Depleting Democracies

Radical right impact on parties, policies, and polities in Eastern Europe

Michael Minkenberg
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Zsuzsanna Végh
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Depleting Democracies aims at assessing the extent to which radical right parties across the new democracies in post-communist Eastern Europe can negatively affect the quality οf democracy in this region. To this end, the book concentrates on institutional and party-politics, e.g. cordon sanitaire arrangements, as well as identity politics with a particular focus on the policy positions and active policy-making of radical right as well as mainstream parties on issues pertaining to ethnic minorities and refugees. The study compares three country groups, which are distinct in terms of the radical right’s relevance (Bulgaria and Slovakia; Hungary, Poland, and Romania; and the Czech Republic and Estonia) and covers the period from 2000 until 2016. In its research design, the study pursues a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods, including expert surveys and analysis of archival material. The book shows significant – and mostly irreversible – effects across the entire region: when mainstream parties engaged positively with radical right parties (collaboration and/or co-optation), they shifted rightward in their sociocultural and minority-related positions. Moreover, the mainstream’s positive engagement with the radical right often resulted in rightward shifts in the selected policy areas. Such developments are indicative signs of what can be called “depletion of democracy” – i.e., the process of weakening and undermining key values of the liberal democratic order (equality and inclusiveness). Altogether, the study furthers both theory development on and comparative analyses of radical right actors in political processes, and its results are particularly relevant to the debate on democratic quality in liberal democracies.

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