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News from the AUTHLIB Consortium

December 2023


Dear Colleagues and Friends,


We wish you happy holidays, good health, and many personal and professional successes for the year to come!


As our AUTHLIB – Neo-Authoritarianisms in Europe and the Liberal Democratic Response consortium is closing a busy but fruitful year and is ready to hit pause until January, let us share with you, in this fourth issue of our newsletter, what we are proud of from the past months and excited for the next few.

In 2023, we opened six and already closed two of our work packages, which respectively laid the conceptual groundwork for our scientific inquiries by clarifying the relationship between illiberalism, populism, and authoritarianism, and gathered a first round of empirical evidence on what illiberals do when they are in power. Furthermore, we launched our blog and published widely on electoral developments in Europe and beyond as well as on the ideologies and policy positions of illiberal actors and their international cooperation. We launched our working paper series, which will expand in the course of 2024 as the initial fruits of our labor keep rolling in. We built partnerships and initiated dialogues with partners in Europe and the United States, and introduced and represented AUTHLIB at international academic conferences on both sides of the Atlantic.

We present below the highlights of the past three months. To dive deeper into our progress, please read our quarterly report here.

In 2024, we will continue to explore the ideological configurations of the alternatives competing with liberal democracy, gather individual-level data to discern the profiles of people who are most inclined to support specific illiberal configurations across Europe, and analyze the rhetorical and emotional appeals of illiberal actors as well as their international cooperation and diffusion. We are also excited to start looking into the ideational-historical contexts of illiberalism, integrating the results of all work packages into a comprehensive map of the ideological challenges to liberal democracy, investigating the normative limits that liberals should impose on themselves, and developing a toolkit for policymakers to respond to illiberal challenges. We will be testing out some of these interventions in various deliberative fora involving experts, decision-makers, and citizens. Naturally, we will keep an eye on current developments in Europe and beyond in a year full of significant elections that will be battlegrounds for defenders and challengers of liberal democracy.

Find out more about us on AUTHLIB’s website. To make sure you don’t miss our upcoming events and publications, follow us on BlueskyX, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube. Feel free to forward this newsletter to colleagues and friends who might be interested in our research and activities.

Recent Highlights



With the AUTHLIB consortium being committed to contributing not only to the academic but also to the policy debate, our team at the Transatlantic Foundation has been working on organizing regular discussions around current challenges and ongoing developments on the European political agenda. We opened our autumn program with an exchange on the matter of civic education around Europe with The CIVICS Innovation Hub. In early October, we continued with a post-election briefing following the parliamentary election in Slovakia. In the coming year, we plan to showcase our results on how illiberals in power impact policy in the fields of education and culture, environment, foreign policy, gender, immigration and citizenship, and social policy.

All our public events are recorded and the videos are available on AUTHLIB’s YouTube channel. Subscribe and sign up for notifications to not miss out!


Slovakia’s Elections: Domestic and International Implications

AUTHLIB Panel Discussion

The parliamentary elections in Slovakia generated much international attention and concern. After a tumultuous year, the snap polls on September 30 were shaping up to be close, unpredictable, and consequential.

In the wake of Slovakia’s parliamentary elections, this panel explored the internal political and societal dynamics that preceded the elections, assessed the results and the coalition options, and gauged their potential consequences on the country’s politics and foreign policy, especially its relations with the European Union, NATO, and Russia.


The recording is available on AUTHLIB’s YouTube channel.

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Demands and Realities of Civic Education: a Pan-European Stocktaking

AUTHLIB Panel Discussion

Civic education is the centerpiece of the renewal of democratic attitudes from generation to generation in Western societies. This panel, taking place on September 28, 2023, aimed to facilitate the exchange of ideas and best practices between academics and practitioners working in the fields of civic education and democracy assistance. It identified potential entry points for strengthening democratic resilience through civic education across Europe, drawing lessons from an unparalleled comparative survey research project conducted by the CIVICS Innovation Hub.

The recording is available on AUTHLIB’s YouTube channel.

Read more


The AUTHLIB consortium launched the AUTHLIB Working Papers series and the AUTHLIB Blog in the beginning of 2023.

The AUTHLIB Blog is a platform of academic and policy debate publishing commentary, analysis, and opinion pieces around the topics of (neo-)authoritarianism, illiberalism, populism, challenges to liberal democracy, democratic erosion and backsliding, democratic security and resilience, and related political events and developments primarily but not exclusively on the European scene. It seeks to facilitate discussion between the scholarly and policy communities dealing with the above questions, in a language that is accessible also to the broader public.

