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Photo:Election 2018 in Hungary. Taken on the 8th of April, 2018, around 23.35. Bálna, Budapest. Orbán Viktor announcing the victory of the FIDESZ party.“, by Elekes Andor licensed under CC-BY-SA-4.0. Hue modified from the original.

Gerő, Márton, Anna Fejős, Szabina Kerényi, and Dorottya Szikra. “From Exclusion to Co-Optation: Political Opportunity Structures and Civil Society Responses in De-Democratising Hungary.” Politics and Governance 11, no. 1 (2023): 16-27.


While it is well-known that democratic backsliding imposes a variety of challenges on civil society organisations, it is often assumed that it represses civil society. However, a closer look at the impact of democratic backsliding on civil society organisations reveals that even in countries where democratic backsliding is fairly advanced, the relationship between civil society and the state is more complex. Close cooperation and partnership between civil society organisations and the state are scarce in backsliding countries; the relationship between civil society organisations and the state might, however, range from hostility to varying forms and degrees of co-optation. Based on interviews with representatives of civil society organisations and the examination of the sector-specific social and political environment, we aim to explore the forms and factors that shape the relationship between civil society organisations and the state in Hungary. More specifically, we analyse the impact of the changing political opportunity structures on three important sectors of civil society organisations: human rights organisations, environmental organisations, and women’s organisations. We argue that, to seize control over civil society the government applies sector-specific strategies, ranging from exclusion to co-optation. State strategies, in turn, spark different responses from civil society organisations.

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.