Recent accounts of the state of democracy in the world report an increasing trend of democratic backsliding. The autocratization trend has also taken root in the Western world (e.g. in the US) and in Central Europe (e.g. Poland, Hungary). While significant scholarship exists on why democracies break down, much less is known about how they backslide and how these regimes consolidate.
We aim to study how expert bodies such as think tanks have contributed to and partake both in the formation of and the resistance to the autocratization trend in Central Europe. We focus on think tanks in the interest of conceptualizing the dynamic interplay between governments and policy advice in the construction of political knowledge production in electoral democracies, i.e., countries where elections are reasonably free and fair but constitutional guarantees such as rule of law, and civil liberties such as freedom of association or freedom of expression are circumvented. We ask:
1. How and in what capacities was institutional policy advice drawn upon in the turn towards electoral democracy (in Hungary after 2010, in Poland after 2015)?
2. How are policy advisors – both those supporting and resisting the changes – relating to governments in pursue of electoral democracy?
These questions will be addressed within a mixed-method research design including comparative, historical and normative dimensions. We will conduct a quantitative survey and qualitative interviews and document analysis of think tanks in these two selected countries.
To ensure a targeted investigation, we will single out examples of policy advice in three fields which were both characteristic of both countries’ authoritarian turn and in which policy advice was in high demand: family politics, judicial reform and public media regulations. The results will be published in international scientific journals with open access and a co-authored volume.