Over the past months, articles published on the AUTHLIB Blog discussed the implications of Slovakia’s parliamentary elections and its consequences on the country’s foreign policy. In a series focusing on the decisive elections in Poland, we covered electoral integrity, the referendum called by the Law and Justice-led government and the economic implications of its rule, the consequences of its defeat on Hungarian-Polish relations, and the challenges ahead for returning the country to a democratic path. Looking beyond Europe, we also discussed how referendums are used by Venezuela’s authoritarian regime to stabilize its grip on power. In cooperation with the Review of Democracy magazine of the CEU Democracy Institute, we recorded a podcast with Cas Mudde in which he discussed the relationship between illiberalism and populism, autocratization trends around the world, the rise of the radical right in Europe ahead of the upcoming European Parliament elections, and the development of international linkages between radical-right actors in Europe and the United States.

The AUTHLIB Blog welcomes submissions from the academic and policy community. Should you be interested in contributing, contact Zsuzsanna Végh, visiting fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, with your short pitch at:

“Democracy Cannot Really Function If It Is Not Liberal” – Interview with Cas Mudde

Among the challengers to liberal democracy in Europe, we can count populists, autocrats, and the increasingly often mentioned illiberals. But who are they and what is illiberalism? How does it relate to populism? Can illiberals be democrats at all? What are the policy implications of having illiberal politicians, especially of the radical right, in power in the EU?

In this interview, recorded as a collaboration between The Review of Democracy and the research consortium “AUTHLIB – Neo-authoritarianisms in Europe and the liberal democratic response“, Professor Cas Mudde answers these questions posed by Zsuzsanna Végh, visiting fellow at The German Marshall Fund of the United States.

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Poland’s Return to Democracy: The Challenges Ahead for the New Government

The results of its recent parliamentary elections indicate that Poland has returned to the democratic path. However, dismantling the illiberal system built by the previous government will pose many challenges for the new one, which will have to legislate amid the threat of a presidential veto, a lack of societal consensus on crucial issues, and intense polarization, writes Marta Żerkowska-Balas (SWPS University).

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Maduro’s Referendum: Territorial Expansionism or Autocrat’s Electoral Tactics?

On December 3, 2023, the Venezuelan government held a referendum on whether it should lay claim to the oil-rich region of Essequibo in neighboring Guyana. According to the authorities, citizens overwhelmingly supported the idea. What follows will be consequential for President Nicolás Maduro’s regime and the international order, argues Jaroslav Bílek (Charles University).

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EU Foreign Policy Faces a Slovakia Challenge

The new prime minister of Slovakia has shown from Day One that he will not follow the bloc’s established line on Ukraine and Russia. Pavol Demeš (The German Marshall Fund of the United States) assesses the prospective foreign policy agenda of the new Slovak government.

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And Then There Was One

Poland’s election results may have grave implications for Hungary’s autocratic prime minister, Viktor Orbán. Dániel Hegedűs (the German Marshall Fund of the United States) explores the impact of Poland’s parliamentary elections on Polish-Hungarian relations.

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Toxic Polarization Ran Out of Steam for Law and Justice

Poland’s Law and Justice (PiS) party looks set to lose power after eight years despite instrumentalizing a national referendum to mobilize its voters and misusing public funds in the election campaign. How was Poland’s case different from the similar one in the 2022 elections in Hungary, and why did the referendum not help PiS to win more votes?   Edit Zgut-Przybylska (IFIS PAN) explores.

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How the Integrity of Poland’s Elections Is Undermined

Elections in Poland are skewed by biased electoral laws, abuse of state resources by the governing party, and undermined media freedom and judiciary independence, argues Anna Wójcik (The German Marshall Fund of the United States).

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Poland’s Elections: New Politics, Old Economics?

No matter who leads the next government, in starkly polarized Poland the legacy of “PiSonomics” will endure, writes Jan Boguslawski (The German Marshall Fund of the United States).

Read more

The project “AUTHLIB – Neo-Authoritarianisms in Europe and the Liberal Democratic Response” is funded by the European Union and the UK Research and Innovation. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or UK Research and Innovation. Neither the European Union nor the UK Research and Innovation can be held responsible for them.

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