Group projects

Populism in policy and law-making

International researches about populism (dominated by Western scholars) have focused on radical or extremist populist parties; the main features of centrist populism and the policy decisions of governing populist policy parties and their implementation have not been explored yet. Studying populism in East-Central European new democracies where populist parties are not atypical in governing position provide an excellent research field to analyse the role of populism in governance and the policy-making process. An expected value-added of this research is the exploration of the impact of populism on the policy-making process and governance in particular. Our approach is not normative; instead we intend to understand the mechanisms through which policy decisions are shaped by populist political actors. This research may have some important theoretical and conceptual contribution to the scholarship on populism by elaborating the nexus between centrist populism and governance through the perspective of the policy-making process. In addition, the expected empirical findings may contribute to our understanding of the policy mechanisms shaped by populist political actors in Central European new democracies.

This research explores the main features of populism in policy-making. It discusses the main motives and policy-making patterns of populist political actors, thus citizens, civil society and media actors may understand the policy process in an appropriate manner when populist actors dominate the political field.

Principal investigator: Zsolt Boda


JUDICON - Judicial Constraints on Legislation in Central Europe

JUDICON is an international research project that compares the strength of the decisions of the constitutional courts in seven European countries to assess how they constrain the legislatures.

Until now, empirical analyses of judicial behavior have based their findings on a binary approach whether judges found a law constitutional or unconstitutional. JUDICON’s new methodological approach replaces the binary approach with a scale that allows for a more realistic measure of the strength of the decisions of the constitutional courts. JUDICON’s methodology breaks down the decisions of the courts and weighs the elements separately to exceed the binary approach. Our project considers the elements of a decision as options from which a judge or the constitutional court makes up a decision and a reasoning thereby adopting resolutions that constrain the freedom and the room for manoeuvre of the legislature on a different level. In a second phase, the project extends to legislative behavior to explore whether there are congruencies between the positions of the judges and their nominating parties. By this we will check whether the attitudinal model of judicial behavior is applicable on CEE constitutional courts. At the same time we will consider the wider political context and check for the external factors which might lead judges to strategic behavior. By connecting the two parts of the research, JUDICON allows for a systematic comparison of the political dynamics between constitutional courts and legislatures.

A comprehensive volume using the JUDICON methodology and database will be published this autumn at Routledge. The book ‘Constitutional Politics and the Judiciary: Decision-making in Central and Eastern Europe’ edited by Kálmán Pócza includes a detailed description of the approach adopted by the project as well as studies on the practice of the constitutional court of the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Hungary.

Principal investigator: Kálmán Pócza


The Orbán-regime

From 2010 onwards, Hungary has become an illustration of populism, illiberalism and a drift towards authoritarian rule. The democratic backsliding implied in these understandings has posed a riddle for scholars since it challenges their previous assessment of democratic consolidation. So far, political scientists have offered two different explanations for post-2010 Hungarian politics: the first evaluates Orbán’s record within the framework of populism, while the second analyses it within a regime classification paradigm resting on assumptions about democratization. Challenging the methodology, the conceptual framework, and the explanation of these approaches, this project claims that the Orbán regime is a paradigmatic case of the Weberian plebiscitary leader democracy. The concept of plebiscitary leader democracy not only connects populism and the hybrid-regime approach but, additionally, places them into the broader perspective of the Weberian types of authority and regimes.

Principal investigator: András Körösényi


Europeanization of public policy in Hungary

(MTA Bolyai Research Grant, 2018-2021)

This research project investigates the post-enlargement Europeanization of Hungarian public policy. Although Hungary has been member of the European Union for almost 15 years, close to nothing is known about to what extent the Hungarian governments have met the EU-level expectations and requirements. This is the first empirical research on the impact of EU membership on public policy in Hungary, and in this respect will supply novel insights into an often discussed but empirically rarely addressed issue. Our goal is to identify the degree to which Hungarian laws in different policy fields show European origin. We also seek to explore the similarities and differences in the transposition record of Hungarian governments since EU accession. By including the infringement procedures in this research, we also aim to identify the policy fields in which the relationship between the EU and the Hungarian governments have been the most conflictual since 2004. Three new databases that cover three aspects of the domestic policy impact of the EU membership (law-making in the Hungarian Parliament, implementation of country-specific recommendations, infringement procedures) will provide a sound basis for the empirical assessment of what effect the EU has had on public policy in Hungary. As a result, this project will contribute to a more evidence-based public discourse about Hungary’s EU membership.

