In a period in which ‘‘strong’’ and even ‘‘presidential’’ prime ministers have arguably become more the rule than the exception in the major states of Western Europe, most prime ministers in the new democracies of East Central Europe appear to have been relatively weak figures. This article investigates the reasons for that relative weakness in the ten East Central European countries, which together have had 87 prime ministers in the 16 years since the fall of Communism. It evaluates several possible explanations: party system weakness, the institutional structure, elite recruitment patterns, and policy constraints. It then seeks to explain several notable exceptions to the prime ministerial weakness rule.

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