Potent Executives: The Electoral Strength of Prime Ministers in Central Eastern Europe


Prime ministers in Central Eastern Europe (CEE) are commonly perceived to be weaker and less “presidential” than their Western European colleagues. In contrast, I argue that the post-communist legacy of CEE provides a more favourable context for prime ministers to develop a central characteristic of “presidential” prime ministers: a strong personal influence on voting behaviour in parliamentary elections, which provides prime ministers with the opportunity to gain autonomy within their party and cabinet. I theorise that party system instability, as well as the comparatively lower media independence and freedom, gives greater electoral potential to prime ministers in CEE than to their Western European counterparts. Consequently, prime ministers in CEE have a stronger influence on vote choice than West European prime ministers. These hypotheses are investigated using survey data from several waves of the CSES project.

In East European Politics, 35 (4): 517–537