Illiberal Governance

Open to the Public
Nador u. 9, Faculty Tower
Friday, February 19, 2016 - 9:00am
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Friday, February 19, 2016 - 9:00am to Saturday, February 20, 2016 - 1:50pm

In today’s rapidly changing globalized world, citizen trust in democratic institutions is in decline. At the same time, leaders in many countries are introducing elements of autocracy and illiberal governance.  These elements may include curtailment of freedom of the press and the rule of law, changes in electoral systems, and obstacles to democratic leadership change.

 Illiberal governance has been accepted in some countries because it seems to promise stability. What is the nature of illiberal governance? What are its forms and manifestations? Why does it appear to be it gaining ground at the expense of democratic freedoms? How do constitutional democracies and illiberal autocracies play out in a global context?

 “Illiberal Governance” will bring together scholars, practitioners, and civic activists to CEU in Budapest for an open discussion on autocratic forms of governance in states that retain some aspects of democracy. The conference aims to draw lessons and develop possible solutions for improving the quality of democracy. 

Registration is required for all attendees at by February 15, 5 p.m.




9:30 – 9:45 a.m.  /  OPENING REMARKS  /  John Shattuck  |  President and Rector, CEU

9:50 – 10:30 a.m.  /  KEYNOTE SPEECH  /  Ivan Krastev  |  Chairman, Center for Liberal Strategies, Bulgaria

10:30 – 11:45 a.m.  /  Panel I:Parties and Elections in Illiberal Political Systems

Free, fair and regular elections are defining features of modern democracies but contemporary authoritarian systems also make extensive use of more or less competitive elections and appear increasingly to rely on them for political legitimation. The results of these elections often have significant and real bearing on access to power and sometimes prompt more or less limited regime change in these systems. This panel therefore explores the uses, functions and dynamics of competitive and semi-competitive elections and multi-party systems in authoritarian regimes around the contemporary world. Particular attention will be paid to the role elections and international scrutiny of elections can play in the stabilization or transformation of these systems.

MODERATOR  /  Goran Buldioski  |  Program Director, Open Society Think Tank Fund  |  Co-Director, Open Society Initiative for Europe, Budapest

SPEAKERS  /  Jan Teorell  |  Professor of Political Science, Lund University  /  Andreas Schedler  |  Professor of Political Science, Department of Political Science, Centro de Investigacion y Docencia Economicas, Mexico City  /  Ali Carkoglu  |  Professor of International Relations, Koc University, Istanbul 


11:45 – 12:45  p.m. /  Buffet lunch

12:45 – 14:15 p.m.  /  Panel II: Religion and Illiberal Politics

Religious movements and institutions intersect with political currents and processes in ways that nurture illiberal politics, including illiberal democratic politics. These developments are not confined to regional cases (such as North America, Hungary, or Syria) nor to one specific religion. They rather appear to mark the alliance of ultra-conservative religious tendencies and increasingly autocratic ideological currents, political movements and governmental procedures in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, India, North America and elsewhere. The panel proposes to address this phenomenon by raising the questions of whether, in a comparative perspective, these particular alliances of illiberal politics and religious institutions, governmental or non-governmental, mark a significant, paradigmatic politico-sociological shift and how and whether and to what extent these alliances influence the need for belonging among societies. A shift from forms of government allied to liberal social and intellectual doctrines and practices, to ones strongly associated with forms of social organization, intellectual directions and ideological doctrines of a restrictive and sometimes rigorist nature, suggesting regimes of social control and social engineering convergent with major aspects of illiberal or indeed totalitarian government.

MODERATOR  /  Aziz Al-Azmeh  |  University Professor, CEU Department of History  |  Director, CEU Center for Religious Studies

SPEAKERS  /  Bassma Kodmani  |  Former Spokesperson of the Syrian National Council  |  Founder and Executive Director of the Arab Reform Initiative, Paris  /  Ghassan Salamé  |  Dean of the Paris School of International Affairs  |  Professor of International Relations at Sciences Po, Paris and Columbia University, New York  /  Aijaz Ahmad  |  Professorial Fellow at the Centre of Contemporary Studies, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi  |  Visiting Professor of Political Science at York University, Toronto – video message


14:15 – 14:30 p.m. /  Coffee break

14:30 – 15:45 p.m. /  Panel III: Media and Illiberal Governance

This panel aims to explore the relationship between illiberal governments and journalists, and how this influences their societies. Both state-owned and private media outlets in illiberal regimes tend to accommodate the government and related political elites. The incentives for news media to collaborate include access to government information, financial resources, legal survival as a media entity, and personal comfort and safety. The few media who establish real independence and can thus serve as watchdogs on the powerful, tend to operate in less regulated and less lucrative online forms. Questions the panelists will consider include: What are the roles of the state-owned and independent news media in contemporary illiberal regimes? How do these media influence policy and public opinion? How do illiberal governments subvert the independence of domestic and foreign media outlets? How are journalists using digital networks and formats to circumvent the roadblocks established by illiberal regimes?

MODERATOR  /  Ellen Hume  |  Annenberg Fellow in Civic Media Center for Media, Data and Society, CEU

SPEAKERS  /  Miklos Haraszti  |  former OSCE Media Freedom Rapporteur and UN Human Rights Rapporteur on Belarus, CEU  /  Yuen-Ying Chan  |  Director and Professor, Journalism and Media Studies Center, University of Hong Kong  /  Ilya Yablokov  |  Teaching Fellow, School of Languages, Cultures, and Societies, University of Leeds  /  Dunja Mijatovic  |  OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media


15:45 – 16.15 p.m.  /  Coffee break

16:15 – 17:45 p.m.  /  Panel IV: Big Business Interests and the State

This panel aims to explore the relationship between interests of big business and illiberal governance, and the impact of the former on the latter. In a large number of countries, a relatively small number of corporations and their owners and top managers have a major influence on the economy. In some cases, these owners and top managers of large corporations potentially represent a counterweight to corrupt state bureaucracy. In other cases, they cooperate with the state bureaucracy to prey on resources. This panel addresses the nature of this relationship in democratic as well authoritarian regimes.

MODERATOR  /  Serge Schmemann  |  Journalist and Editor, International Herald Tribune, New York Times

SPEAKERS  /  Peter Akos Bod  |  former Governor of Hungarian Central Bank   Professor at Corvinus University, Budapest   /  Margarita Balmaceda  |  Professor of Diplomacy and International Relations, Seton Hall University, New Jersey  /  Vladimir Avtonomov  |  Dean of the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, Russia

Discussion and Q&A session

17:45 – 18:15 p.m.  /  Refreshments


10:00 – 10:30 a.m.  /  Refreshments

10:30 – 12:30  a.m.  /  Panel V: Illiberal Governments and International Relations

MODERATOR  /  Igor Zevelev  |  Director, MacArthur Foundation, Russia Office

SPEAKERS  /  Fyodor Lukyanov  |  Editor-in-Chief of Russia in Global Affairs, Chairman of Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy  /  Zsolt Nemeth  |  Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Hungarian National Assembly  /  Richard Sakwa  |  Professor of Russian and European Politics, University of Kent  /  Ivan Krastev  |  Chairman, Center for Liberal Strategies, Bulgaria  /  Ali Carkoglu  |  Professor of International Relations, Koc University, Istanbul  /  Georgiy Kasianov  |  Head of Department of Contemporary History and Politics, Institute of History of Ukraine, Kiev


12:30 – 12:50  p.m.  /  CLOSING REMARKS  /  John Shattuck  |  President and Rector, CEU

12:50 – 13:50  /  Reception

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