Illiberal measures in backsliding democracies: Differences and similarities between recent developments in Israel, Hungary, and Poland

Mordechai Kremnitzer*, Yuval Shany*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Around the world, many liberal democracies are facing in recent years serious challenges and threats emanating inter alia from the rise of political populism. Such challenges and threats are feeding an almost existential discourse about the crisis of democracy, and recent legal and political developments in Israel aimed at weakening the power of the Supreme Court and other rule of law institutions have also been described in such terms. This Article primarily intends to explore the relevance of the discourse surrounding the decline of liberal democracy, and its possible relevance for Israeli democracy, by examining the principal similarities and differences between specific legislative and administrative measures recently taken or contemplated in Israel and in two Central European states: Poland and Hungary. We focus on three sets of illiberal measures adopted or contemplated in Hungary, Poland, and Israel: (i) measures directed at limiting the power of the judiciary; (ii) measures intended to restrict the operation of civil society organizations; and (iii) measures directed at curbing dissent to governmental policies and at influencing the discourse in the media and academia. Although Israeli democratic institutions still retain much of their independence and vitality, we nonetheless find some degree of similarity between measures taken or contemplated by Hungary, Poland, and Israel, despite the many differences between their legal systems, historical contexts, political cultures, and the distinct stages of backsliding they seem to experience.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)125-152
Number of pages28
JournalLaw and Ethics of Human Rights
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 May 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston 2020.


  • Academic freedom
  • Civil society organizations
  • Democratic backsliding
  • Freedom of expression
  • Hungary
  • Illiberal democracy
  • Israel
  • Judicial independence
  • Poland
  • Populism


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