Fierce and continuous political battles broke out in Romania immediately after its accession to the European Union (EU) in 2007, with President Traian Băsescu’s leadership style as the main issue. Băsescu declared that he would be an activist president, a “player-president,” who would advance his own political agenda, control the parliamentary majority, and actively shape policy. He fulfilled this vision to some extent and won the re-election; however, the Romanian Constitution stipulates the role of president as a mediator and obliges him/her to adopt a nonpartisan stance. Moreover, since the late nineties, semi-presidential systems in Central and Eastern Europe (except the former USSR) have tended to be more parliamentarian, shifting supreme executive power from the president to prime minister. Thus, Băsescu’s presidency poses the difficult and interesting question for scholars: Why and how might President Băsescu behave as a “player-president”? To answer this question we must analyze the resources for presidential leadership in the semi-presidential context. Here we can identify three factors of particular importance: the president’s constitutional power; partisan power, focusing on the nature of the parliamentary majority and relationship between the president and majority; and the president’s popularity. The present study describes and analyzes the successes and failures of Băsescu’s initiatives during the period between December 2004 and August 2012 from the perspective of these three factors. Specifically, we focus on the following three situations in which the president’s action became a serious issue: “government formation,” “intraexecutive conflict,” and “referendum.” To examine specific constellations of political resources available for each actor, especially the president, we take the constitutional text as our starting point. The Constitution’s ambiguity allowed the president to expand his formal institutional capacity. For example, according to the Constitution, the Romanian President must consult with the parties in Parliament when nominating the prime minister. However, Băsescu always declared that he would nominate a member as the prime minister from the party or alliance that supported him before he officially consulted other parties in Parliament, and he continued holding initiatives to choose the prime minister. Here, two other factors played an important role. Băsescu was the recognized leader of the parliamentary majority, especially between December 2008 (when his party, the PDL (former PD) became the top party in the general election) and spring 2012 (when the governing coalition collapsed). Furthermore, the president maintained high popularity until the economic crisis worsened and his PDL government introduced austerity measures in spring 2010. His partisan power and popularity enhanced Băsescu’s constitutional power, making him a president with considerable material power. In addition, the president is the only office holder who is popularly elected nationwide. Therefore, winning the post gave him additional leverage, especially immediately after winning the elections. In this context, the threat to dissolve Parliament, which is very difficult according to the constitutional provisions, could be a bargaining chip for him. At the same time, the lack of party discipline and cohesiveness expanded the president’s room for maneuvering. However, Băsescu’s actions to avoid “cohabitation” (sharing power) as much as possible caused political polarization and led to the suspension of the President by the Parliament twice.
The institution of the presidency in post-Soviet Central Asian countries is static, aside from the turmoil in Kyrgyzstan. The same person has held the post for a long time and is authorized by legislative procedures, such as referendums, to prolong his presidential term. In Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, there has been no change in the government since independence. However, presidential leadership in these two countries is a variable for understanding the mechanism of authoritarian regimes in the region. In this essay, the author argues several topics for research on governance in Central Asia, that have been insufficiently covered by previous works. First, trends of political transition in the region are better understood through analysis of leadership in competitive authoritarianism. Quoting Robert C. Tucker, the author identifies two types of presidents in Central Asia: “Event-making” leaders and “eventful” ones. Second, referring to Steven Levitsky and Lucan A. Way’s work, the author takes the position that leadership is less important than international and domestic structural variables such as leverage and linkage from the West (Europe and the United States). The author discusses the case of Kazakhstan to argue that state organizations and the ruling party have been strengthened in order to support presidential leadership. Other Central Asian countries are also developing the personalization of political power using these institutions for governance.
