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News from the AUTHLIB Consortium

June 2024

 

 

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

 

Over the past quarter, significant progress has been made across various work streams of the Neo-Authoritarianisms in Europe and the Liberal Democratic Response (AUTHLIB) project, focusing on illiberalism, authoritarianism, and populism in Europe. The SWPS University team finalized the selection of a research agency for a multi-country survey to be conducted in seven languages. Concurrently, the Sciences Po team refined a large language model to analyze political texts for illiberal content. The Vienna University team contributed media data for a related study, while Sciences Po fed new questions into the upcoming CHES survey on illiberalism. In Oxford, the AUTHLIB team designed lab experiments to study emotional and rhetorical appeals by illiberal parties. The Scuola Normale Superiore team explored the transnational spread of illiberalism through content and social network analyses. Charles University started planning forums to assess the impact of illiberal ideologies. The Central European University team started preparations for the development of an interactive visual platform to synthesize project findings and initiated a historical analysis of illiberalism’s 20th century antecedents, with a workshop scheduled for November 2024. At the beginning of July, AUTHLIB researchers will gather in Lyon to present their ongoing research at the conference of the Council of European Studies.

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

 

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

 

Events

During the past three months, we continued presenting the results of AUTHLIB’s work package led by the Central European University that explored the actions of illiberals in power. In late March, we organized a discussion about illiberal impact on social policies presenting the findings of Dorottya Szikra (Research Fellow, CEU Democracy Institute) on Austria, Hungary, Italy, and Poland. In April, we continued with a workshop on populist leaders’ foreign policy highlighting the work of Erin K. Jenne (Professor, Central European University) and Mehmet Yavuz (Doctoral Researcher, Central European University).

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!

 

Populist Leaders and Foreign Policy: Sovereigntism on the Rise?

AUTHLIB Workshop

In recent times, populist leaders and parties have gained increasing prominence on the international scene, from President Donald Trump in the United States to Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz party or Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and her Fratelli d’Italia. Beyond the domestic scene, their influence on their countries’ foreign relations is also growing. Although scholars have traditionally focused on the effects of populism on domestic politics and policy, due to these developments, newer academic inquiry is increasingly interested in the foreign policy implications of populist leadership.

At an online workshop, Erin K. Jenne (Professor, Central European University) and Mehmet Yavuz (Doctoral Researcher, Central European University) discussed their working paper titled “Populist Leaders and Foreign Policy Rhetoric: A Comparative Study of Hungary and Austria” tackling these issues.

The recording is available on AUTHLIB’s YouTube channel.

 

Read more

Illiberalism and Social Policy: A Four-Country Comparison

AUTHLIB Workshop

Social policy is the area affecting most the well-being and thriving of people, and it thus plays an important role in the campaigns and governance of all political parties. For illiberal actors economic and social policies are of particular importance because, as opposed to outright autocracies, illiberalism exists under democratic or quasi-democratic circumstances.

The working paper by Dorottya Szikra (Research Fellow, CEU Democracy Institute) titled “Illiberalism and Social Policy: A four-country comparison”, looks at four countries that are members of the EU and experienced illiberal rule for a shorter or longer period in the past decades.

The recording is available on AUTHLIB’s YouTube channel.

 

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Publications

The AUTHLIB consortium continues to run the AUTHLIB Working Papers series and the AUTHLIB Blog to disseminate the consortium’s research findings to academic and policy communities.

The AUTHLIB Working Papers present preliminary results from ongoing research prior to final publication. The series seeks to facilitate the exchange of ideas and to stimulate discussion about work in progress between the AUTHLIB core team and affiliates, the academic community working on the varieties of threats and challenges to liberal democracy in Europe as well as on possible avenues to counter them, and the interested public. It provides an opportunity for the AUTHLIB team and researchers affiliated with consortium members to disseminate and receive feedback on their work. It also showcases the complex focus of AUTHLIB’s inquiries to the academic and general public.

