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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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3. Between Stalled Reforms and Authoritarian Temptations: Revisiting Debates on Democratization, “Grey-Zone Regimes” and “Bad Leadership” in Eastern and Southeastern Europe (Vedran Džihić / Nicolas Hayoz)

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Vedran Džihić and Nicolas Hayoz

3.  Between Stalled Reforms and Authoritarian Temptations: Revisiting Debates on Democratization, “Grey-Zone Regimes” and “Bad Leadership” in Eastern and Southeastern Europe

The aim of this chapter is to illustrate the debates on (failing) democratization, illiberalism, and authoritarian tendencies. We focus on the legitimation processes of the “post-transitionist” regimes and on the relationship between (illiberal, authoritarian) governance and leadership. The new type of “strong-man regime” represents a model of leadership and highly personalized governance, seemingly able to reduce the perceived and real “complexity” of decision-making processes in democracies.

Keywords: authoritarian tendencies, democratization, illiberalism, leadership, legitimacy, strong-man regime

It is almost a truism to say that liberal democracy is no longer triumphing in Eastern and Southeastern Europe. For the post-Soviet space, it was always naïve to assume that these countries would gently follow the path of the transition model. But at least most of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe belonging to the European Union were engaged on a political and economic reform path and were determined to establish liberal democracy. Europe’s multiple crises in the last decade seem to have slowed down or convinced governments of certain countries (Poland being the latest example, Hungary the most prominent and most resilient) that liberal and democratic reform is no longer the only option. Building an “illiberal state” – with all its different meanings – is not only part of an ideological narrative placing the nation...

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