The road from state socialism through liberal democracy to autocracy

Democratic Erosion: The Case of Hungary

In the last decade, Hungary has received international attention for its democratic erosion. The country has been the first institutionally consolidated democracy to turn into an autocracy. How has this effect of ‘backsliding’ been possible? And what has marked the transition from democracy to autocracy? In this lecture the process of democratic transition as well as the main factors that allowed the Hungarian government to undergo the development without meaningful push-back will be discussed.

Professor Gábor Halmai will discuss the main characteristics of the democratic transition, the backslash from 2010, and how the Hungarian government lead by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, was able to undermine the independent checks on their power so quickly.

Hamai will further investigate the role of ‘legal constitutionalism’ and ‘undemocratic liberalism’ without real historical traditions of a liberal democratic constitutional culture. Furthermore, he will discuss the complicity and the inability to intercept of transnational and international institutions, particularly the European Union and the Council of Europe. Isn’t here the mostly legalistic, constitutional approach to deal with Hungary as a Member State non-compliant with European rules and values also contributed to failure?

About the speaker

Gábor Halmai is a part-time professor in the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies at European University Institute (EUI) in Florence, and Project Director of the project ’TRust, Independence, Impartiality and Accountability of Legal Professionals under the EU Charter – part 2 (TRIIAL 2). His primary research interests are comparative and European constitutional law. He has published several books and articles, as well as edited volumes on these topics in English, German and Hungarian. Gábor Halmai is founder and editor-in-chief of Fundamentum, the Hungarian human right quarterly, and Member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the European Yearbook on Human Rights, and the Review of Constitutionalism and Constitutional Change (RC3). His recent research focuses on illiberal constitutional theories and developments in East-Central Europe.

Maciej Krogel is a lecturer in European law at the Faculty of Humanities, University of Amsterdam, PhD researcher at the European University Institute in Florence, and fellow in the ‘re:constitution’ Programme. He is an editor of the European Journal of Legal Studies. He has lectured European Union law and comparative law at universities in Belgium, Denmark, Italy and Portugal. His primary research interests are constitutional theory, constitutional law of the European Union, and the political and social roles of legal scholars.

Pola Cebulak is an Assistant Professor in European Law at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Her research focuses on international courts adjudicating on politically and socially polarizing issues, such as the rule of law or territorial disputes. Her current research projects focus on strategic litigation using European law. Pola has worked and studied at universities in Berlin, London, Brussels, Geneva, Boston, Copenhagen and New York.

Jerfi Uzman is Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Amsterdam. He teaches both Domestic and Comparative Constitutional Law, and Human Rights Law. He is the current editor-in-chief of the Netherlands Journal of Human Rights Law (NTM). His research focuses on separation of powers, specifically in the relationship between courts and political institutions, effective legal protection of fundamental rights, informal constitutional norms, and the impact of populism on constitutional doctrine.

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