How Populists Rule: The Consequences for Democratic Governance

Poland and Hungary are two European countries where populist parties govern without coalition partners. Such undiluted power has meant they could target the formal institutions of accountability—courts, news media, and oversight agencies—and the informal norms of democracy, including tolerance and forbearance, by attacking the opposition, dividing societies, and reconfiguring national memories to justify their policies. The result is the authoritarian backsliding of these post-communist democratic pioneers. Yet the populist parties remain relatively popular, largely thanks to generous, if selective, social policies.