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Illiberal and authoritarian tendencies in Central, Southeastern and Eastern Europe

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Edited By Florian Bieber, Magdalena Solska and Dane Taleski

Even though the democratic decline has been deemed a global phenomenon, the question of how it manifests itself in the postcommunist world and how it varies across different regions with divergent levels of democratic consolidation has not been sufficiently addressed yet. This book tries to fill the gap and examines the causes and nature of the deteriorating quality of democracy in Central Europe as well as the reversal or stagnation of democratization processes in Southeastern and Eastern Europe. The political elite plays a key role in initiating legislative changes that may lead to democratic backsliding. Its constant commitment to the rule of law and to the practice of selfrestraint in securing the independence of judiciary and the rights of political opposition appears hence indispensable for sustainable liberal democracy.
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1. Introduction (Florian Bieber / Magdalena Solska)

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Florian Bieber and Magdalena Solska

1.  Introduction

Moments of crisis reveal exactly how diverse the democratic world is. Its rules and values are not necessarily homogenous; they have different traditions and undergo different interpretations. We talk about democracy, rule of law, social justice and freedom, and understand them through the prism of these different traditions and historical experiences. John Ikenberry (2018), while writing about the crisis of liberal internationalism, stated that the unity of the West constituted an “artefact”, lasting as long as the hegemony of the United States persisted. The same could be said about the concept of the “enlarged Europe”, bound to last as long as the dominance continues of the European Union, which enforces a kind of homogeneity of different traditions, experiences, and above all, interests. We live in a moment of crisis, not only of the liberal international order, but also of liberal democracy, which appears fragile and increasingly polarized, vulnerable to far-right populism and backlash politics (Ikenberry, 2018).

A democratic decline has thus been deemed a global phenomenon. In the 1990s, Peter Mair and Richard Katz pointed to the alarming development of the cartel party, oriented more towards the state rather than its voters. A waning popular engagement in the political process, lower levels of electoral participation, declining levels of party membership, a fading sense of attachment or identification with conventional political alternatives have become prevalent in many western democracies (Mair, 2006). The remoteness of...

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