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Hungary: Between Consolidated And Simulated Democracy

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Chapter Summary

Most local and foreign political observers had, for many years, regarded Hungary as the foremost example of a smooth transition from state socialism to democracy, the most consolidated democracy in East Central Europe, and the most successful locus for foreign investment in the region. But in 2006 this highly positive view of Hungary went up in smoke as political elite consensus and citizen morale attenuated greatly. Why did this happen? Why did Hungary's democracy suddenly exhibit marked frailties? This chapter argues that the answer lies primarily in changed behaviors of political elites. The changes highlight democratic elitism's shortcomings in Hungary, with disturbing parallels in adjacent East Central European countries. The elite competitions described by democratic elitism become less restrained and more zerosum. The chapter reviews these Hungarian developments, consider why they have occurred, and ask if they are part of a wider pattern among elites in East Central Europe.

Keywords: consolidated democracy; democratic elitism; East Central Europe; Hungary



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