Transition from Authoritarian Regime to Democracy: The Role of Local Self-Government. The case of Poland
This article analyses the concept of decentralisation and provides a description of the legislative framework and practical features of Polish local self-government in the context of the transition from authoritarian to a democratic regime. It argues that local self-government proved to be one of the main important factors in establishing a functioning democracy and radically changing the system of the state. Furthermore, it remains a strong democratising factor, despite growing recentralisation tendencies. By restoring local self-government in Poland, it was possible to build and strengthen a democratic regime on all levels – local, regional and national. The idea and practice of its functioning during the 30 years since its reestablishment provided it with strong rooting in the foundations of civil society in Poland. The changes made by substantial decentralisation modernised and improved the effectiveness of the state, as well as proved helpful on the way to membership in the EU. Poland was able to conduct a series of significant reforms, which equipped the local communities with an independent legal position and substantial amount of control over their authorities. For most of the time, local governments have served as safeguards from far reaching interference of the central government in local matters. It is important, however, that with constant pressure from the centre, the position and competences of local government units need to be protected and reinforced in order to serve the idea of genuine local democracy.
Keywords: Democracy, transition, democratisation, local government, local self-government, Polish local government, Central and Eastern Europe
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