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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.

Ádám, Zoltán, and Iván Csaba. “Populism unrestrained: Policy responses of the Orbán regime to the pandemic in 2020–2021.” European Policy Analysis (2022).


The paper provides a case study on how the Orbán regime in Hungary has dealt with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in 2020–2021. Despite having led worldwide rankings in pandemic-related death rates since the second part of 2020, the government was not politically shaken by COVID-19. Institutionally unrestrained, the governing majority periodically renewed emergency legal regimes to control public discourses and curtail the financial resources of opposition-led local governments. The policy conduct of the regime is discussed in the context of authoritarian populism, which is conceptualized along a strategy-based approach to populism. In this, authoritarian populism is seen to generate democratic legitimacy for dismantling the institutional foundations of liberal democracy and the rule of law. This had been happening in Hungary well before COVID-19 kicked in, but the pandemic provided enhanced opportunities for this strategy. Meanwhile, fiscal policies became increasingly expansionary, signalling a partial return to the practice of preelection overspending.

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.