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Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity

Thesis - Boise State University Access Only

Degree Title

Master of Arts in Political Science


Political Science

Major Advisor

Brian Wampler, Ph.D.


Nisha Bellinger, Ph.D.


Michael Allen, Ph.D.


This thesis examines rule of law backsliding in Hungary and Poland. To explain this rule of law backsliding, this thesis shows the limitations of the European Union’s efforts to sanction and punish Hungary and Poland. In addition, this thesis considers why the member states of Hungary and Poland chose to backslide during this time period. The following research questions structure the argument: Why did the EU seek to impose sanctions on Hungary and Poland for rule of law backsliding? Why did the two newer EU members, Hungary, and Poland, take steps to erode liberal democratic institutions? This combination of questions helps explain rule of law backsliding in Hungary and Poland. The justification for analyzing Hungary and Poland is to focus attention on the EU’s triggering of Article 7, which was designed to sanction countries for rule of law backsliding in the hopes of reversing these transgressions. Hungary and Poland are the only two countries to have had Article 7 triggered against them. This thesis first argues that the EU is not institutionally set up to punish illiberalism and then argues that Hungarian and Polish governments are trying to create a new form of political legitimacy based on a fusion of economic and ethno-nationalist social policies. This thesis shows support for the two arguments as 1) there is institutional weakness at the supranational level and 2) there is varying levels of effect on Hungary and Poland when considering the two phenomena of economic and migration shocks. Due to both Hungary’s and Poland’s rule of law backsliding occurring more frequently in the last ten years, they are ideal case studies for examining the factors that triggered Article 7.