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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.

Publications by research group members (2022-23)


Andreas Schedler Lead Researcher / Senior Research Fellow
Natalya Antonova Intern
Ryan Bince Junior Research Affiliate
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 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
Nicolas Hernandez Junior Research Affiliate
Flora Hevesi Research Assistant
Gennadii Iakovlev Research Affiliate
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
Peter Kreko Research Affiliate
Levente Littvay Research Affiliate
Balint Madlovics Junior Research Fellow
Balint Magyar Senior Research Fellow
Jennifer McCoy Research Affiliate
Carlos Melendez Post-doctoral Fellow
Inna Melnykovska CEU Research Affiliate / CEU Assistant Professor
Wolfgang Merkel Research Affiliate
Vera Messing Research Fellow
Balint Mikola Post-doctoral Fellow
Filip Milacic Research Affiliate
Alvaro Morcillo Research Affiliate
Anand Murugesan CEU Research Affiliate / CEU Associate Professor
Edgar Sar Junior Research Affiliate
Dean Schafer Post-doctoral Fellow
Carsten Q. Schneider CEU Research Affiliate / CEU Professor
Murat Somer Research Affiliate
Andras Szalai Research Affiliate
Lili Turza Junior Research Affiliate
Giorgos Venizelos Post-doctoral Fellow
Franziska Wagner Research Assistant


Andreas Schedler: Rethinking Political Polarization

When played among ‘democratic enemies,’ democracy stops being ‘the only game in town,’” Andreas Schedler, lead researcher of our De- and Re-Democratization Workgroup writes in his article in Political Science Quarterly.

Edit Zgut-Przybylska: Orbán’s Informal Power: The EU’s Growing Assertiveness and Overlooking of Media Capture

“One of the absolute conditions of any type of democracy is that political power is not possessed and monopolized by one individual or a group,” our re:constitution Fellow Edit Zgut-Przybylska writes in the Wiktor Osiatynski Archive’s special report Unleashing the Power of EU Law.

Peter Kreko: Escape From Uncertainty

“In times of high anxiety, uncertainty, and existential fears, people tend to embrace any – even false – promises of social and epistemic security,” our Research Affiliate Peter Kreko writes in his chapter in The Psychology of Insecurity.

Edit Zgut-Przybylska: Tilting the Playing Field Through Informal Power in Hungary and Poland – How Did Russia’s War in Ukraine Change the Eu’s Approach?

“Despite the EU coming up with new tools to address the problem, it failed to force Hungary and Poland to comply with the core values of the EU,” our re:constitution Fellow Edit Zgut-Przybylska writes in the latest CEU DI Working Paper.

Balint Madlovics, Balint Magyar: Kaczynski’s Poland and Orban’s Hungary

The paper of our researchers, Balint Madlovics and Balint Magyar, published in the Journal of Right-Wing Studies, discusses the regimes of Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Poland and Viktor Orban in Hungary from the perspective of a curious paradox.


Balint Madlovics on Corruption in Hungary and France

“The basic concept that needs to be understood is the difference between corruption that destroys the system and corruption that creates the system,” our Junior Research Fellow Balint Madlovics said to 444.

Illiberal Challenges, Neo-Authoritarian Challengers: Threats to Liberal Democracy in Europe

Did you miss the kick-off event of our AUTHLIB project with Michael Ignatieff’s keynote speech or the ensuing panel discussion? Watch them now!

New Podcast: How Orban Destroyed a Democracy

Our Senior Research Fellow Zsolt Enyedi joined Doomsday Watch host Arthur Snell in the podcast series The Bunker to unpack what lessons democracies should take from the Orban era.

Julia Sonnevend on Politicians’ Charm

In the 20th century, politicians’ charm was based on distance, while today, they are trying to construct an image of being “one of us,” our Research Affiliate Julia Sonnevend said as the guest in Friderikusz Podcast, a Hungarian show.

Voters Turn Towards Symbolic Personalities When They Are Disappointed with Political Parties

Zsolt Enyedi discusses party cooperation with Danica Fink-Hafner, professor and Head of the Political Science Research Program at University of Ljubljana, and expert on party politics, European integration, nation-building, interest-representation and democratization.