The Baltic Region

2015 Issue №4(26)

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On crisis trends in the legitimacy of the political regimes of the Baltic States



This article considers the legitimacy of political regimes in the Baltic States by analysing three major parameters: confidence in political institutions, level of corruption, and the development of their party systems. The author identifies the major crisis trends in the legitimacy of the political regimes of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. The article stresses the problem of legitimacy reproduction resulting from the limited representation of the national party systems. Special attention is paid to compensatory mechanisms used by political elites to ‘artificially’ reproduce legitimacy. It makes sense to analyse the deficit of legitimacy in the Baltic States not only in the context of threats to democratic institutions but also considering weaknesses of public institutions and insufficient resources to ensure stateness. This requires developing a hypothesis about smaller states ‘importing’ legitimacy from larger states and intergovernmental organisations, in whose zone of influence they are included. In other words, the EU and NATO can provide smaller states not only with economic and military resources but also legitimation ‘resources’ using their prestige to support the belief of local residents that there is no alternative to the current political system of social organisation. Legitimacy deficit increases the risks of a rift between political elites in the Baltic States, which can become a prologue to a deep political crisis. In these conditions, compensatory mechanisms cannot be considered as targeted exclusively at broad social strata. They are also aimed at political elites, whose consolidation or ‘encapsulation’ is achieved by exaggerating external threats and resorting to repressive measures in an attempt to develop an ethnonational consensus. These methods are used to ensure self-preservation of the Baltic States political regimes within the current ideological and institutional configuration.


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