Local governments in North Macedonia, Belarus and Poland

Local governments in North Macedonia, Belarus and Poland

Local governments in North Macedonia, Belarus and Poland

Evelina Batakyte


There has been a constant debate among political scientists on how the international arena influences the politics of different countries. Various major events that have happened throughout the history come into the consideration, such as World War II, occupations or revolutionary changes in the regimes, which greatly affected many different countries and their insides of politics and functioning. In the aftermath of these events, states have to recover their governments, national policies or direct their politics in order to operate and function in accordance to their future vision. In the case of Eastern and Central European countries a clear shift in the national politics and economic conditions is seen since the collapse of communist regime around the Europe.  After the rule of communists, there was a longing for advanced reforms among some of these countries, thus an aspiration for the political changes and economic integration was common. The decentralization of the government’s territorial structure, particularly the introduction of self-government in the territory, had been an important task at that time, while attempting to rebuild administrative and political systems.[1] However, while some states had a clear vision how they want to transform their local politics and the structure of the governance, others still dealt with the legacy of previous regimes. Therefore, the countries from the post-soviet/post-communist space due to the varied political and economic circumstances demonstrated asynchronous transformations and paths resulting in contemporary differences in terms of politics and country governance. Taking into account this diversity, the aim of this article is to examine the reforms in local politics in North Macedonia (formerly the Republic of Macedonia), Poland and Belarus as possibly three different cases. In this regard, this paper seeks to analyze and compare the chosen trajectory of governance within these countries.

POLAND

The currently adopted institutional framework of Polish local democracy followed from the various social, economic and political reforms which were implemented after 1989 under the process of decentralization. Its primary stage also known as the “first wave” was initiated with the Municipal Government Act and took place in 1990. Later, decentralization process furthered with the secondary stage in 1998 on the basis of the Regional Government Acts.  What is significant, comparing Poland with other local governments in Central-East European states, it introduced the reforms in a determined and fast manner. Thus, among scholars it is often titled as a champion of the decentralization. Today, Poland has a strong legal basis of self-government laid down in The Constitution and many other laws and acts of lesser significance. [2]

At present, Poland features three levels of local government that are: municipalities; counties with cities which hold the country rights, and regions. In Poland, local governments, municipalities in particular, in comparison to other countries of CEE, are relatively of a big size (more than 600 municipalities have from 5 000 up to 7 499 residents) and are responsible both for their own (either compulsory or optional) and commissioned tasks.[3] The own exclusive responsibilities of municipalities include various communal services, pre-school and primary education, public transportation, communal housing, social services and etc. Assigned tasks include inter-alia registration of births and marriages or issuing identity cards. [4]

As the municipalities are the only local units that collect own taxes, they enjoy rather comparatively large financial autonomy. Most of the fiscal sources of income come from the property tax, which provides more than a half of internal revenue. In addition, municipalities have a share in two national taxes, as they receive nearly 40% of the proceeds from Personal Income Tax (PIT) and almost 7% from Corporate Income Tax (CIT).[5]

The political power in municipalities is shared by the councils and the directly elected mayor. However, it must be noted, that before 2002 organization of the units was different. Only after that year, number of council member was reduced and executive power transmitted to the directly elected mayor instead of the collegiate board. There were various reasons for these changes: an aspiration to make the local leadership more accountable and visible, encourage better management of municipal, and attract citizens with the local voting. On the one hand, Polish mayors are visible and powerful leaders, on the other hand, however, in some municipalities after the reforms political tensions can be observed.[6]

According to the Polish law, municipals’ main responsibilities include the adoption of municipal statue and other resolutions, such as the budget. Among other tasks, it also decides about the level of municipal levies and taxes, determines the responsibilities and fund of other ancillary units, appoints committees, scrutinizes mayor’s financial policy. Nevertheless, council disapproval of mayor’s decisions does not bring any significant legal consequences. As mentioned earlier, the Mayor holds the executive power and his/her main responsibilities include preparation of draft resolutions, determination of resolutions’ performance, management of municipal property, implementation of the budget, employment of municipal unit heads as well as representation of entire municipality. The mayor as same as council is elected for four-year term in popular, equal and direct voting. Also, the majority rule operates here.[7]

On a municipality level more direct involvement of citizens in the decision making process is developing fast. It is most visible in big urban municipal units. Currently, at the municipal level Poles can take part in the decision-making process by using tools based on representative (beyond electing councilors and the mayor, citizens at the municipal level can also vote for representatives to district councils), direct (e.g. optional referendum), participative and deliberative democracy (e.g. social consultations on the matter of issue).[8]

NORTH MACEDONIA

Already since 1962, the problem of organization and territorial division of units of the local government in the Republic of North Macedonia is addressed, as there was a division of republic’s territory into municipalities. After 1991 until today, 84 municipalities operate within the country and the city of Skopje is organized by a special law on self-government as the capital of the republic. [9]

