Accountability in Eastern and Western European democracies: an empirical analysis of a radial concept

This thesis deals with a central concept of democracy which is political accountability, its meanings and empirical instances in Eastern and Western Europe. The concept of accountability has been often used in the comparative politics literature, however few authors have tried to pin down its meanings. Moreover, until recent conceptualizations that are based on the model of radial categories, accountability could hardly be studied empirically due to its ambiguous meanings. The qualitative content analysis of accountability in Hungary, France, Romania and UK focuses on the laws of access to public information in these countries, as institutional mechanisms of accountability. In order to assess the societal and representative accountability in the four countries, the quantitative descriptive analysis concentrates on the implication of citizens in the process of political accountability by evaluating the number of citizens that contact politicians and the citizens’ participation in public protests. The results show that there are little differences between East and West concerning the legal provisions on the access to public information. Furthermore, the willingness of the citizens to hold state officials accountable, through other means than elections, is low in all the four countries. In conclusion, France and the UK do not necessarily perform better than Hungary or Romania with regard to societal and representative accountability. Nevertheless, the comparison has a limited scope, but future studies could focus on the differences concerning other subtypes of accountability, in old and new democracies.