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Yugoslavia (former) Local Government and the Communes
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
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    Local government in Yugoslavia was based on the unique institution of the commune, officially defined as "a selfmanaging sociopolitical community based on the power of and selfmanagement by working-class and all working people." In 1988 Yugoslav local government consisted of about 500 communes. Beginning in the 1950s, the communes held all political authority not specifically delegated to government at the federal or republic level; they were the source of Yugoslavia's claim that, unlike the centralized Soviet system, Yugoslav socialism truly gave power to the workers. Because they generated pockets of political power controlled by local party officials, the communes also contributed to the fractious, unfocused nature of political power throughout the country after the death of Tito. The district, next-highest political level above the commune, controlled law enforcement and elections, but functions such as economic planning, management of utilities, and supervision of economic enterprises were the responsibility of the commune. Workers' councils of industrial enterprises were obliged to submit financial records to the communes to justify the setting of worker wages (see The Economic Management Mechanism , ch. 3).

    The commune was also the lowest level in the complex delegate system that ultimately elected members of the Federal Assembly. Workers, sociopolitical organizations, and local communities elected the members of three-chamber commune assemblies, which in turn elected delegates to republic and provincial assemblies and delegates to the Federal Chamber of the Federal Assembly. Delegates to the republic and provincial assemblies elected members of the Chamber of Republics and Provinces, of the Federal Assembly, but they had no voice in choosing the Federal Chamber. In practice, individual voters at the commune level chose only from closed lists of delegate candidates, with little regard for capacity to represent a constituency. Although liberalization of the electoral system was frequently discussed, no open nomination process had emerged by 1990. Both commune and republic assemblies had three chambers, each representing a sector of society (associated labor, local communities, and sociopolitical organizations). Because those categories overlapped, some citizens were represented by more than one delegate.

    Behind the principle of workers' self-management, prescribed at length in the 1974 Constitution, was the concept that selfmanaging citizens' organizations would assume complete governmental control and the state would disappear entirely at some point. In practice, however, grass-roots political power shrank in the 1980s, especially as it applied to economic policy. Exercise of this power was blocked by an intermediate layer of political managers, whose selection remained an LCY prerogative at the republic and provincial levels. Given this selection policy, the regional Yugoslav system mainly chose loyal party operatives over competent managers when such a choice was necessary. Given the autonomy of all state agencies below federal level in Yugoslavia, these political appointees were able to block national reform programs that threatened their elite positions. Yugoslavia had renounced both Stalinist centralized planning and (to a large extent) the practice of limiting the best party jobs to a privileged elite, known as nomenklatura. Nevertheless, in Yugoslavia a number of inflexible smaller systems similarly deprived industrial and agricultural workers of the initiative and decision--making powers guaranteed them by the Constitution to control their own economic destiny. Decision-- making bodies were in no way answerable to the workers for their policies. Neither of the chambers of the Federal Assembly, election of whose delegates nominally began at the grass-roots level, represented workers or their organizations as separate interest groups independent of the overall political position of their region.

    Data as of December 1990

    NOTE: The information regarding Yugoslavia (former) on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Yugoslavia (former) Local Government and the Communes information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Yugoslavia (former) Local Government and the Communes should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.

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Revised 27-Mar-05
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