The constitution of independent state of North Macedonia, adopted in 1991, with the specific provisions foresees the system of local self-government. The system is considered as one of the fundamental values in terms of constitutional order. The constitution guarantees the right for local government to all citizens and determines the municipality as only unit of local self-government. [10]

The Law on Local Self-government defines the competences of municipalities. Similarly to Poland, Macedonian municipal units have two types of competences: own and delegated competences. The own competences defined by the article 22 include: local economic development, urban planning, social protection, establishment, management and financing of up to secondary level education in cooperation with the central government, protection of environment and etc. Article 23 formulates the procedure and conditions of the delegation of the tasks from the government to the municipality. Also, the municipalities have the right to establish organizations, services, municipal bodies, and funds, organize referendum, ensure the implementation of the Government’s authorized laws, elect or dismiss the Vice President and the President of the Council and etc.[11]

The bodies of local governance units are once again similarly organized as in Poland. Namely, these are the mayor and the Council. According to the law on Local- Self-Government the Council has competence to issue the municipal statue and other acts, to extract basic and detailed urban plan, budget and final accounts for its implementation. The Council consists of representatives elected in local direct and free elections by secret ballot and plurality. The Council members elect its President, who manages and leads the sessions, cares of and performs the work delegated by the law. Furthermore, the Mayor stands as the highest executive power of the municipal unit and is elected for four-year term by general, direct and free elections. He/she has as same responsibilities as have the Mayors in Poland, mainly representation, regulation of administration, implementation of budget and etc. The decisions of the Mayor could be challenged by the unsatisfied parties, however, where no appeal is permitted by law, the decisions of the Mayor are final. In this case, discontented parties may raise only an administrative lawsuit at the administrative Court. [12]

In order to implement necessary duties the Macedonian local self-government units need the financial resources. These available funding types in the country include the income source (taxes, municipal fees, incomes from services and etc.) and supplementary funds, namely grants, from the Republic’s budget. In addition, municipalities are also financially supported by the international governmental or non-governmental organizations to implement more public infrastructure projects.[13]

One of the important documents for local politics in North Macedonia is the Ohrid Framework Agreement, which puts emphasize on Albanian majority within the country. According to this document, Macedonian authorities commit to empower the units of local governments, to guarantee fair representation of Albanians and non-discriminatory conduct in state institutions, to amend the laws might be affecting the rights of minority communities and etc.[14] Nevertheless, the law is approved, its implementation has been criticized for being delayed and executed not responsibly.

BELARUS

In the Republic of Belarus the local governance refers to the activities of local administrative and executive authorities that are subordinates to the country’s President. According to the Republic’s Constitution local self-governance is defined by the activity of the local Councils of deputies, which the citizens elect for each four-year term.[15]

The Constitution establishes a hierarchy of administrative and executive bodies and Councils of deputies and introduces such concept as “parent” institution, such as, “parent representative body”. The President of the Republic of Belarus is entrenched as the highest level of authority for the administrative and executive units. The highest authority for the representative bodies is the National Assembly (the Parliament) of the Republic. [16]

The constitution implements the model of power organization in the country, which consists of two parts: executive and administrative authorities. It is similar to the power model of the Soviet local authority, however according to the 1977 Constitution of USSR, the local Councils of deputies control and form the executive bodies. In Belarus, it is slightly different as these institutions are formed by the President. Council of deputies are considered to be the main element of the self-governance system. They are responsible to the residents in the particular and relevant territory. Their functions are performed trough the sessions, committees and etc. Main functions include: analysis of various economic and social processes within the particular territory, ensuring public order and rights of citizens or other units); ensuring effective use of natural resources and public property of the territory or region; comprehensive management, accounting, control, coordination, and etc. Subsequently, main tasks are to ensure socially oriented, sustainable and innovative regional development through the effective use of available resources; the effective functioning of institutions, services, enterprises; ensuring public order, high service culture, environmental protection and safety, and etc. [17]

The most of the financial resources of the local units are consolidated within the local budgets. The local budget level relates to the district, regional, and urban authorities. In Belarus, a consolidated budget model is employed. This refers to the association of the corresponding budgets of territorial and administrative units. The local budgets are divided into three dimensions:

  • Initial level (rural, cities of areas subordination)
  • Base level (regional and cities of regional subordination)
  • Regional level[18]

At all levels the budgets are legally separate. Theoretically, there is a budget independence guaranteed for state bodies to draw, adopt, and consider the budget autonomously. However, in practice it is not so evident. The main sources of revenues of local budgets are: Tax revenues; Non-tax revenues; subsidies and grants from the state budget.[19]

