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30 CES Open Forum Series

Central Europe's Descent into Autocracy: On Authoritarian Populism

Sep 4, 2018 Bojan Bugarič


The article offers an analysis of the particular type of populism that has evolved in ECE, most notably in Hungary and Poland. The new populism in ECE differs from other populisms because it combines the elements of populism, ethno-nationalism and authoritarianism. Adhering to a similar script, which consists of sustained attacks on rule of law institutions, civil rights and freedoms, the media and electoral rules, both populist governments in a relatively short period of time dismantled almost all the key cornerstones of democracy in Hungary and Poland. The current surge of populism in ECE demonstrates that constitutional democracy is in great danger when its core principles no longer enjoy wide democratic support. Paradoxically, constitutional democracy can play its “counter-majoritarian” role only when a majority of the people believe that it is the only game in town. Ultimately, democratic political parties and social movements with credible political ideas and programs offer the best hope for the survival of constitutional democracy. The role of law and constitutional checks and balances is less of an essential bulwark against democratic backsliding than is traditionally presumed in the legal literature.