Principal investigator: András Bíró-Nagy 


Separation of Powers

The principle of the separation of powers is one the cornerstones of constitutional democracies. However, it is a remarkably low-key concept in political theory. During this research my intention is to work out a concise and consistent normative description of this conception.

Principal investigator: Zoltán Balázs


Regional developmental capacities in the European peripheries 

Managing foreign investments and EU funds in Eastern and Southern Europe (MTA Premium postdoctoral research grant, no. PPD-028/2017) 

By examining the NUTS 2 regions of three Eastern (Hungary, Poland, Romania) and two Southern European (Portugal, Spain) EU member states, this research project asks whether regional developmental capacity is associated with EU funds spent on high value-added R&D and training projects and the amount and quality of foreign investments.

Principal investigator: Gergő Medve-Bálint


Election Pledges and Public Policy in Hungary, 1990-2014

The main goal of the project is to measure and explain the degree to which parties in Hungary have made accountable campaign promises and fulfilled them since the transition to democracy in 1990. The research questions can be formulated as follows:

1. How informative are party campaigns for citizens? To what degree do parties make accountable pledges?

2. Do governments in Hungary act according to their electoral mandate? To what degree does public policy enact election pledges?

3. Which factors contribute to or impede the accountability of campaign pledges and their fulfillment?

A rigorous assessment of the democratic performance of parties and governments yields a response to the first two questions, which is actually a form of democratic audit of politics in Hungary between 1990 and 2014.

Principal investigator: Gábor Dobos


Political Ideologies in Hungary

Pluralism after the Regime Change and its Roots in the History of Political Thought.

This research was conceived during our teaching the history of Hungarian political thought at the Corvinus University, Budapest. Monographies and other textbooks on this topic usually ignore or have not yet canvassed the post-regime change period. There is an obvious need to redress this shortage. However, we also offer some methodological innovations and a new approach. The conception is to survey and analyse the political ideological and theoretical debates of the past three decades partly by exploring the intellectual and historical roots, and thus to advance an ex post reconstruction of the history of Hungarian political thought. We do not want to simply line up authors, nor do we want to follow a strictly conceptual analysis or a discourse analysis. Rather, we wish to rely and build on the historical self-reflective capacities of the respective ideologies. We also wish to employ M. Freeden's morphological method as well as A. MacIntyre's concept of social practice. 

Principal investigator: Zoltán Balázs



“Text as data” methodology gained traction in international political science, legal studies, and public administration over the past decade. Nevertheless, it has not gained a foothold in Hungarian political methodology. The project “Text Mining and the Quantitative Analysis of Political and Legal Texts (POLTEXT)” fills this gap, and aims to provide an interdisciplinary platform for researchers of political, legal, and administrative fields who use quantitative text analysis as their core method.

Principal investigator: Miklós Sebők


The Quality of Government and Public Policy

The topic of good government is a staple of political thought since the antiquity. Studies have attempted to answer this question, international organizations developed indices aiming at particular topics, such as corruption or the easiness of doing business. While useful, they may be easy to manipulate, or are often ridden with ideological biases. Empirical research that are comparable across nations have produced debatable results. In Hungary, there is still a gap in this knowledge. How does the formal quality of government and public policy in post-regime change look like in the country?

Principal investigator: Miklós Sebők


Legislator Activities and Electoral Performance

In some political systems, Members of Parliament (MPs) are viewed as single-minded seekers of re-election, increasing their visibility according to the electoral calendar. In others, is their loyalty to political parties that might explain their success of remaining in office. Studies are yet to confirm the impact of MPs’ activities on their electoral performance. The “Legislator Activities and Electoral Performance” project, carried out by Zsófia Papp, seeks to trace how this connection is forged, a step forward in her research on campaign personalization and constituency orientation in Hungary. Papp argues that investigating these connections in a mixed-member electoral system is relevant because it enables students to test the impact of two different political rules within the same electoral and cultural context. Single-member districts promoting voters as the main principals of legislators, and closed party lists strengthening the position parties in their relations to representatives raises the question who MPs make promises to; citizens, their parties, or both?

Principal investigator: Zsófia Papp

Individual projects