Loyal Opposition in European Populist Regimes

Loyalty is priceless, but it can only be expected when there is mutual trust and can only be demanded if it is truly reciprocated. How can anyone trust a player who claims to have the self-given power to change the rules of the game? Is it sensible for the democratic opposition to demonstrate loyalty to a government which lacks commitment to core democratic values? And what exactly does—or should—political loyalty mean in times of populism?

The paper will explore how demands for political loyalty can be used and abused in European populist regimes, notably Poland and Hungary, serving purposes such as: (1) enhancing the legitimacy of unlawfully co-opted state institutions, (2) discouraging the political opposition from asking EU and CoE bodies to provide advice and engage in conflict resolution, and ultimately (3) silencing the government’s critics by appealing to reduce political polarisation, thus providing cover for further actions.