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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter August 7, 2020

Illiberal Measures in Backsliding Democracies: Differences and Similarities between Recent Developments in Israel, Hungary, and Poland

  • Mordechai Kremnitzer EMAIL logo and Yuval Shany EMAIL logo


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.

Corresponding author: Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer, Senior Fellow, Professor Emeritus, Israel Democracy Institute, Law Faculty, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel, Email: ; and Prof. Yuval Shany, Vice-president for Research, Hersch Lauterpacht Chair in Public International Law, Democracy Institute’s, Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel, E-mail:

Article note: The Article was submitted to publication in early 2019. The political developments which later occurred in the countries under review have not been addressed here.


The authors thank Mr. Oded Ron from the Israel Democracy Institute for his valuable assistance in researching and writing this Article.

Published Online: 2020-08-07
Published in Print: 2020-05-26

© 2020 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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