Czechoslovakia Table of Contents
The administrative units of Czechoslovakia's two republics are, in each instance, a unicameral legislative body called the national council, an executive branch known as the government, and a judiciary consisting of a supreme court and an office of the prosecutor. Like its corresponding federal government unit, the Federal Assembly, the national council is described as the highest organ of state power in the republic, whereas the government is the "supreme executive authority." The 1968 constitutional amendments that created the two republican or, "national," governmental units initiated a truly federal system of government, which flourished briefly. Since that time, revisions of and deviations from the 1968 amendments have made the two national governments clearly subordinate to the federal governmental structure in Prague. This is apparent both in legislation, such as a 1971 law that authorized the federal government to interfere with and invalidate republican government initiatives, and in the interlocking responsibilities of certain officials within the two levels of government. For example, the premier of each republic is a deputy premier in the federal government, and the chairman of each national council is a member of the Presidium of the Federal Assembly.
Because of the numerical superiority of the Czech population, the Czech National Council has 200 representatives and the Slovak National Council only 150. Except for the difference in the number of deputies, the provisions of the federal Constitution apply equally to the national councils of each republic: deputies are elected to five-year terms of office; the national councils must hold at least two sessions annually; and each national council elects its own presidium (fifteen to twenty-one members in the Slovak National Council and up to twenty-five members in the Czech National Council), which is empowered to act when the full national council is not in session.
In each of the two republics the executive branch consists of a premier, three deputy premiers, and a number of ministers. Both the Czech and the Slovak governments have ministers of agriculture and food, construction, culture, development and technology, education, finance, forestry and water resources, health, industry, interior, justice, labor and social affairs, and trade. The chairmen of the State Planning Commission and the People's Control Commission also hold ministerial status in each republic; the government of the Czech Socialist Republic includes, in addition, two ministers without portfolio.
Below the level of the republics (the national administrations), Czechoslovakia is divided into 10 kraje, 114 districts, and several thousand municipal and local units. The principal organs of government at these levels, known as national committees, function in accordance with the principle of democratic centralism. The 1968 Constitutional Law of Federation specifies that the national governments direct and control the activities of all national committees within their respective territories.
The system of national committees was established at the close of World War II by the then-existing provisional government and was used by the communists as a means of consolidating and extending their control. On the local level, the membership of the national committees consists of from fifteen to twenty-five persons. National committees on the higher levels are proportionately larger: national committees at the district level have from 60 to 120 members, and national committees at the kraje level have between 80 and 150 members. National committee members are popularly elected for five-year terms of office. Each national committee elects a council from among its membership. The council, composed of a chairman, one or more deputy chairmen, a secretary, and an unspecified number of members, acts as the coordinating and controlling body of the national committee. To expedite the work of the national committee, the council establishes commissions and other subcommittees and can issue decrees and ordinances within its area of jurisdiction.
The national committees on the local level are assigned particular areas of jurisdiction, including maintaining public order and organizing the implementation of the political, economic, and cultural tasks assigned by the KSC and the federal government. The Constitution charges the national committees with the responsibility of organizing and directing the economic, cultural, health, and social services in their areas. The committees must also "ensure the protection of socialist ownership" and see that the "rules of socialist conduct are upheld."
Data as of August 1987
Czechoslovakia Table of Contents