This article explains the opportunities and problems of Russia’s foreign policy towards the Asia-Pacific region (APR) under Putin’s third presidency. On 7 May 2012, president Putin signed Executive Orders for “implementing plans for developing Armed Forces and modernizing military-industrial complex” and “measures to implement foreign policy.” The first section of this article analyzes these documents from the viewpoint of Russia’s policy towards the Asia-Pacific region and points out the need for paying attention to the changes in the security environment both in Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia during the past 12 years, which have been ignored in previous research on the background of Russia’s assertive Asia policy. The above two documents show the significant changes in the Russia’s Asia-Pacific as follows. Firstly, the former document announces Moscow’s intention to develop the Navy, first and foremost in the Arctic areas and in Russia’s Far East with the aim of protecting the Russian Federation’s strategic interests. Secondly, the latter documents showed the national interests in deepening an equal, trust-based partnership and strategic cooperation with China, strategic partnerships with India and Vietnam, and developing mutual beneficial relations with America’s traditional allies, that is Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. Given those changes, the second section of this article strives to demonstrate the qualitative changes in the relations among three major powers (the U.S., China and Russia) in the Asia-Pacific region by focusing on the trade balance, demand-supply situation of energy resources, and security issues. Finally, the third section discusses how Russia’s foreign policy towards APR will be affected by China’s advancement to the Arctic sea and the South China Sea and also the U.S. military shift to APR. In conclusion, this paper makes three points. First, unlike the old triangular relations in the Cold War era that were characterized by predominance of military capacity, both the areas of common interests and conflicts were diversified from trade, energy resources to traditional and non-traditional security issues in today’s U.S.-China-Russia relations. Second, China’s advancement to the Arctic sea through Sea of Japan has the potential to provoke the military competition between Russia and China, however this situation may offer an opportunity to deepen the cooperation between Russia and the U.S. in maritime security. Third, this article points out that the heightening tension between the U.S. and China as well as China and Vietnam in the South China Sea provides Russia with an opportunity to engage in regional affairs, for example, participation in the East Asia Summit. However, strategic partnership both with China and Vietnam complicates Russia’s attitudes towards Vietnam.
The conceptualization of new wars has altered the way in which we comprehend violence, identity, and politics in the post-Cold War era, and reconfigured our conviction of ethics, morality, and ‘the political.’ In particular, the second implication of the conception of new wars is significant, as that the de novo proposed ethics, morality, and ‘the political’ de-legitimize the conventional Westphalian mode of understanding modern politics, and offer a possibility of universal cosmopolitan platform, the politics of inclusion, for dealing with violence. This article, from a social constructivist perspective, aims at reconsidering the new wars thesis and more specifically the epistemological problem behind the proposed cosmopolitan solution. My problematization of new wars thesis brings to the fore the Yugoslav conflict as the main empirical reference point, aiming to reveal the discursive construction of the representation of the conflict as an embodiment of the characteristics of new wars. Any representation is a paradigmatic form of reality and has in itself a representational temporarily. It is because the construction of representation is subject to the circumstances directly transmitted from the past and the circumstances directly influenced by particular spatio-temporal contexts. Therefore, the representational construction of the Yugoslav conflict as an archetype of new war has to be understood as a mode of perceiving the seemingly incomprehensible violence witnessed within the post-Cold War context. By offering a reading of new wars thesis as a rhetorical paradigm, this article suggests two problems of the thesis and proposed cosmopolitan solution. First, the characterization of the Yugoslav conflict as an archetype of new wars is not particularly helpful to alter the history-long balkanist representation of self/other relationship; instead it has reinforced some negative connotations of Yugoslavia as the other. That is, the thesis transforms mere appearances of the conflict into the essence, which reinforces otherness and inferiority of Yugoslavia. This essentialization constitutes a ground for rationalizing a new ‘civilizing’ mission of the West under the guise of global civil society with its seemingly universal ethics and morality. Hence, the second problem is that the cosmopolitan solution for new wars is not as inclusive as it proposes itself to be, as that its inclusiveness is dependent upon certain conditions derived from particular western ethics, morality, and ideal type of how society ought to be instituted. Because ethics, morality, and ideal type of society are not singular but plural conceptions, linking them to the cosmopolitan politics of collective deliberation simply indicates exclusion of something unethical, immoral, and defective from the very politics of cosmopolitan solution. Though ‘the political’ within the cosmopolitan global civil society might be based on freedom and public deliberation, the antagonistic dichotomies are inherent features of ‘the political’ of such a global platform. That said, this article concludes that the new wars thesis has effectively constructed another paradigm of representing Yugoslavia, and importantly rearticulated the relative superiority of civic West, by reifying the polarity of heterogeneous domains, such as West and non-West, us and them, civic and ethnic, and ideal and defective.
