Hungary's Illiberal Democracy

ArticleinCurrent history (New York, N.Y.: 1941) 114(770):95-100 · March 2015with 70 Reads

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    Petersson looks back at the great Eastern enlargement of the European Union in 2004. At the time, it was seen as a huge gain for Western liberalism and democracy, even if certain problems were anticipated, primarily in connection with labour markets and social safety nets. Since then, enlargement has led to tensions within the Union of a kind that few had predicted. A serious challenge is mounted to the interpretation of the Copenhagen criteria regarding democracy, human rights and the rule of law. This is badly undermining trust and confidence in the Union. In Petersson’s view, the EU needs a unifying vision, even a common identity, to address this challenge and give the member states and their populations the motivation to keep moving forward together.
  • Article
    On 13 January 2016, for the first time in its history, the European Union launched an investigation against one of its full member states, Poland. The dispute is about new Polish laws that allegedly disempower the Constitutional Court and the public media, thus breaching EU democracy standards. The dispute reaches far beyond Poland and questions the further perspectives of integration of the Central Eastern European (CEE) states within the EU. At the same time, it is closely connected with the current multidimensional European crisis. This article argues that the EU-Poland dispute is an outcome of the combination of the specific problems of governance in CEE with a superficial institutionalism of the EU. Poland’s governance controversies show that new attention of the EU to its CEE member states is needed, as they were for many years marginalized because of other concerns such as the economic and financial crises since 2007, the threat of a ‘Brexit’ and currently the refugee crisis. In order to salvage the European integration project, it will be crucial for Europe’s credibility to support the CEE countries to reform their socio-economic systems. At the same time, the case of Poland offers a chance for a debate about how the EU can cooperate more effectively and in extended manners.
  • ... The country has the most institutionalized party system of the region (Enyedi and Casal Bértoa 2011 ) and used to be the frontrunner in postcommunist democratization (Herman 2015). Yet, during the last decade, nowhere was the decline in the quality of democracy as spectacular as in this country (Kornai 2012, Bozóki 2015, Scheppele 2013, Innes 2015, Ágh 2013). In 2003, the Bertelsmann Foundation placed Hungary at the very top of the list of 120 " developing " countries in terms of quality of democracy. ...
    Article
    The institutionalization of party politics is supposed to contribute to the consolidation of democracies. Analysis of Hungary’s democratic backsliding shows, however, that this is not necessarily the case. This article demonstrates that the combination of populist party strategies, polarized party relations, and the inertia of the party system constitutes a significant challenge (here labeled “populist polarization”) to the consolidation of liberal democracy. After considering the applicability of structuralist and transitologist frameworks to the political dynamics in Hungary, the article differentiates the notion of populist polarization from similar concepts and argues that populist polarization in the region poses a more acute danger to high-quality democracy than the much-feared under-institutionalized and fragmented configurations of party politics.
  • ... The country has the most institutionalized party systems of the region (Enyedi and Casal Bértoa 2011) and used to be the frontrunner of post-communist democratization (Herman 2015). At the same time nowhere was the decline in the quality of democracy during the last decade as spectacular as in this country (Kornai 2012, Bozóki 2015, Scheppele 2013, Innes 2015. In 2003 the Bertelsmann Foundation placed Hungary at the very top of the list of 120 'developing' countries in terms of quality of democracy. ...
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