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Declining Democracy in East-Central Europe

The Divide in the EU and Emerging Hard Populism

Attila Ágh

The dramatic decline of democracy in East-Central Europe has attracted great interest world-wide. Going beyond the narrow spectrum of the extensive literature on this topic, this book offers a comprehensive analysis of ECE region – Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia – from systemic change in 1989 to 2019 to explain the reasons of the collapse of ECE democratic systems in the 2010s.
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Chapter 6: The rise of hard populism and the collapse of democracy in ECE

Attila Ágh


The critical elections in ECE around 2010 ended with the entry of the second generation of parties, which have been ‘Golem’ parties controlling all social sectors from the economy to the media in a special ‘party state’. The lack of participative democracy generated low systemic trust in political elites, with the formation of an ‘Apathy Party’ for the marginalized large masses. Soft populism has shifted to hard populism in ECE, with a synergy between crony capitalism (the economy), a strong state with overcentralized government (politics) and control of the media (culture). In the second stage of ECE developments, the authoritarian governments created a new neoliberal hybrid combining support for the multinationals with dominance of a nativist ‘predatory’ capitalism and its systemic corruption, while waving the flag of national sovereignty.

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