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Poland: Photo: “W drodze na Wawel“, by Piotr Drabik, licensed under CC BY 2.0, Hue modified from the original.

Dănilă, Andrada. Democratic backsliding: lessons to be learned from Poland. CEEO. (2023).


Democratic erosion, also referred in the academic literature as democratic backsliding, occurs when the democratic institutions, instruments, and mechanisms that a state possesses start to lose their functionality, thus resulting in weaker democracies, making them vulnerable to become an authoritarian or illiberal regime. Considering the rise of populist and nationalist tendencies displayed throughout Europe in recent years, this article focuses on Poland, addressing three principal aspects: What changes can be identified and traced in Poland that led to democratic erosion? Were there any precursors or facilitators to this erosion? How does the opposition respond to the process of democratic erosion? In order to answer these questions, we turned to the existing literature, as it offers the necessary complex understanding of the current dynamic. We analysed different democratic indexes that allowed us to compare multiple indicators and we followed the chain of events that contributed to creating the context for illiberal actors to enter the political scene. Some of the problems this article addresses are related to the effect Poland’s democratic backsliding has in matters such as the electoral process, government functionality, civil society, individual rights, school system, justice and media, and the overall welfare of the population. Our research brings forward the role that the socio-cultural and economic characteristics of the population have in the tailoring of Poland’s political path centred around the changes between 2015 and 2021.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.