Legislative Autonomy in New Regimes: The Czech and Polish Cases
Legislative Studies Quarterly XXIV:569-603

The recent wave of democratization worldwide has focused attention on the evolution of legislatures in new democracies. In regimes where potent executives—either presidential, parliamentary, or hybrid—exist alongside new legislatures, it is necessary to distinguish the idea of legislative autonomy from that of effectiveness. We emphasize the centrality of the second concept to understanding representative institutions in recent transitions. We provide case studies of the lower legislative chambers in Poland and the Czech Republic during the past decade, describing the evolution of the party and committee systems, the structure of legislative leadership, and its relationship to the executive. Finally, we examine the role of the legislature in drafting and overseeing the execution of policy, paying particular attention to budget bills as bellwethers of legislative autonomy and the cohesiveness of parties and coalitions. We conclude that both the Polish Sejm and the Czech Parliament have developed much of the internal institutional framework to support legislative autonomy, and that in the Czech case in particular, recent experiences with minority government are contributing to this trend.

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