Measuring the Impact of the Populist Radical Right on Quality of Democracy in CEE: The Discursive Dimension

Thursday, July 13, 2017
WMP Yudowitz Seminar Room 1 (University of Glasgow)
Lori Thorlakson , Department of Political Science, University of Alberta
Nicole Lugosi , Department of Political Science, University of Alberta
Literature on how populist radical right parties in power impact quality of democracy in post-communist Europe is mixed. For example, a widely held assumption is that Hungary presents a most dramatic case of democratic erosion in CEE (Rupnik 2007; Herman 2016; Enyedi 2016). Yet, the literature measuring democratic performance and quality of democracy does not offer clear empirical evidence to support this claim, with some scholars even suggesting that claims of such extreme backsliding are overstated (Levitsky & Way 2015). While research from groups such as Freedom House and the World Bank do show a decline of press freedom, problematic elections and so on, the figures focus largely on institutional measures, which can miss some of the more nuanced impacts that might be more difficult to measure. While we agree that the dominant institutional approaches include crucial elements of democratic performance, we stress that the important role of discourse has been overlooked. We aim to propose a way of using expert surveys, such as V-Dem, to measure discursive aspects of democracy. We contend that such data could complement existing variables and indices to better capture potential threats to the quality of democracy, especially in a populist radical right political climate. We make the case for including the discursive dimension and propose three measures of democratic discourse: anti-system, fear and insecurity, and intolerant discourses.
  • Thorlakson Lugosi Anti Democratic Discourse June 2017.pdf (245.4 kB)