Wednesday 3 November 2021

Authoritarian Populism, Environmentalism and Exceptional Governance in Hungary

My new paper has been published in Czech Journal of Political Science 2021/3.

This paper analyzes how the incumbent authoritarian populist Orbán government started to navi­gate itself from an anti-climate to a conservative green position. First, the theoretical background of environmentalism and democracy/autocracy will be investigated. It is to say that the relationship between democracy and the environment is quite contradictory, although democracy has a demonstrable effect on the quality of the environment and sustainability, it is not worth absolutizing. That is why we should put an emphasis on the environmental approach of authoritarian regimes, here as a case study of the Hungarian regime. From 2010, the Orbán regime elaborated an ambiguous attitude toward the environment and green politics; on the on hand, it was characterized by climate denialism and demolition of environmental institutions, on the other hand, the super-majority behind the regime accepted the Fundamental Law with several green elements. In the second half of 2019 and early 2020, the regime started to create a new conservative green agenda. This authoritarian populist greening is not based on eco-authoritarian traditions. This paper challenges the notion that authoritarian populist actors are hostile to environmental policies. The Orbán regime proved adaptive in the case of the climate emergency and is about to elaborate its own climate agenda. At the same time, the regime is unable to face the real nature of the climate and ecological emergencies. The crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has been used by the regime to rule by decree based on exceptional powers. In fact, the regime relied on exceptional governance before the COVID-19 crisis, ever since the migration crisis of 2015. The authoritarian populist regime recognized the political opportunities of exceptional governance in terms of overlapping crises and that is why it is characterized by authoritarian climate populism.

Key words

Authoritarian Populism; Climate and Ecological Emergency; COVID-19; Orbán Regime; State of Exception; Exceptional Measures; Green Conservativism