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The role of foreign policy in maintaining an externally constrained hybrid regime – case of Hungary

Corvinus faculty member’s presentation at the 25th Central European Political Science Association Annual Conference entitled ‘Challenges to Democracy: Political Processes in Central and Eastern Europe’ held in Olsytyn, Poland

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Faculty members of Institute for International, Political and Regional Studies, Department of International Relations, Anita Szűcs, Éva Ványi, Dániel Vékony and Christopher Walsch participated in the 25th Central European Political Science Association Annual Conference entitled ‘Challenges to Democracy: Political Processes in Central and Eastern Europe’ held in Olsytyn, Poland between 17-19 November 2021.  

The aim of the conference was to provide scientific reflection on the challenges contemporary democracy is facing in Central and Eastern Europe and an analysis of factors affecting the quality of democracy in the region. The analysis of factors affecting the relatively low political participation of societies in Central and Eastern European countries was a significant research challenge for the participants. A characteristic element for the region was the growing role of populism and proposals for implementation of new types of “democracy with adjectives” (e.g. illiberal democracy, sovereign democracy). The above-mentioned challenges constituted the main axis of discussions undertaken during the conference. Factors determining the answer for the following dilemma were presented: to what extent is modern democracy coexistence or a peaceful war of all against all? The conclusions reached as a result of the conference were the basis for the implementation of comparative research with regard to the challenges and threats to democracy in Central and Eastern Europe and in a supra-regional approach. 

At the conference, Anita Szűcs held a presentation entitled ‘The role of foreign policy in maintaining an externally constrained hybrid regime – case of Hungary’. It is stated in Szűcs’s conference paper that after 2010, the Hungarian political system underwent fundamental changes. As Szűcs unfolds, this led to the establishment of a specific type of hybrid regimes, which was recently defined by the literature as externally constrained hybrid regime. In his 2014 speech in Tusnádfürdő, the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán declared for the first time that his aim was to establish an illiberal regime.  

The paper examines the role of foreign policy in the design and maintenance of the externally constrained Hungarian hybrid regime from the perspective of the normative statecraft, a notion coined by Cynthia Weber, a proponent of the postmodernist approach of International Relations theory. Normative statecraft focuses on the creation of state identity. It enables to define the process through which a state creates legitim identity by defining and elaborating state interest with the help of opposing norms. This framework enables to investigate how Viktor Orbán legitimizes the need for a new Hungarian foreign policy, how the Hungarian illiberal regime legitimize itself as national and Christian that is in opposition to liberal, Western values.  

The paper seeks to answer the question of how illiberal foreign policy fits into the maintenance of an externally constrained hybrid regime. It explores how the new foreign policy narrative (national and Christian foreign policy) and content (opening to the East, constant attack on international institutions, especially the European Union, questioning the role of the United States in world politics) helps the functioning of the illiberal democracy of the Orbán regime. 

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GEN.:2024.05.25. - 15:16:27