Skip to main content

Populists and Coalitional Bonding: The Politics of Growth Model Management in Italy and Hungary

Populists and Coalitional Bonding
Friday, September 15, 2023, 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm

The OSUN Forum on Democracy and Development cordially invites you to a public lecture at the CEU Democracy Institute. This is a hybrid event. You are welcome to attend in person or online on Zoom here.

How do illiberal governments in Europe navigate the structural constraints posed by EU governance and bond markets as well as by the imperatives of the domestic growth model? By looking at Hungarian and Italian illiberals in office, we show that the constraints posed by the growth model are not airtight and illiberals in office can politically adjust them. Specifically, despite their very different growth models, both Hungary and Italy had populist governments that attempted to be responsive to their electorate by enlarging preexisting growth coalitions. Still, the extent to which they were able to design policies that benefited labor was strongly limited by the ideological cohesiveness of the illiberal cabinet and the structures of the growth model, with the FDI-led exportist growth and cohesive government (Hungary) limiting pro-labor measures more than consumption-led growth with divided government (Italy). The fact that the Hungarian version of anti-system politics was systematic in the institutional dismantling of checks and balances and harshly limited the institutional bases of political pluralism vastly amplified this divergence. Next, the illiberal government’s capacity to dodge EU pressures through the interventions of the central bank in the government debt market (Hungary) was of essence as well. Where this was not possible (Italy), illiberal government responsiveness was more limited.  This did not mean, however, that EU collective sovereignty and authority was powerless in Hungary. Eventually, as demonstrated during the energy and inflation crisis of 2022-2023, the Orban government’s grip over a rearranged growth coalition was weakened by its loss of the capacity to politically maneuver at the EU level and secure fiscal transfers enabling economic stimulus for the domestic growth coalition and present the state as fiscally attractive to creditors. Whether it is through the ECB or through its budget, the EU can put limits to the political agency of illiberals.


Cornel Ban is an associate professor of International Political economy at Copenhagen Business School. Prior to this he was a Reader at City University of London, assistant professor at Boston University and research fellow at Brown University in the United States. He wrote two books and two dozen articles and book chapters on the politics of economic expertise, policy shifts in international financial institutions and the politics of capitalist diversity in Brazil, Spain, Hungary and Romania. His book (Ruling Ideas: How Neoliberalism Goes Local, Oxford University Press, 2016) received the political economy award for 2017 of the British International Studies Association. Currently, Cornel works on growth regimes, the role of state and finance in decarbonization and the political economy of industrial policy.

Dana Domsodi is a lecturer in the Department of Sociology, at the University of Babeș-Bolyai (Cluj-Napoca, Romania) and she has a Phd. in Politics, Human Rights and Sustainability  from Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies (Pisa, Italy). Dana Domsodi teaches courses in political economy, philosophy and social theory and her research interests include contemporary political economy, historical sociology and critical theory. 


David Karas is a French-Hungarian political economist working on developmental policies in emerging economies. He holds an MA in Comparative Politics from Sciences Po Paris, an MA in Nationalism Studies from CEU and a PhD in Social and Political Sciences from the EUI. He has taught international political economy and IR to undergraduate and postgraduate students at OSF's CSLA Fellowship program, Manipal University in India, the OSCE Academy in Bishkek, ELTE University in Hungary and Webster University in Vienna.  At CEU DI, his postdoctoral research project examines how a pivot to Sub-Saharan Africa is reshaping the governance, normative content and power relations between public and private actors within the European Development Finance Architecture (EFAD). He is also the creator of Poliko Podcast which is a platform to showcase innovative empirical and theoretical research in political economy.