Russia’s federalism in the 1990s had two different characteristics: the legal equality of federal subjects and bilateralism. While the constitution, which was adopted in December 1993, regards all the federal subjects (regions) as “legally equal”, it also allowed the center and regions to sign bilateral treaties to transfer some of their powers to each other. These treaties forged the asymmetry of Russia’s federal system and undermined the central government’s capacity in the 1990s. This paper aims at explaining the reason why such complex institutional settings were introduced in the constitution. Previous studies have argued that after the constitutional crisis in October 1993, President Yeltsin pursued the concentration of power on the center-regional axis by emphasizing the legal equality of all the federal subjects. At the same time, the concept of bilateralism was also brought in the federal system. In this manner, the constitution has different orientations in itself, but it remains unclear why such ambiguous institutional settings were made in Russia. In the course of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia started drafting a new constitution. While Yeltsin intended to grant himself strong power in the constitution, he couldn’t get enough support from the parliament on this point. Thus, he tried to win over regional leaders to his side in order to gain support for his own constitutional draft. In June 1993, he convened the Constitutional Conference, where a lot of regional leaders took part and played a great role in working on a new draft. Although the provisions of strong presidential power were approved in the Constitutional Conference, there were some disputes over the center-regional relations. One of them was whether the draft would include “the special status of republics” or “the legal equality of all the subjects.” Faced with such a state of confrontation, Yeltsin arranged a compromise between the two by both giving the republics “sovereign state” status and proposing that all the federal subjects should be “legally equal among themselves in relations with the Federal bodies of state power.” Another issue was the relations between the central government and the Republic of Tatarstan. As Tatarstan started negotiating with Moscow over a bilateral agreement in the late Perestroika period, it refused to sign the Federal Treaty in March 1992 and kept on the negotiation. In the Constitutional Conference, Tatarstan demanded that such a peculiar position should be taken into consideration in the constitutional draft, and this demand was accepted. In July 1993, the Constitutional Conference adopted the draft, which acknowledged such bilateral treaties as one of the ways to determine the scopes of authority and powers between the center and the federal subjects. This clause remained in the final draft, in spite of the fact that Yeltsin pursued the concentration of power after the crisis in October 1993. In this way, while he partly centralized the state structure at the last stage of making the constitution, he left the concept of bilateralism in the constitution. This bilateralism subverted the ability of the federal government, and exacerbated political and economic turmoil in the 1990s.