There are still many problems left within the self-governance system in Belarus. Nevertheless, there has been a development of the local and self-governance law, there is no common approach to its development, which negatively affects the development of relevant legislation, the implementation of some national and regional programmes, and the improvement of the administrative and territorial structure. Inter-alia, local authorities are as well very dependent on the central government as it defines and affirms the revenues and expenditures of local budgets. [20]

CONCLUSIONS

In conclusion, the process of decentralization was uneven among some CEE states, as some made a huge progress towards decentralized systems of local governance and others did not. The research shows, that the decentralization achievements of the countries differ. Poland is the country where decentralization policy is the most prominent. North Macedonia also keeps successfully approaching the condition where the policy is fully implemented, however it is still flawed. Finally, Belarus features a still somewhat centralized system of local municipal governance, which is greatly dependent on the central government. However, the radical reforms of such system are not likely soon due to the nature of the authoritarian-style of government.

 

REFERENCES:

  1. "Constitution of the Republic of Belarus." 1994.
  2. "Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia." Constitution Society: Everything Needed to Decide Constitutional Issues.
  3. "Ohrid Framework Agreement." 2001.
  4. Fazliu, Ramiz. "Organisation of Self-Government in the Republic of Macedonia." European Journal of Multidisciplinary Studies 1, no. 2, 2016: 415. doi:10.26417/ejms.v1i2.p415-421.
  5. Illner, Michal. "Territorial Decentralization - a Stumbling Block of Democratic Reforms in East-Central Europe?" Polish Sociological Review, no. 117 (1997): 23-45.
  6. Law on Local Self-Government of the Republic of Macedonia.
  7. Mazol, Aleh. "Local Self-governance in the Republic of Belarus". 2015.
  8. Radzik-Maruszak, Katarzyna. "Roles of Municipal Councils in Poland and in the Czech Republic:Factors Shaping the Roles and the Dynamic of Change." Journal of Universal Excellence, March 2016, 47-64.
  9. Swianiewicz P. An Empirical Typology of Local Government Systems in Eastern Europe, Local Government Studies, Volume 40, Issue 2, March 2014, pp. 292-311
  10. Translation of "The Act Of 8 March 1990 On The Municipal Government" (Poland).

[1] Illner, Michal. "Territorial Decentralization - a Stumbling Block of Democratic Reforms in East-Central Europe?" Polish Sociological Review, no. 117 (1997): 23-45.

[2] Radzik-Maruszak, Katarzyna. "Roles of Municipal Councils in Poland and in the Czech Republic:Factors Shaping the Roles and the Dynamic of Change." Journal of Universal Excellence, March 2016, 47-64. http://www.fos-unm.si/media/pdf/ruo/2016-5-1/ruo_047_clanek_krm_paper_final_prejeto2016_02_24__popravki_po_recenziji_koncen_za_objavo_1.pdf.

[3] Ibid. Radzik-Maruszak, Katarzyna, 2016

[4] Translation of "The Act Of 8 March 1990 On The Municipal Government" (Poland). https://www.global-regulation.com/translation/poland/3353885/the-act-of-8-march-1990-on-the-municipal-government.html.

[5] Ibid. Radzik-Maruszak, Katarzyna, 2016

[6] Swianiewicz P. An Empirical Typology of Local Government Systems in Eastern Europe, Local Government Studies, Volume 40, Issue 2, March 2014, pp. 292-311

[7] Ibid. The Act on Municipal Government 1990

[8] Ibid. Radzik-Maruszak, Katarzyna, 2016

[9] Fazliu, Ramiz. "Organisation of Self-Government in the Republic of Macedonia." European Journal of Multidisciplinary Studies 1, no. 2, 2016: 415. doi:10.26417/ejms.v1i2.p415-421.

[10] "Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia." Constitution Society: Everything Needed to Decide Constitutional Issues. http://www.constitution.org/cons/macedoni.htm.

[11] Law on Local Self-Government of the Republic of Macedonia. http://mls.gov.mk/images/laws/EN/Law_LSG.pdf.

[12] Ibid. Law on Local Self-Government

[13] Ibid. Fazliu, Ramiz, 2016

[14] "Ohrid Framework Agreement." 2001. https://www.osce.org/skopje/100622?download=true.

[15] "Constitution of the Republic of Belarus." 1994. https://www.wipo.int/edocs/lexdocs/laws/en/by/by016en.pdf.

[16] Ibid. Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, 1994

[17] Mazol, Aleh. "Local Self-governance in the Republic of Belarus". 2015. http://eng.beroc.by/webroot/delivery/files/Local_self-governance.pdf.

[18] Ibid. Mazol, Aleh, 2015

[19] Ibid. Mazol, Aleh, 2015

[20] Ibid. Mazol, Aleh, 2015

FOMOSO

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