Tilting the Playing Field: The Role of Informal Power in the Autocratization of Hungary and Poland
- Edit Zgut, ReThink.CEE Fellow, German Marshall Fund of the United States
- R. Daniel Kelemen, Professor of Political Science and Law, Jean Monet Chair, Rutgers University
- Daniel Hegedüs, Fellow for Central Europe, German Marshall Fund of the United States
Democracy and the rule of law in Hungary and Poland have steadily declined for years. In response, the European Union has introduced a number of institutional mechanisms that are designed to address such democratic backsliding in member states. However, the EU has not to date been able to make either government comply with its core values. This is because these autocratizing regimes have operated mostly by formally complying with EU law while substantially undermining democracy through informal power.
In both countries, Viktor Orbán and Jarosław Kaczyński and their Fidesz and Law and Justice (PiS) parties respectively have tilted the playing field to their advantage. They have employed various informal tools to cement their power by undermining their opponents in a way that is difficult to detect by foreign observers. This has worsened during the coronavirus pandemic, which the Hungarian and Polish governments have used as a pretext to make their political systems even more authoritarian.
How can informal power be conceptualized in the context of Hungary’s and Poland’s democratic decline? How have the autocratizing regimes in these countries used informal power to tilt the political playing field? And how should EU institutions react to informal power strategies that include—among other things—the privatization of political power?
The German Marshall Fund of the United States is pleased to invite you to the presentation and discussion of a new policy paper that examines the above key questions. This event is part of the ReThink.CEE Fellowship, which was established by the German Marshall Fund of the United States in 2018. As Central and Eastern Europe faces mounting challenges to its democracy, security, and prosperity, the ReThink.CEE Fellowship supports next-generation thinkers and activists to conduct original policy research, to offer fresh thinking and perspectives, and to shape effective responses by the transatlantic community.
If you have any questions, please contact Alevtina Snihir at [email protected].