartori 1997: 113). Thus, 4 according to Linz, we must ask the question whether stability and continuity of leadership and cabinets in coalition governments, and long terms in office by the same people, necessarily mean better government in terms of policy outputs (Linz 1998: 8). 3 In this context, Linz argues that, as a result of coalition discipline and respect for each other, governments do not set about political problems (see Linz 1998: 8). Because of that, Linz prefers a regime change or, at least a personnel change, at every possible interval no matter how the change comes into fruition: Alternation within a coalition may be as good as alternation as the result of an election (Linz 1998: 8). Sartori criticises the suggestion of the concept of government stability and points out that stable (in the meaning of long-lived) governments are not simultaneously effective. Cabinets might be long-lived and inactive together: [ ] their duration over time is by no means an indicator and even less an activator of efficiency or efficacy (Sartori 1997: 113). Sartori disapproved of the assumption that the mere duration of a cabinet makes activities of the government automatically effective and efficient. In this regard, for evaluating a stable government one can not consider the mere duration. In fact, it is necessary to find a wider approach which regards and rates in detail the governmental defining factors. Thus, Sartori argues against using the concept of Powell (198), who concludes that government stability is a relevant factor for the quality and stability of democratic systems. It is essential: Stable democracy (i.e., regime stability) is one thing, stable government quite another thing (Sartori 1997: 113). Outside of the issues of duration, efficiency and efficacy, another approach is represented by Siegfried (1956), who concentrates on the personnel. Siegfried studies the frequent changes of government in the IV. French Republic between the years 1946 and 1958 and comes to the conclusion that the French system was characterised by an extensive continuity of governmental personnel. The author s conclusion is that a continuity of governmental activities exists which would mean that frequent changes do not bring about unstable governments. 3 The output dimension of government is especially salient in Eastern Europe, given the problems of the transition. In the case of Estonia, the frequent changes of government do not seem to have influenced government efficiency negatively, since this northernmost of the Baltic republics continues to be referred to as the exemplary transition state. 5 All these observations make it clear that government stability cannot be measured in terms of a government s term in office alone. Rather, the effectiveness of government also has to be taken into account. In general, stable governments might have a potentially higher effectiveness in terms of policy output than unstable cabinets (see Sartori 1997: 113; Harfst 001: ). How do these theories relate to the CEE? Are the frequently changing cabinets an advantage or a disadvantage to the system? Do they relieve or compress mounting political pressure? Do they solve problems and create useful reforms or do they serve to hinder useful policy-making? Holmes (1997) favours a vigorous and stable government. This is rather essential for coping with the already mentioned dilemma of simultaneity (Offe 1991). Differing from already consolidated societies, governments in CEE can not rest upon developed civil societies; they are in a state of development (Holmes 1997: 3). In that way a bottom-up transition (starting from the civil society) can not take place. Consequently, the transition process is the main task of the government and the cabinet has to manage it by developing political directives as a trickle-down process. What should a detailed analysis of government stability look like? It seems useful to isolate several factors. Previous research examining the stability of governments focused on parliamentary parties and their influence on the formation of a government. However, it seems more promising to combine this actor-oriented analysis with an examination of institutional factors. It thus seems necessary to analyse the political system of Estonia as a whole. In the following sections, the constitutional framework for the Estonian system of government will be highlighted. Then the author will focus on the party system, on the parliament, and on the government, as well as on the political elite. Government stability is thus seen as influenced by these five variables, so that a close examination of these single factors allows for a comprehensive evaluation of government stability. 6 Diagram 1: Influences on the Stability of Governments 4 constitution parliament Government stability political elite party system government 1.5 Measuring Change of Government The following criteria for identifying changes of governments were used: Generally, the tenure of a government ends with the election of a new parliament (see Sanders and Herman 1977: 353). Moreover, the election of a new prime minister, or a change in the governing coalition one party leaving or joining the coalition counts as a change of government. Likewise, the change from a majority government to a minority government is a change of government. Concerning the election of a new prime minister, it is important to note that no distinction is made here between political or non-political reasons for such a change, since a resignation generally changes the political situation in some significant aspects (Woldendorp, Keman and Budge 1993: 5). In addition, a successful vote of no confidence against the prime minister also marks a change of government. In contrast, if only some cabinet ministers resign or are exchanged in a reshuffling of the government cabinet, there is no relevant change of government. A vote of no confide
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