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Photo: “Supermarket social distancing signs“, by Ear-phone, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. Hue modified from the original

Hajnal, György, Iga Jeziorska, and Éva Margit Kovács. “Understanding drivers of illiberal entrenchment at critical junctures: institutional responses to COVID-19 in Hungary and Poland.” International Review of Administrative Sciences: 0020852320981138.


The present article aims to improve understanding of institution formation in (former) liberal-democratic polities characterized by autocratization tendencies. We examine how the critical juncture created by the COVID-19 pandemic was used, as well as the interplay between antecedent, structural conditions and the particular combinations of political agency and contingency. By comparing the two similar cases of Hungary and Poland – the two European Union countries that have progressed the farthest towards illiberal transformation – and using documentary and interview evidence, we conclude that: (1) whereas Hungary exhibited significant institutional changes, Poland did not; (2) these differences in institutional outcomes can be significantly attributed to differences in certain critical antecedent conditions; and (3) the ability of key political actors – Hungary’s Viktor Orbán and Poland’s Jarosław Kaczyński – to control their own political camp seems to have exerted an unmistakable effect as well.

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.