Citizens local political participation in the Czech Republic: rural-urban comparison

https://doi.org/10.17221/856-AGRICECONCitation:Cmejrek J. (2007): Citizens local political participation in the Czech Republic: rural-urban comparison. Agric. Econ. – Czech, 53: 21-29.
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The Velvet Revolution in November 1989 in the former Czechoslovakia opened the way to the renewal of the democratic political system. One of the most visible aspects of the Czech political development consisted in the renewal of the essential functions of elections and political parties. On the local level, however, the political process - as well as in other post-communist countries - continued to be for a long time influenced by the remains of the former centralized system wherein the local administration used to be subjected to the central state power. Municipal elections took hold in these countries, however, the local government remained in the embryonic state and a certain absence of real political and economic decision-making mechanism on the local level continued to show. The public administration in the Czech Republic had to deal with the changes in the administrative division of the state, the split of the Czechoslovak federation as well as the fragmentation of municipalities whose number increased by 50 percent. Decision making mechanisms on the local and regional level were suffering from the incomplete territorial hierarchy of public administration and from the unclear division of power between the state administration and local administration bodies. Only at the end of the 1990s, the public administration in the Czech Republic started to get a more integrated and specific shape. Citizens participation in the political process represents one of the key issues of representative democracy. The contemporary democracy has to face the decrease in voter turnout and the low interest of citizens to assume responsibility within the political process. The spread of democratising process following the fall of the iron curtain should not overshadow the risk of internal weakness of democracy. The solution should be looked for in more responsible citizenship and citizens’ political participation. The degree of political participation is considered (together with political pluralism) to be the key element of representative democracy in general terms, as well as of democratic process on the local and regional level. The objective of this paper is to describe the specifics of citizens local political participation in the Czech Republic and to show the differences between rural and urban areas. The paper concentrates on voting and voter turnout but deals also with other forms of citizens political participation.
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