In the study of semi-presidential systems, it has been claimed that there are often conflicts between the president and the prime minister. This hypothesis can also be applied to cases in Romania. However, in Romania, the outcomes of these conflicts have been varied. In the first two conflicts between the president and prime minister in 1991 and 1998, the prime ministers were forced to resign, while the two most recent cases in 2007 and 2012 led to the suspension of the president by parliament. Can all of these cases be explained by the same hypothesis about semi-presidential systems? If so, we may suppose that conflicts are merely changed in a formal sense from being between the president and prime minister to being between the president and parliament, and that the basic characteristics and structure of the conflicts between them remain essentially unchanged. However, if these cases cannot be explained by the institutional hypothesis alone, we may suppose that some structural change must have happened in recent Romanian politics. We argue that the latter is the case. What then is the structural change that has recently occurred in Romania’s politics? In order to answer this question, firstly, we review the variety of hypotheses on the relations between president and prime minister in semi-presidential systems, and examine their validity in relation to the cases in Romania. We confirm that these hypotheses could adequately explain the relations between president and prime minister in Romania until around the period of the country’s accession to the EU. However, we also observe that, after that period, the essential characteristics of relations between these state organs changed so profoundly that these hypotheses could no longer explain them. Secondly, as a first step to understanding how these relations had changed, we analyse the political process of the suspension of the president by the parliament and government in the summer of 2012, and we notice that the struggle over judicial independence developed in parallel with the conflicts between the president, prime minister, and parliament. Thirdly, we examine the political struggle over judicial independence, and discover that there were two forces struggling over it. One was the status-quo forces attempting to maintain the current structure of a politically-dependent judiciary which easily facilitated corruption, and the other was the forces attempting to restore the independence of the judiciary and reduce corruption. The balance of power between these two forces was overwhelmingly favourable for the former until around the time of Romania’s accession to the EU. Since then, however, the latter has started to gain strength, as Romania has sought to fulfil the conditions for the EU accession, such as judicial independence and the elimination of corruption. As policies for judicial independence and anti-corruption have been producing concrete results, the struggle between the competing forces also has been intensifying, including the struggle between the state organs of president, prime minister, and parliament. Therefore, the conflicts between these three state organs cannot be explained by an institutional analysis of the semi-presidential system alone. They should be also analysed from the point of view of structural conflicts over essential issues in Romanian politics as a whole.
The author examined the context of political violence which happened in June 1928 in the national parliament of the First Yugoslavia, referring to both national relations between Serbian politicians and Croat ones on one hand and relations between a Serbian party, National Radical Party (NRS), and a Croat party, Croat Peasant Party (CPP) on the other. This political violence broke out due to serious national problems in the First Yugoslavia; however, the context linking conflict between national parties with their nationalism, “Context of Violence”, is still not clear in previous studies on the political history in the First Yugoslavia. This is why the subject of this paper is focused on imagined “Context of Violence” dependent on political leaders’ attitudes toward other political leaders. In the First Yugoslavia, political relations between NRS and CPP had been influenced profoundly by their partnership with Svetozar Pribićević, who was the leader of Independent Democratic Party (IDP) and was considered as the main political representative of Serbians in the region of the former Hapsburg Empire, called “prečani”, in the First Yugoslavia. As long as he supported NRS, there was little national confrontation in the parliament because political power of CPP was limited as an opposition party. Yet, in 1927 when Pribićević chose by a political decision to cooperate with Stjepan Radić, the leader of CPP, a new structure of conflict came into the parliament. That was the territorial conflict between parties originated from the region of the former Serbian Kingdom and from the region of the former Hapsburg Empire. It was because the region of the former Serbian Kingdom was the base of support for NRS, while the region of the former Hapsburg Empire was the base of support for Peasant-Democratic Coalition (PDC), a coalition party established in 1927 from CPP and IDP. This division which appeared in the parliament was interpreted for NRS as a serious political crisis for two reasons. First, under this political situation, NRS was faced with an obstacle to mobilization of Serbians. Second, politicians belonging to PDC, designated as “prečanski front”, in the parliament enhanced the possibility of dismembering the First Yugoslavia. Especially, Radić unfolded harsh criticism to the effect that NRS governed in such a way as to ruin political and economical equality among nations and frequently disturbed parliamentary procedures. As for Radić’s position, his stubborness for NRS was justified from the political crisis over Croats and their historical territory. At that time in the parliament, the ratification of the Nettuno convention from which Croattia was to suffer disadvantage resulting from intrusion of Italy to Dalmatia was placed on the agenda. Radić repeatedlly required NRS to refuse their sanction to the Nettuno convention and blamed them for political confusion in the First Yugoslavia. This paper makes it clear that “Context of Violence” for NRS and CPP derived from their fears of both the territorial conflict which interrupted Serbian nationalism and a threat to Croats caused by Italy’s laying claim to Dalmatia against the First Yugoslavia. These two political problems over the First Yugoslavia remained as such even after beginning of the dictatorship, entailing a risk of breaking up the nation and the state.