Skip to main content

Zoltán Szente, The myth of populist constitutionalism in Hungary and Poland: Populist or authoritarian constitutionalism?, International Journal of Constitutional Law, Volume 21, Issue 1, January 2023, Pages 127–155


The article seeks to answer the question whether the analytical framework of “populist constitutionalism” adequately describes and explains the constitutional changes that the Hungarian and Polish populist governments have implemented, respectively, since 2010 and 2015. After presenting the similarities and differences between the Hungarian and Polish constitutional developments, the article discusses the conceptual attempts of populist constitutionalism, identifying the primary and secondary characteristics that the literature attributes to this phenomenon. The main point of the article is that these criteria only partially characterize the recent constitutional changes in these two countries, and that the features that do really prevail are more indicative of an unmarked authoritarian transition than of a new, specific version of constitutionalism. It describes the different reasons for the misapplication of constitutional populism to these two countries. Finally, it explains how counterproductive the misconception of populist constitutionalism is for understanding the recent constitutional development in Hungary and Poland.

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.