The Illiberal Turn or Swerve in Central Europe?

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

The Illiberal Turn or Swerve in Central Europe?

  • Lenka Bustikova School of Politics and Global Studies, Arizona State University, USA
  • Petra Guasti Democratic Innovations Unit, Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany

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Abstract:  Scholars are coming to terms with the fact that something is rotten in the new democracies of Central Europe. The corrosion has multiple symptoms: declining trust in democratic institutions, emboldened uncivil society, the rise of oligarchs and populists as political leaders, assaults on an independent judiciary, the colonization of public administration by political proxies, increased political control over media, civic apathy, nationalistic contestation and Russian meddling. These processes signal that the liberal-democratic project in the so-called Visegrad Four (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) has been either stalled, diverted or reversed. This article investigates the “illiberal turn” in the Visegrad Four (V4) countries. It develops an analytical distinction between illiberal “turns” and “swerves”, with the former representing more permanent political changes, and offers evidence that Hungary is the only country in the V4 at the brink of a decisive illiberal turn.

Keywords:  Czech Republic; democracy; democratic consolidation; Eastern Europe; Hungary; illiberalism; nationalism; Poland; populism; Slovakia

Published:   29 December 2017


© Lenka Bustikova, Petra Guasti. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.