The emergence in Central and Eastern Europe of populist and illiberal political parties, some of which have succeeded in gaining power and implementing controversial reforms, has prompted concern about the condition of democracy in countries of the region and attempts to theorise and explain these changes. Starting from the premise that neither overly negative nor overly positive assessments of democratic quality give an adequate picture of reality, this paper draws upon comparative data measuring several aspects of democracy to identify broad patterns of democratic development in the region. It concludes that the countries of Central and Eastern Europe fall into three broad categories: those where consolidated democracy is currently stable; those where there is clear evidence of backsliding from consolidated democracy; and those where there is evidence of backsliding prior to full consolidation of democracy. These differences notwithstanding, it is clear that the quality and durability of democracy in the region is more fragile and provisional than commonly assumed.
Populism, Liberal democracy, Central and Eastern Europe, Backsliding, Consolidation
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