News from the AUTHLIB Consortium
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
The second issue of the AUTHLIB – Neo-Authoritarianisms in Europe and the Liberal Democratic Response project’s newsletter shares with you our most important milestones, events, and recent publications from the period of April to June 2023.
What is AUTHLIB?
The Horizon project AUTHLIB investigates the sources and implications of the normative divergence from the model of liberal democracy in Europe. It is based on the premise that liberal democracy faces not one ideological challenge but many. Against that background, the project carefully and systematically explores the varieties of illiberalism and their appeal, in their contemporary forms and historical appearances, in opposition and in power, in the domestic political arena, and at the level of international networks. Besides shedding light on the diversity of the illiberal challenge, AUTHLIB’s other main aim is to provide a toolkit for policymakers to defend and enhance liberal democracy against its challengers by understanding and explaining the nature of illiberal ideologies, processes, and policies. The toolkit—consisting of case-specific sets of tools—will offer theoretically, normatively, and empirically grounded ways of responding to the specifics of illiberal claims against 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 Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube. Feel free to forward this newsletter to colleagues and friends who might be interested in our research and activities.
What have we been working on recently?
Illiberalism, populism, (neo-)authoritarianism… What do these neighboring concepts mean? Where does one end and where does another start? Over the first six months of the project, the AUTHLIB consortium took a plunge into Identifying the challenges to liberal democracy and developing precise definitions and ontologies for the above terms, with Radosław Markowski’s team at SWPS University taking the lead. These efforts laid the conceptual groundwork for all data collection to come. With this theoretical work coming to an end in March, the spring brought the start of five new work packages: Ideological configurations, Survey-based data collection and experiments, Rhetorical and emotional appeals, Illiberalism in power, and International co-operation and diffusion. With that, an even fuller program ensued for the entire consortium during the spring.
Read more about our progress on our website here.
We are not only hard at work along our various work packages, but also seek to engage with the wider academic and policy community both on our academic research as well as around ongoing political and policy developments affecting the course of democratic and authoritarian developments across the European Union.
Over the past months, we have organized panel discussions on the varieties of autocratization around the world exploring the ideological foundations of such developments, explored how the currently developing European Media Freedom Act may support media freedom and pluralism in those EU member states that are experiencing serious challenges in these domains, and we discussed, in cooperation with the Nations in Transit program of Freedom House, how democracy fares in Central Europe.
A Region Torn and Fragmented? – Event video now online
AUTHLIB Panel Discussion
The recording of the panel discussion titled “A Region Torn and Fragmented? Authoritarian and Democratic Dynamics in Central Europe in the Context of the War in Ukraine” organized on June 29, 2023, in cooperation with the Nations in Transit program of Freedom House is available on AUTHLIB’s YouTube channel.
What Is Illiberalism?
Workshop with Cas Mudde at CEU
Members of the AUTHLIB consortium met with Cas Mudde (Stanley Wade Shelton Ugaf Professor of International Affairs, University of Georgia) on June 8, 2023, for a hybrid workshop hosted at the Democracy Institute of the Central European University in Budapest. The workshop focused on discussing conceptual and empirical questions regarding illiberalism.
Protecting Media Freedom in Central Europe
AUTHLIB Panel Discussion
On May 15, 2023, the AUTHLIB consortium organized a panel discussion titled “What Role for the European Media Freedom Act in Central Europe?”. The event explored what role EMFA could play in supporting media freedom and pluralism and in countering the systemic assault they face in the most vulnerable EU member states in Central and Eastern Europe.
The recording of the event is available on AUTHLIB’s Youtube channel.
The Many Faces of Autocratization
AUTHLIB Working Paper Launch
On March 30, 2023, members of the consortium discussed the AUTHLIB Working Paper titled “The Many Faces of Autocratization: Diversity and Cooperation among Authoritarian Actors” written by AUTHLIB consortium lead Zsolt Enyedi (Central European University).
The recording of the event is available on AUTHLIB’s YouTube channel.
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 covered political dynamics in Central Europe and beyond. Our authors analyzed the election outcomes in Bulgaria, the collapse of the Slovak government, the role of organized minorities in supporting democratic procedures in Central Europe, the threat of continued autocratization in Turkey, the international diffusion of disinformation narratives between Russia and Hungary, as well as the potential of anti-government mobilization in the Czech Republic. See our recent publications below.
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: email@example.com
Populist Competition: The Dynamics of Contemporary Anti-Government and Anti-System Mobilization in the Czech Republic
In a country grappling with several crises and where the mainstream left is not represented in parliament, understanding the dynamics of anti-government protests is crucial. This analysis of anti-government and anti-system mobilization in the Czech Republic written by Ales Michal and Petra Guasti (Charles University), explored the roles of protest leaders and citizens participating in protests.
Turkey’s Presidential Election: Authoritarian Consolidation Completed?
Turkey’s recent presidential election witnessed President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s victory, raising concerns about authoritarian consolidation. Despite facing a diverse opposition alliance led by Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, Erdoğan successfully diverted attention from economic woes, utilized nationalist sentiments, and delegitimized the opposition. Erdoğan’s win presages potential attacks on democratic institutions, argues Mehmet Yavuz (Central European University) in this analysis.
Caretaker Government Takes Office with Slovakia at a Crossroads
Slovakia is facing deep political crisis and uncertainty. After the resignation of Prime Minister Eduard Heger’s administration, President Zuzana Čaputová appointed a caretaker government led by Prime Minister Ľudovít Ódor, comprised of experts and nonpartisan figures. This unprecedented move aims to stabilize the country and prepare for the upcoming parliamentary elections in September. Pavol Demes (The German Marshall Fund of the United States) explores the path ahead for Slovakia.
Illiberal Disinformation is No One-Way Street: Russian and Hungarian Domestic Propaganda at Each Other’s Service
Autocratizing regimes mutually exploit each other’s propaganda to strengthen their legitimacy at home. The Putin and Orbán regimes work with largely overlapping enemy pictures and in hyper-centralized media environments. This allows their propaganda machines to pick up stories and narratives from each other and use them for their domestic audiences, Dorka Takácsy (Centre for Euro-Atlantic Integration and Democracy) finds.
Bulgaria’s Risky Post-Election Scenarios
In Bulgaria’s recent parliamentary elections, no party won enough votes to form a government on its own. Whether the country will experience continued political deadlock and new snap elections in a few months will depend on the result of the upcoming negotiations between the political parties. Dimitar Keranov (The German Marshall Fund of the United States) assessed Bulgaria’s post-election scenarios in April.
Why Ethnic Politics Can Act as a Check on Democratic Backsliding
The presence of politically organised minority groups is often viewed as a source of instability or conflict within a democracy. Yet in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, democratic backsliding is more common in states that lack meaningful ethnic mobilisation. Far from undermining democracy, the presence of mobilised minority groups can act as a bulwark against backsliding, argues Jan Rovny (Sciences Po) in his piece.
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.