The MAXCAP Working Paper No. 27 “Protecting Democracy inside the European Union? The Party Politics of Sanctioning Democratic Backsliding in the European Parliament” by Ulrich Sedelmeier has been published. You can download the Working Paper here.
As the salience of ‘democratic backsliding’ in member states of the European Union (EU) increases, preferences inside EU institutions about whether to sanction governments that breach liberal democratic principles diverge. Anecdotal evidence suggests that party politics play a key role in determining attitudes towards sanctions: parties strategically protect target governments that belong to their European party family. This paper conducts a first systematic analysis of this claim. The author examines a most-likely case for partisan politics – the position of political groups in the European Parliament. A fuzzy-set Qualitative Analysis of positions towards backsliding in Hungary (since 2010) and Romania (in 2012) finds that party politics do, indeed, matter, but that they cannot be reduced to ideological distance (in Left/Right terms). Preferences about sanctions are the result of conjectural causation, in which parties’ commitment to liberal democracy as well as their attitudes towards European integration also play a role. An implication of this finding is that while partisan politics can be an obstacle to the use of sanctions, specific partisan configurations are more conducive, e.g. if sanctions target governments of the Left.
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