Autocratization of Parliamentary Democracies: the Case of Hungary and Macedonia
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In the last decade, the democratic failure that appeared in parliamentary democracies in parts of post-communist Europe defies earlier expectations about democratic consolidation in that region. This doctoral dissertation develops an explanation for the question of why and how some new parliamentary democracies regress into authoritarianism. It analyzes the autocratization of two countries in Central and Eastern Europe, Hungary and Macedonia, that had previously been cited as “success stories” in their respective sub-regions. The question is addressed through a structured comparative analysis of post-communist political development in Hungary and Macedonia. The main argument developed in this study is two-fold. First, the analysis explains the way in which a democratic parliamentary system can transform itself into a particular form of authoritarianism—competitive authoritarianism. Second, it offers an explanation about the conditions under which autocratization occurred in the two countries. Autocratization transpired through both institutional and extra-institutional mechanisms. The institutional mechanisms included targeted legislative changes that undermined the democratic checks on executive power in the parliamentary system, without completely dismantling democratic institutions. The extra- institutional mechanisms included a targeted dismantling of civil society checks on executive power—through the co-optation or elimination of free and independent media, reconfiguration of the non-governmental sector and independent civil associations, as well as the take-over of business by the inner circles of the prime ministers. These cases demonstrate that a parliamentary democracy can transition into a non-democratic form of governance, regardless of the degree of its prior democratic consolidation.
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