139 Rethinking democratic backsliding in Central and Eastern Europe

Thursday, July 13, 2017: 11:00 AM-12:45 PM
JWS - Room J15 (J375) (University of Glasgow)
This session seeks to review and rethink the debate about ‘democratic backsliding’ in Central and Eastern Europe.

There is now an emerging literature on the problems of democratic development encountered by Central and Eastern European (CEE) states joining the EU in 2004-7, conventionally labelled ‘democratic backsliding’. More recently, this has been linked to the concept of ‘illiberal democracy’ as the goals of national-conservative governments in Hungary and Poland have become clearer.

This literature has been highly effective in highlighting authoritarian and illiberal trends and generating hypotheses to explain them, ranging from the falling away of EU accession conditionalities to the fallout of the Great Recession or the growth of Russian influence in CEE.

However, it often rests on assumptions that are potentially open to question:  1) that ‘backsliding’  is a single syndrome, albeit with multiple symptoms and cases of varying severity; 2) that meaningful democratic consolidation did, in fact, occur in CEE (and is now being reversed); 3) that Hungary and Poland are paradigmatic cases of ‘backsliding’ which may be (more weakly) reproduced elsewhere in the region; and 4) that CEE’s democratic malaise can be straightforwardly related to a broader European or global crisis of liberal democracy.

The papers in the panel seek to critically re-examine these issues by disaggregating – and examining the relationship between – different forms of democratic deficit; leveraging CEE case studies beyond Hungary and Poland; and putting CEE ‘backsliding’ into broader comparative context with democratic regression in other regions.

Daniel Brett
Discussant :
Daniel Brett
Backsliding By the Backdoor? Hollow Political Competition and the Concentration of Power in Postcommunist Europe
Seán Hanley, University College London; Milada Anna Vachudova, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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