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 the polarization underlying the presidential election in Slovakia; how populism and EU-skepticism shape party support for Ukraine; what impact the European Parliament elections has on the EU’s democracy and rule of law agenda; the creeping influence of the radical right in the EU and the emergence of a new cleavage around the center’s cooperation with it; and the role of state-funded disinformation campaigns in Hungary’s elections.

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: zvegh@gmfus.org

AUTHLIB Working Papers

Dorottya Szikra – Illiberalism and Social Policy: A Four-Country Comparison

Social policy is the area affecting most the wellbeing and thriving of people, and it thus plays and important role in the campaigning and governance of all political parties. For illiberal actors economic and social policies are of particular importance because, as opposed to outright autocratic ones, they exist under democratic or quasi-democratic circumstances. Illiberal actors have to build popular legitimacy, and they do so primarily through economic and social promises and welfare policies.

Dorottya Szikra’s working paper titled “Illiberalism and Social Policy: A Four-Country Comparison” asks: What kind of social policies do illiberal actors pursue? Are their social policy reforms popular? Is there an illiberal style of social policymaking?

The findings indicate a gradual “leftist” turn by illiberal parties in economic and social policies that are, however, focused on performance. Somewhat paradoxically, illiberal actors fight gender wars alongside increased attention to female constituencies.

 

Read more

AUTHLIB Blog

 

Illiberal Social Policies: A Wake-Up Call for Democratic Forces

Illiberal parties’ grasp on power has relied on economic and social policy as much as on the demise of checks and balances and the distortion of electoral rules. Democratic actors should not overlook the ways in which these parties attract formerly neglected social groups with their welfarist approach, writes Dorottya Szikra (Research Fellow, CEU Democracy Institute).

Read more

Cutting Across the Center, Cooperation With the Radical Right Becomes the Main Cleavage in EU Politics

The rightward shift in EU politics will not come from a breakthrough in the European Parliament elections by the radical right, but from parties in the center being willing to work with it, argues Dániel Hegedűs (Senior Fellow, The German Marshall Fund of the United States).

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No Tidal Wave but Creeping Influence: The Far Right in the European Parliamentary Elections

Even if it is not about to dominate the European Parliament, the far right’s growing influence is not to be taken lightly. Its normalization, facilitated by the mainstream, has long-term consequences for European policymaking and democracy, warns Zsuzsanna Végh (Program Officer, The German Marshall Fund of the United States).

 

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Will Massive State-Funded Disinformation in Hungary Give Orbán One More Win?

Strong campaigning skills are one reason why Viktor Orbán has won four consecutive elections in Hungary. But he has also never been shy about spending public money heavily to influence citizens with falsehoods, writes Péter Krekó (Visiting Fellow, The German Marshall Fund of the United States).

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What’s at Stake in the EU Elections: Democracy and the Rule of Law

Given the likely strengthening of the radical right in the European Parliament elections and the fact that three governments with domestic illiberal agendas (Hungary, Slovakia, and Italy) will send members to the European Commission, it is unrealistic to expect an ambitious rule-of-law agenda in the EU, argues Dániel Hegedűs (Senior Fellow, The German Marshall Fund of the United States).

Read more

How Populism and EU-scepticism Shape Party Support for Ukraine

Support for Ukraine has been strong across Europe, but it is far from uniform. Drawing on a new expert survey, Jan Rovny (Professor of Political Science in the Center for European Studies and Comparative Politics at Sciences Po, Paris) and his colleagues show that populism and scepticism about the European Union explain much of the variation in support for Ukraine.

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Presidential Election in Slovakia: Polarization Continues

The presidential election in Slovakia confirmed the balance of political forces after last year’s parliamentary elections. The governing coalition of Smer-SD, Hlas, and SNS can interpret the outcome as a vote of confidence, and it may thus implement policies to fix public finances that were so far delayed so as not to antagonize voters. A post-election analysis by Juraj Marušiak (Director, Institute of Political Science at the Slovak Academy of Sciences).

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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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