Potemkin democracy? : political parties and democratic consolidation in Latvia
This thesis considers political parties in post-communist Latvia and their role in democratic consolidation. It begins with a theoretical discussion of democratic consolidation and political parties, particularly focusing on the contemporary post-communist literature. It argues that a democracy is consolidated when not just the procedural, but the qualitative (behavioural, attitudinal, and democratic skills) dimensions of democracy are established. The next chapter places contemporary Latvia into a historical context by tracing the development of Latvian national and political consciousness from the mid-nineteenth century to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Chapter three discusses the extent of democratic consolidation in post- communist Latvia by examining four dimensions of contemporary democracy: political society, economic society, civil society and ethnic relations. Chapters four and five apply three complimentary theoretical approaches - institutional, organizational, and sociological - to the study of political parties in Latvia. The final chapter analyzes public attitudes in Latvia through the political culture model, and discusses the contemporary model of Latvian democracy. The thesis argues that Latvia is undoubtedly a procedural democracy, with regular elections, democratic institutions and other, formal, instruments of democratic government. But at the same time, Latvian democracy lacks the informal attitudinal and behavioural dimensions that consolidate democracy as 'the only game in town.' Moreover, while Latvian political parties - which are extremely wealthy, but small in terms of membership, organization and ideology - possess the formal attributes of party, they lack the qualitative dimensions. This 'potemkin' model of both democracy and party is the source of ongoing public disenchantment and disengagement with Latvian democratic political life. The thesis concludes that political parties are the key actors in the democratic consolidation process, and the major cause of the attitudinal and behavioural weaknesses in contemporary Latvian democracy.