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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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17. Conclusion (Florian Bieber / Magdalena Solska)

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Florian Bieber and Magdalena Solska

17.  Conclusion

The recent increase in attention to what has been termed democratic regression or reversals has shattered the nearly teleological implicit assumption of progression from autocracy to democracy via the unfortunate, yet temporary, “purgatory” of hybrid regimes. Not only have autocratic regimes failed to move towards hybrid regimes – hybrid regimes have shown to be resilient and regressing towards authoritarianism (Turkey). The de-democratization in previously consolidated democracies (Hungary and Poland) highlights that democratization is not a one-way street and the already implicit assumption of the term “consolidated” is misplaced. Like its twin concept of reform, it assumes that change will lead to more democratic and progressive governance.

Making sense of these global and regional trends is challenging, as critical perspectives on democratization run the risk of ending up equally uncritically assuming universal regression, without exploring regional variations and different causes. Regression is not universal and some countries have become more democratic in recent years. The regions discussed in this volume showed some similarities in displaying an overall stagnation or decline in terms of democratic institutions. Yet, they also manifest variation, with some Central European countries experiencing the steepest decline, whereas post-Soviet countries are mostly marked by stagnation.

A clear cross-regional pattern that also resonates more widely is the crisis of liberal democracy as an idea. In all cases, citizens have become more disengaged from politics, distrust political parties and democratic institutions, which provides...

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