WHO IS THE PREFECT? A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF THE PROFESSIONALIZATION AND POLITICIZATION OF THE PREFECT IN ROMANIA AND POLAND IN 2021.
|Profiroiu, Constantin Marius
The prefectoral figure has, so far, failed to receive the attention it deserves in the scientific literature (Pollit and Bouckaert, 2011). However, there are general national and cross-national comparative studies related to the prefect (Eymeri-Douzans and Tanguy, 2021), which emphasize the stages of reform in the public administration (Drew, 2020), its specific role, competences and position within the institutional and legal design (Postelnicu, 2009; Berceanu, 2019). Some scholarly endeavors analyze the prefectoral figure in reference to the temporality of governance (Majone, 1996; Pierson, 2004), while others observe the social dimension of the prefect, its role and origins (Bourdieu, 1989; Chagnollaud, 1991; Roger, 2002; Profiroiu and Titirisca, 2016). Apart from that, several studies argue that the prefect constitutes the formal discontinuity/continuity between the central and local government, corresponding with the effective territorial representation and its relation with the political centre (Meny, 1987, pp. 5-10; Ebel, 1999; Thuillier, 1999; Machelon, 2002). The prefect, therefore, is the institution which establishes a link between central and local government and administration (Ridley, 1973; Tobin, 1997; Treisman, 2007; Bouchard, 2015), drafting a set of center-periphery relations whose roles are constantly reconfigured. It holds together the political regime, which provides a set of formal and informal rules and procedures for the distribution of legitimate power among political actors (Iona?cu, 2012; Ionescu, 2012), and the state, offering a more permanent structure of domination based on a coercive territorial administrative apparatus (Fishman, 1990).
While these studies have analyzed the mechanisms of appointment and dismissal of the prefect by the Prime Minister, only tangentially have they reported on its socio-professional figure. They have highlighted the eligibility criteria for appointment, which are explicitly mentioned in the legal framework, without taking into account expertise and relevant experience as well as personal and political relations, which we consider relevant in the prefect's appointment to office and their chances of keeping said office.
In other words, all of these studies have focused only on the institutional capacity of the prefect, ignoring the person who exercises the mandate. Thus, a question still remains unasked: who is actually the person exercising the mandate of prefect?
There are no scientific studies available which have endeavored to determine the socio-professional profile of the prefect. That is why designing such a specific analysis will reveal the following aspects: type of education and degree achieved by the prefect prior to their appointment, the career path and its relevance in justifying the prefect's expertise in public administration, the importance of the activity and political affiliation before and after recruitment to the Prefects Corps, the grounds for recruitment that go beyond the minimum criteria that define the eligibility to exercise the position of prefect and, finally, the relationship between the professionalization and politicization of the prefect.
The above criteria are relevant in expanding the image of the holder of the prefect's office beyond the legislative prerequisites they need to check, which disregard other elements relevant to the way in which the prefect acquires and exercises legitimacy at the local level. The 'past' and the 'present' in the prefect's biography illustrate the main trends (of recruitment to office) through which the stages of institutional reform were adapted and personalized (Dragoman, 2011), as a result of personal and political relations between the Prime Minister and the people appointed and revoked from the position of prefect. The relationship between the professionalization and politicization of the prefect gives us a complete overview of the stages of reform and modernization of the public administration. The Prefecture's leadership has become, defacto, an indicator of the efficiency and legitimacy of the institution at local level. Administrative reforms have occasionally been molded by the educational, professional and political profile of the prefect, while at other times they have molded the latter.
Taking into consideration all of these dimensions, this article seeks to analyze who actually is the person mandated to the role of prefect in present times in Romania and Poland. There are two main reasons for this endeavor: first of all, it creates a specific pattern regarding the dynamics of professionalization of prefects, helping us anticipate the future profile/typology of future office holders while the political configuration is maintained, improving, thus, the transparency of this institution for citizens and civil society in general. Second of all, it substantially contributes to the development of subsequent research in this particular field, which today is limited either to general administrative career path (Eymeri-Douzans, 2001; Eymeri-Douzans and Tanguy, 2021), to routines, procedures and recruitment, which are useful in identifying possible traces of the autonomization and construction of the career (Merton, 1973; Abbott, 1988) or downright absent.
The main hypothesis captures the politicization of the prefect as a result of the right of the Prime Minister to discretionarily appoint prefects, within the rather broad confines of the law and the political negotiations regarding the political configuration of the country. The disproportionately high importance of the nominee's political activity to the detriment of their educational or professional achievements almost guarantees that the appointment is based on the nominee's relation to the Prime Minister and the political formation which negotiates and backs their appointment to office. The appointment of prefects to office is thus carried out on the basis of affiliation and political activity, as well as that of loyalty, friendly relations with and belonging to the political entourage of the Prime Minister. Political activity thus constitutes the independent variable which defines the profile of the prefect in Romania and Poland in 2021, which is why the prefect's political career is no longer an emanation of the public administration, becoming de facto a political mission.
The secondary hypothesis highlights different stages of the depersonalization and deprofessionalization of the prefect, depending on the internal context of reform specific to each country. The prefect's educational and professional paths thus become dependent variables that complement and customize the prefect's profile in Romania and Poland. On the one hand, the failed experiences of administrative reform in Romania have significantly reduced the relevance of the educational and professional path, which is why the prefect's profile is articulated exclusively on the basis of political activity.
The frequent changes in the composition of the parliamentary majority and implicitly of the Government are reflected on the low level of stability in office of the prefect. An eloquent example of this practice in Romania is the recent reshuffling of a large number of prefects following a change in the political configuration of the ruling majority, with the ousting of all prefects who were backed by the party which left the coalition (September 9, 2021). On the other hand, in Poland, the linear trajectory of public administration reform, together with a high level of political stability, stresses the importance of professionalizing the leadership of the Prefect's institution.
In terms of case-selection and analysis, Romania and Poland are (mostly) similar (Posner, 2004) in many regards when discussing the prefecture and its role. According to categories advanced by Peters (2008), in both countries the prefect and the wojewod have comparable traditions (Sartori, 1970) in the state territorial administration. However, their role, functions and (political) representation have suffered some changes in the last three decades, since the fall of Communism. Nonetheless, in terms of prefectoral figure, the nodal point of this study, until recently the profile of the prefect was constructed differently in the two countries.
On the one hand, in Romania in 1990, the prefect was integrated in the institutional framework of the state as an agent of the central government, appointed and dismissed by the executive. Law no. 5/1990 defined prefectures as 'local bodies of state administration with general competence'. The prefectures were thus established to manage 'problems regarding the economic and social development of administrative-territorial units'. Important changes were introduced through Law no. 340/2004, with the prefect being defined as 'the representative of the Government at the local level'. Appointed by the Government at the proposal of the Ministry of Interior and Administrative Reform, the prefect fulfilled the role of guarantor of the observance of the law and public order at the local level. As of January 1, 2006, the prefect was included in the category of senior civil servants, dismissible only in the event of an unfounded refusal of his mobility in office. Also, the prefect was not in relations of subordination to the local councils, mayoralties, county councils and their presidents. De jure, for the prefects in office on December 31, 2005, as well as for those who were to hold the position of prefect after January 1, 2006, passing the attestation examination on the post became a condition of eligibility for the exercise of their mandate. De facto, the practice of appointment by secondment (of a temporary nature) prevailed, in the event that the competition for attestation on the post was no longer organized at national level. For this reason, the duration of the prefect's mandate was not defined in the domestic...
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