B14(b) - Politics in Central Europe
Date: Jun 5 | Time: 03:45pm to 05:15pm | Location: SWING 110
Chair/Président/Présidente : Max Steuer (Comenius University)
Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Daniel Sarovec (Charles University)
Newspaper Portrayal of the European Union in Crises in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary: The Union’s Imagined Linearity: Max Steuer (Comenius University)
Abstract: Media discourse may (de)emphasize certain perspectives and the portrayal of the European Union (EU) is no exception. This paper analyzes the newspaper portrayal of the EU in crises to contribute to the discussion of how the framing of the Union may reduce the complexity of the question of the its further development from a multidimensional into a linear standpoint, marked by binary oppositions. To do so, it takes stock of the scholarship on the concept of crisis as well as the data from the online versions of six quality newspapers from three Central European countries with seldom studied media discourse (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary). The newspapers in these countries offer one of the first available insights into the public portrayal of the EU in three Visegrad Four members. By developing a data-driven three-dimensional conceptualization of crisis framing, consisting of the actor in focus, the attribution of responsibility and the expected outcome of the crises, the paper shows that quality newspapers reproduced some common patterns of the portrayal of the crises in the period from 2008 to June 2016, that manifest through binaries, in particular the opposition between the ‘domestic’ and ‘the EU in Brussels’ including the ‘European elite’. These linear cleavage-like oppositions, present to a lesser or greater extent in all analyzed newspapers across countries, signalize the absence of a comprehensive understanding of the EU’s development and account for a ‘segmented language’ that may contribute to actual segmentation (Bátora and Fossum forthcoming), or even fragmentation, of the Union.
Theoretical and Practical Aspects of New Political Parties’ Emergence: The Czech Republic Case: Daniel Sarovec (Charles University)
Abstract: New political parties can be essential holders of party systems’ change. A lot of scholars underline this reality. It is often not enough only to establish a new political subject. There is a significant relationship between a new party emergence and the subsequent electoral success, what is often an overlooked research dimension. This paper wants to focus on the most important features narrowly connected with new political parties’ study approaches. There is no concurrence on what new political party exactly is. It is possible to find a whole range of high-quality based articles exploring newness in a current or recent state of knowledge. Despite it, this research still has several substantial doubts about this question. Examples of Czech political parties that have been successful in the first-order elections and where the problematic aspects of their declared novelty can be traced will be compared here. The evidence of complexity pertaining to this phenomenon is visible: every political party is new in the moment of its formation in reality, but on the other hand not every political party is new regarding an appropriate theoretical concept. This empirical base shows, that declared novelty can be somewhat more a tool of broader communication and image strategy than a real indisputable party attribute.
The Guardians of What? Assessing the Slovak and Hungarian Constitutional Courts’ Understandings of Democracy: Max Steuer (Comenius University)
Abstract: This paper contributes to the discussion of the role of ideas in legal decision making. It takes stock of the self-understanding of centralized constitutional courts’ (CCs’) role in a political regime from the perspective of democracy as the best existing regime type. By asking how democracy (as opposed to other, albeit related, concepts) has been understood in CCs’ decision-making, it aims to show how particular understandings amount to the undermining of the CCs’ own position as guardians of democracy, and, consequently, how these understandings may limit the CCs’ capacity to effectively counter anti-democratic pressures. Building on several major interpretations of democracy and the CCs’ role therein, the paper proposes a five-dimensional conceptualization of CCs’ contribution to democracy, and applies a selection of these dimensions to empirically analyze the understanding of democracy by concrete Central European CCs. The Slovak and Hungarian cases are chosen given their significant structural similarities on the one hand, and the diverging recent trajectories on the other hand. By showing how, with a few exceptions, restrictive (primarily majoritarian) understandings of democracy prevailed in the decision making of the two CCs, this research uncovers their limited capacity to act as guardians, with their actual impact potential being increasingly influenced by the surrounding political context. The findings illustrate the broader relevanceof the conceptualization of the CCs’ contribution to democracy and the need to look at CCs’ own ideas about fundamental political principles as prerequisites of their impact on the political regime.