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The role of self-government in authoritarian states during the inter war period: an attempt at analysis

Subject and Keywords:

self-government   authoritarian constitution   political system


The aim of the article is to analyse the role of self-government in authoritarian states during theinterwar period. A Polish lawyer from the interwar period, analysing the development of self-government in the states he described as authoritarian, stated: “The self-government, on the other hand — the legal expression of communal life — is dependent on the arrangement of political forces in a given society.ˮ According to the Estonian self-government researcher, this dependence can be observed in three fields: the situation of commune self-government, rules of election, and changes in the law on self-government. The perspective of self-governmentʼs dependence on the path of transforming the political system, adopted in the article, has resulted in drawing attention to system determinants, issues related to the organisation of self-government and its political role. The article refers to the institutional method. Elements of the comparative method and system analysis were also used. To sum up the considerations, one can point to several essential features that determined the role of self-government in an authoritarian state. Firstly, the natural character of self-government was rejected, with emphasis on it being not an antithesis of the state, but a second form of state administration. Consequently, the interests of the state were to take precedence over the interests of self--government. As a result, the role of the electoral act has been limited by appointments to most executive posts even at the lowest administrative level or by leaving the right to approve the elected representative. Quite often the right of solution chosen by citizens was used. Another way was to construct electoral laws that made it impossible for the potential opposition to introduce their representatives to the local government. As a result, the opposition was deprived of the chance to take any unauthorised action. Despite these limitations, in states where control over self-government was far-reaching, it was often possible to elect representatives who did not comply with the wishes of the authorities. In Poland, the Sanacja camp decided to change its tactics, allowing for quite free competition in the elections of 1938–1939. The limited self-government controlled by the authorities allowed for limited social self-organisation as a substitute for other social institutions. This is evidenced by the inclusion of self-government institutions in many constitutions. This, ofcourse, applies to those states which, like Poland or Estonia, maintained self-government despite restrictions. In Lithuania, in practice, it was completely subordinated to the state.

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ISSN 0239-6661   ISSN 0137-1126




PAd P 101182 II



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