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Photo: Budapest: Hungarian Parliament“, by Jorge Franganillo licensed under CC BY 2.0. Hue modified from the original.

Bretter, Zoltán. “Comparative populism: Romania and Hungary.” Eastern Journal of European Studies 13, no. SI (2022): 183-206.


The paper aims to test the mechanism of autocratic populism (a term that will be used as a synonym for illiberal democracy) in Hungary and Romania. A mechanism could help to better explain the phenomenon of populism across different spatiotemporal settings in which it occurs, therefore it is suitable for a common understanding of populism. I am going to use a minimal definition of liberal democracy as well as authoritarian populism and compare Romania and Hungary along three major components of the mechanism: constitutionalism (the division of powers), the cultural construction of “the people” and the different conditions of the emergence of a charismatic personality. Investigating political processes will show why authoritarian populism or illiberal democracy has gained prominence in Hungary but has failed in Romania.

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.