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Photo: “Election MG 3455“, by Rama, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 FR, Hue modified from the original

Sadurski, Wojciech. “Constitutional democracy in the time of elected authoritarians.” International Journal of Constitutional Law 18, no. 2 (2020): 324-333.


In this paper, colored as it is by my knowledge and experience of democratic backsliding in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), I reflect upon the rise of autocracies characterized by electoral pedigree and consider some consequences of these developments. I focus in particular upon its relative invisibility, which is due, among other things, to the fact that autocratic changes proceed incrementally, that their truly invidious effects are triggered by mutual interactions between various discrete changes, that institutions are not formally dismantled but hollowed out of their original meanings, and that assaults upon various pillars of democracy do not proceed at the same pace. To conclude, I draw two lessons from the authoritarian turn in CEE: the first concerns the relative insignificance of formal constitutional design, and the second considers the end of the “transition paradigm.”

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.