The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Central and Eastern Europe

The Rise of Autocracy and Democratic Resilience

in Democratic Theory
View More View Less
  • 1 Institute of Sociology, Czech Academy of Sciences, Czechia, and University of Jena, Germany petraguasti@googlemail.com
Restricted access

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic represents a new and unparalleled stress-test for the already disrupted liberal-representative, democracies. The challenges cluster around three democratic disfigurations: technocracy, populism, and plebiscitarianism—each have the potential to contribute to democratic decay. Still, they can also trigger pushback against illiberalism mobilizing citizens in defense of democracy, toward democratic resilience. This article looks at how the COVID-19 pandemic affects democratic decay and democratic resilience in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). It finds varied responses to the COVID-19 crisis by the CEE populist leaders and identifies two patterns: the rise of autocracy and democratic resilience. First, in Hungary and Poland, the populist leaders instrumentalized the state of emergency to increase executive aggrandizement. Second, in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, democracy proved resilient. The COVID-19 pandemic alone is not fostering the rise of authoritarianism. However, it does accentuate existing democratic disfigurations.

Contributor Notes

Petra Guasti is a is a senior researcher, Institute of Sociology, Czech Academy of Sciences and postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Political Science, University of Jena. She was AY 2018/2019 Democracy Visiting Fellow at the Ash Centre for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Harvard Kennedy School. Her main research focus is democracy, more specifically the growing tension within the system of representative democracy in respect to its legitimacy. Her research appears in Democratization, Communist and Post-Communist Studies, European Political Science, East European Politics and Societies and Cultures, Politics and Governance, and East European Politics, among others. E-mail: petraguasti@googlemail.com

Democratic Theory

An Interdisciplinary Journal

  • Bermeo, N. 2016. On Democratic Backsliding. Journal of Democracy 27 (1): 519.

  • Bogaards, M. 2018. De-democratization in Hungary: Diffusely Defective Democracy. Democratization 25 (8): 14811499.

  • Bonikowski, B. and N. Gidron. 2016. The Populist Style in American Politics: Presidential Campaign Discourse, 1952–1996. Social Forces 94 (4): 15931621.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bustikova, L. 2014. Revenge of the Radical Right. Comparative Political Studies 47 (12): 17381765.

  • Bustikova, L., and C. Corduneanu-Huci. 2017. Patronage, Trust, and State Capacity: The Historical Trajectories of Clientelism. World Politics 69 (2): 277326.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bustikova, L., and P. Guasti. 2017. The Illiberal Turn or Swerve in Central Europe? Politics and Governance 5 (4): 166176.

  • Bútorová, Z., and M. Bútora. 2019. The Pendulum Swing of Slovakia's Democracy. Social Research: An International Quarterly 86 (1): 83112.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bruszt, L. 2020. Hungary's Disease Dictator. www.project–syndicate.org/commentary/hungary–covid19–viktor–Orbán–pandemic–dictatorship–by–laszlo–bruszt–2020–04 16.4. 2020.

    • Export Citation
  • Buzogány, A. 2017. Illiberal Democracy in Hungary: Authoritarian Diffusion or Domestic Causation? Democratization 24 (7): 13071325.

  • Caramani, D. 2017. Will vs. Reason: The Populist and Technocratic Forms of Political Representation and their Critique to Party Government. American Political Science Review 111 (1): 5467.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Coppedge, M., et al. 2020. V-Dem Country-Year Dataset V10, Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Project. https://www.v-dem.net/en/data/data-version-10/

    • Export Citation
  • Cianetti, L., J. Dawson, and S. Hanley. 2018. Rethinking “Democratic Backsliding” in Central and Eastern Europe: Looking Beyond Hungary and Poland. East European Politics 34 (3): 243256.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ciobanu, C. 2020. Poles Find Creative Ways to Protest Despite Pandemic. https://balkaninsight.com/2020/04/21/poles–find–creative–ways–to–protest–despite–the–pandemic/.

    • Export Citation
  • Dahl, R. A. 2008. On Democracy. Yale University Press.

  • Deegan-Krause, K., K. Weyland, and R. Madrid, 2019. Donald Trump and the Lessons of East-Central European Populism. When Democracy Trumps Populism, 6083.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Enyedi, Z. 2018. Democratic Backsliding and Academic Freedom in Hungary. Perspectives on Politics 16 (4): 10671074.

  • Guasti, P. 2018. Democracy under Stress: Changing Perspectives on Democracy, Governance, and Their Measurement. Democracy under Stress: Changing Perspectives on Democracy, Governance, and Their Measurement. 927.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Kentish, P. 2020. Protests Move Online as Poland Puts Abortion And Sex Education on the Political Agenda. https://emerging–europe.com/news/protests–move–online–as–poland–puts–abortion–and–sex–education–back–on–the–political–agenda/.

    • Export Citation
  • Krastev, I. 2019. Democracy Disrupted: The Global Politics of Protest. In Social Science at the Crossroads, 187206. Brill.

  • Krastev, I., and S. Holmes. 2019. The Light that Failed: A Reckoning. Penguin UK.

  • Levitsky, S., and D. Ziblatt. 2018. How Democracies Die. Crown/Archetype.

  • Luce, E. 2017. The Retreat of Western Liberalism. Atlantic Monthly Press.

  • Lorenz, A., and H. Formánková, eds. 2020. Czech Democracy in Crisis. Palgrave Macmillan/Springer Nature.

  • Kaltwasser, C. R. 2014. The Responses of Populism to Dahl's Democratic Dilemmas. Political Studies 62 (3): 470487.

  • Markowski, R. 2020. Plurality Support for Democratic Decay: The 2019 Polish Parliamentary Election. West European Politics, 113.

  • Runciman, D. 2018. How Democracy Ends. Profile Books.

  • Ruth-Lovell, S. P., A. Lührmann, and S. Grahn. 2019. Democracy and Populism: Testing a Contentious Relationship. V–Dem Working Paper, 91.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Sadurski, W. 2018. How Democracy Dies (In Poland): A Case Study of Anti–Constitutional Populist Backsliding. Sydney Law School Research Paper. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id = 3103491. Revista Forumul Judecatorilor 104.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Stanley, B. 2019. Backsliding Away? The Quality of Democracy in Central and Eastern Europe. Journal of Contemporary European Research 15 (4): 343353.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Urbinati, N. 2014. Democracy Disfigured. Harvard University Press.

  • Vegh, Z. 2020. No More Red Lines Left to Cross: The Hungarian Government's Emergency Measures. www.ecfr.eu/article/commentary_no_more_red_lines_left_to_cross_the_hungarian_governments_emerge 2.4. 2020.

    • Export Citation
  • Weyland, K. 2020. Populism's Threat to Democracy: Comparative Lessons for the United States. Perspectives on Politics 18 (2): 389406.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 664 664 264
PDF Downloads 528 528 171