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De- and Re-Democratization (DRD)

With its twin focus on democratic crises and democratic subversion (“de-democratization”) as well as on democratic resistance and democratizing struggles (“re-democratization”), the DRD research group places itself at the very center of contemporary debates on the global crisis of democracy. Within its broad thematic mandate, it addresses fundamental questions on democratic failure, subversion, resistance, and polarization.

  • Democratic failure: The institutions of liberal democracy promise liberty, equality, and popular control. But they do not run on autopilot and may fail in many ways. More often than not, across world regions, democratic regimes are less deliberative, fair, and effective, and more unequal, violent, and self-referential, than we would like to see them. Riding a global wave, populists declare existing democracies bankrupt. Very often, their sweeping condemnations of democratic regimes have little to do with genuine democratic deficiencies. We should strive to understand them nonetheless: How can we recognize populists when we see them? Which are the claims they level against liberal democracy? Why do these resonate among citizens? Which is their potential for democratic renewal or destruction? We should not, however, grant populists the monopoly of democratic self-critique they claim for themselves. The critical self-reflection of democracy is an integral part of its defense.
  • Democratic subversion: All around the globe, illiberal governments have been subverting democracy through practices that maintain the façade of democracy while hollowing out its spirit. In slow, stepwise paths of escalation, they have been picking from “the menu of manipulation” that sustains electoral authoritarian regimes. Which are their precise trajectories? To what extent do they transform political, economic, and social institutions? How do they manage to overcome societal and institutional constraints? Which are the structural, institutional, and political conditions of their success? Which are their material, and which their ideological, bases? Which their conceptions of democracy? Whom do they include, and whom exclude, as legitimate members of the nation and the people? What do we know about the extent and sources of their popularity?
  • Democratic resistance: To the degree that illiberal governments succeed in the gradual subversion of democracy, democrats find themselves struggling within the complex two-level game that defines electoral authoritarianism. At the game level of electoral competition, they need to persuade voters. At the meta-game level of institutional conflict, they need to overcome authoritarian structures and practices. How do they handle the related uncertainties about the weight of authoritarian manipulation? How the ensuing normative and strategic dilemmas? How do they reach voters? How do they exert institutional pressures? How do they manage to cooperate among themselves and how to provoke fissures within the regime?
  • Democratic polarization: Processes of democratic subversion may, or may not, originate in fundamental political confrontations. Yet, invariably, they generate them. Invariably, they give rise to dynamics of polarization in which political adversaries come to perceive each other as existential threats to democratic coexistence. How do such polarizing conflicts get ignited? How can they be avoided or reverted? How do they shape the relations among citizens and between political adversaries? How do they feed the erosion of democracy?
  • Democratic foundations: What does democracy require? The current crisis of democracy compels us to rethink its foundations. Our four strategic themes speak in manifold ways to the normative, cognitive, social, and institutional bases of liberal democracy. Blending political theory and comparative empirical research, we strive to reassess the complex conditions that make liberal democracy possible.


Andreas Schedler Lead Researcher / Senior Research Fellow
Daniel Bochsler CEU Research Affiliate / CEU Associate Professor
Matthijs Bogaards CEU Research Affiliate / CEU Associate Professor
Alexander Bor Post-doctoral Fellow / CEU Visiting Faculty Member
Andras Bozoki CEU Research Affiliate / CEU Professor
Laszlo Bruszt Co-director / CEU Professor
Gina Donoso Research Affiliate / CEU Visiting Professor
William Edmonds Fulbright Fellow
Zsolt Enyedi Senior Research Fellow / CEU Professor
Dorit Geva CEU Research Affiliate / CEU Professor
Flora Hevesi Research Assistant
Erin Kristin Jenne CEU Research Affiliate / CEU Professor
David Karas OSUN Post-doctoral Fellow
Janos Kis Senior Research Fellow / CEU University Professor
Eszter Kovats Research Affiliate
Levente Littvay Research Affiliate
Balint Madlovics Junior Research Fellow
Balint Magyar Senior Research Fellow
Jennifer McCoy Research Affiliate
Carlos Melendez OSUN Post-doctoral Fellow
Inna Melnykovska CEU Research Affiliate / CEU Assistant Professor
Wolfgang Merkel Senior Research Fellow
Vera Messing Research Fellow
Balint Mikola Post-doctoral Fellow
Filip Milacic Research Affiliate
Edgar Sar Junior Research Affiliate
Carsten Q. Schneider CEU Research Affiliate / CEU Professor
Andras Szalai Research Affiliate
Lili Turza Junior Research Affiliate
Franziska Wagner Research Assistant
Edit Zgut-Przybylska re:constitution Fellow


Hungarian Portal Reviews Study by Balint Magyar and Balint Madlovics

“Hungary is not moving eastwards from the Western bloc, but wants to remain a long-term mafia state on the periphery of the EU,” writes in its summary of the CEU DI Working Paper authored by our researchers, Balint Madlovics and Balint Magyar.

Balint Madlovics, Balint Magyar: Hungary’s Dubious Loyalty: Orban’s Regime Strategy in the Russia-Ukraine War

The latest CEU DI Working Paper by our researchers, Balint Madlovics and Balint Magyar, examines the domestic and international behavior of the Orban regime in relation to the Russia-Ukraine war.

Filip Milacic on Threats to Democracy in Sweden

Sweden's authoritarian potential is high and consists of two specific groups of voters: those who who vote for right-wing populists and non-voters, our Research Affiliate Filip Milacic writes in his article in Aftonbladet.

Zsolt Enyedi: Ideologies of Autocratization

In this first AUTHLIB Working Paper, our Senior Research Fellow Zsolt Enyedi explores the ideological modules of the recent wave of autocratization.

Laszlo Bruszt, Visnja Vukov: The Politicization of Core-Periphery Relations in the EU

In the latest CEU DI Working Paper our Co-Director Laszlo Bruszt and Visnja Vukov deal with the questions of why and when we can expect change in the politicization of core-periphery relations within the EU and with what consequences for integration.


The Nationalism-Populism-Social Conservatism Database of Presidents and Prime Ministers

Did you miss the presentation of our Research Affiliate Erin Jenne, who introduced the Nationalism-Populism-Social Conservatism database of chief executives? Watch it now!

New Podcast: Zsolt Enyedi on the Hungarian Election

Our Research Affiliate Zsolt Enyedi was interviewed by Cas Mudde for his Radikaal Podcast series.

Overcoming Pernicious Polarization and Protecting Democracy

Did you miss this lecture on polarization and protecting democracy by our Research Affiliate Jennifer McCoy? Watch it now!

Stateness and Democratic Consolidation: Lessons from Former Yugoslavia

Did you miss this lecture by Filip Milacic, Senior Researcher for Democracy and Society at the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Vienna? Watch it now!

Populism, Political Conflict and Grass Roots Organization in Latin America

Ken Roberts talks to Levente Littvay about "Populism, Political Conflict and Grass Roots Organization in Latin America."