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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org