Personalisation of Politics and Political Leadership in Central and Eastern Europe – What are the Consequences for Democratic Consolidation?

Dr. Miro Hacek
Panel Code

The panel will provide an assessment of the most recent processes on political leadership by focusing on its effects on voters' cognition and behaviour, in the light of the on-going personalization of politics. The changing role of political leaders in contemporary democracies will be assessed through a perspective aimed at linking leadership theory and political science. We will put special emphasis on cases where personalization processes have manifested in at least three ways. First, there has been a growing focus on, and significance for, election outcomes of individual candidates and their characteristics. Second, there has been a presidentialisation of party politics as processes of mediatisation, the deconstruction of traditional cleavages and therefore the alleged competitive advantages of charismatic leaders have allowed them to acquire greater autonomy from their party machines to become chiefly responsible for the substance of their campaigns and the policies they intend to implement. Third, there has been the emergence of “personal and/or personalised parties”, meaning organisations set up by individuals exclusively to further their personal political ambitions and run on a more or less patrimonial basis. One of the major consequences of the personalization of politics seems to lie in the changing expectations of voters with respect to the personal profile of their leaders. We have observed that personalisation can lead to increased professionalization, centralisation and therefore cohesiveness of political parties; or else it renders them increasingly fragile as the growing independence of leaders from their parties leads their parties to feel more independent of their leaders and therefore more inclined to rebel. The panel will explore these themes, focusing on mainly, but not exclusively, on Central and Eastern European examples and comparative studies.