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Citizen Support for Democratic Checks and Balances

Oct 30 cover
Monday, October 30, 2023, 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm

The De- and Re-Democratization (DRD) Workgroup of the CEU Democracy Institute cordially invites you to its next Rooftop Seminar.

If you would like to attend, please register here.

Please keep in mind that external guests will not be able to enter the building without prior registration. Please note that the event is not open to the press.

Abstract: One of the most persistent problems of democratic political systems is that on the one hand they require delegating power to the government through elections but on the other hand must make sure this government does not abuse the power. This problem of empowering and constraining is closely linked to the process of democratic backsliding that occurred over the last two decades—in both new and old democracies. Democratically elected governments and leaders with authoritarian tendencies use their tenures to gradually undermine the separation of powers: curb the independence of courts, expand the powers and terms of presidents, and constrain the role of parliaments. Protests against dismantling checks and balances are rather limited and citizens frequently re-elect politicians that commit democratic transgressions. Does this mean that citizens do not care about constraining the power of political authorities? Or do citizens not care much about the separation of powers? In this talk I will discuss the findings and my ongoing research on citizens’ support for democratic checks and balances. I will focus on: (1) the electoral winner-loser gap in support for different checks and balances; (2) evaluations of reforms that alter checks and balances; and (3) the prioritization of different elements of democracy and the trade-offs between partisanship, policy gains, and violations of checks and balances.

The paper is available upon request from the author.


Honorata Mazepus is Associate Professor at the Department of Political Sciences, University of Amsterdam. She holds an MA degree in International Relations (Eastern/Russian Studies) from Adam Mickiewicz University of Poznan (Poland, 2009), an MSc degree in Social Science Research Methods (Politics) from the University of Bristol (UK, 2011) and a PhD from Leiden University (Netherlands, 2016). She has worked as a post-doctoral researcher on the Horizon 2020 EU-STRAT project. Dr. Mazepus has been awarded the Leiden University Fund Snouck Hurgronje Grant 2020 for an interdisciplinary project 'Keeping the powerful in check: from small communities to large states'. This project investigates under what conditions (democratic) checks and balances can effectively restrain the power of political leaders. It combines expertise and methods from anthropology, psychology, history, and political science.


Giorgos Venizelos is a Fellow in Political Polarization within the De-/Re- Democratization Work Group at the Democracy Institute. His research integrates comparative politics, political communication, and contemporary political theory, primarily focusing on populism in power, anti-populism, collective identities, and social movements. Giorgos is currently investigating the relevance of anti-populism in the post-truth era and the way populism is associated with fake news, and conspiracy theories in expert and commentator discourse. He authored Populism in Power: Discourse and Performativity in SYRIZA and Donald Trump and published in journals like Political Studies, Constellations, Critical Sociology and Representation and various edited volumes. He earned his PhD from Scuola Normale Superiore, MA from Goldsmiths College, and BA from the University of Essex. Before joining CEU, he researched and taught at the University of Cyprus, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the Cyprus University of Technology.


Alexander Bor is a Post-doctoral Fellow at the CEU Democracy Institute, and a Visiting Professor at CEU Vienna. He received an MA in Political Science at the CEU in 2012, and a PhD in Political Science at Aarhus University in 2018, where he also worked as a postdoc until 2022. His research focuses on how the human mind navigates social and political challenges like political polarization, online political hostility, the COVID-19 pandemic, or selecting and evaluating political leaders. His work integrates insights from political behavior, social and evolutionary psychology, and public health. He employs diverse quantitative analytical tools like surveys, experiments and machine learning. His work has been published in leading journals (including PNAS, APSR, and Psych Science) and covered by international media outlets (e.g. New York Times, Washington Post, The Atlantic).