From local clientelism to populism – the case of Radu Mazăre
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The fall of communism in Central and Eastern Europe imposed not only a transition towards a new regime, but also the reconstruction of the democratic institutions. That meant, as Peter Mair puts it, that the firsts to come to power had the great advantage of shaping the administration and government agencies for their own benefit. This consequently led to establishing clientelistic networks and party patronage by spoiling offices. At the same time, the new post-communist democracies had to transform themselves, from a totalitarian regime with a unique party which controlled merely every aspect of politics and society, into pluralistic societies with multiparty systems. That also meant that the political actors had to win their positions through an open and democratic electoral process, thus having to create electoral linkages in order to secure their sits. Many local political figures in post-communist Romania interpreted this new situation by buying the votes and by establishing clientelistic linkages, based on offering various goods, favors or social security benefits in the exchange of the vote and of the electoral support. These practices led to the emergence of powerful local political elites, with increased popular support and significant influence in the party structure due to their electoral linkages, the so-called local barons. This paper seeks to explore the connection between such local electoral clientelistic networks and the populist approach employed by the respective local political elites.
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