Post-Accession Slovakia: Cohabitation of Populists and Liberal Democracy

In his public lecture in Sofia (March 21, 2008; part of  "Crisis in Central Europe" cycle of lectures - a bilateral project of The Red House Center for Culture and Debate and Open Society Institute-Sofia) Grigorij Mesežnikov explored the impact of populist parties on the state of society and the democratic institutions in Slovakia. In the last 18 years he has observed the societal transformations in Slovakia, and according to him populist parties and other players have enjoyed enough popular support and have been able to take dominant position in political life of the country. In the period prior to country’s NATO and EU membership, it was only the active resistance on the part of the pro-democratic civil society, which has kept the country from subverting the liberal-democratic political order there. Thanks to Slovakia’s full-fledged EU membership, the system of democratic institutions is now much more consolidated; the populists do not openly question democratic rules and their immediate participation in government does not threaten to undermine the liberal democratic regime. Not a single ruling party currently in power in Slovakia is an anti-system party with ambitions to dismantle the liberal democratic regime. Still, Mesežnikov warns, the values preferred by populist parties currently in power (i.e. etatism, clientelism and ethnic nationalism) may erode the foundations of the liberal democratic regime, particularly in the field of public administration, self-governance, free market mechanisms and ethnic minorities.

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