The use and abuse of participatory governance by populist governments

Ágnes Bátory and Sara Svensson both from the Central European University Budapest co-authored a remarkable paper about public consultations. They analyzed Viktor Orbán’s national consultations in Hungary, these are probably the most wide-scale consultative exercises in contemporary Europe. Some of our readers might not know that the Orbán government repeatedly sent questionnaires to every household in the country in some 8 million copies.

The alleged purpose was to channel public preferences into the Orbán government’s decision-making on issues from unemployment to how migration should be handled by the EU. However there were important shortcomings, the weakness of procedural guarantees and bias in the framing of the questions marked out the consultations as a tool of political manipulation and propaganda tool rather than a genuine instrument for participation.

The authors inject a dose of healthy skepticism into the debate about consultations to show that there are circumstances in which public consultations will achieve anything but greater legitimacy and better policy-outcomes. They discuss the questionable assumptions in the participatory governance literature and examine a recent example of the misuse, and abuse of public input.

You may download and read the paper by clicking here.

Ágnes Bátory (left) and Sara Svensson


  1. The author does not give credit to the population of the country. If the population wanted another outcome, it would have been stated.

    Anti-populous, pro Brussels supporters can always put a negative spin on everything. Svensson’s, Batory’s and your comments clearly reflect political bias.

  2. HFP
    The regime sends the “consultation” questionnaires to every voter, ie. 8 million ones, households are just under 4 million afair.

  3. Yes, public consultations go against the Democratic spirit. Intellectually, ethically superior leaders, elected with the help of multinational money, and an MSN, ever careful to provide the public with electoral choices that are ideologically correct, endorsed by the new Western Nobility, which simultaneously sponsors all choices. That is who should decide for us, regardless of what us, inferior serfs think of it. Now that is true democracy baby! I mean, the wording on those questionnaires? A bunch of dumb apes can’t be expected to comprehend!

  4. Avatar András B. Göllner says:

    This is indeed an important study of the generally neglected “supply” side” of the equation about how autocratic regimes use the mask of “public consultation” to “frame” the next installment of their “affinity fraud” so it will be swallowed by an uncritical mass, which is kept in ignorance by state-controlled media. (Joe and mmburka are the willing guppies of this kind of “luring” that is based on the tried and field-tested principles of consciously induced selfdelusion.)

    For a discussion of this approach which advocates the conscious abandonment of the truth in the processes of political mobilization and the obliteration of the boundary that separates illusion from reality, readers are encouraged to look into the vast literature on positive psychology (Seligman, Csikszentmihályi etc) and neuro-linguistic programming (O’Connor, Seymour, Brandler, Chandler.) This “literature” constitutes the toolshed of political operatives like Arthur J. Finkelstein, George Birnbaum, Paul Manafort and dozens of their carpetbagging colleagues, who field tested this American designed approach in the territories of the former Soviet empire during the 1990s. Orbán was one of their first guinea pigs. (This is why Steve Bannon refers to him as someone, who was Trump before Trump)

    A shorter, 5 part series, which summarized these teachings a couple of years ago on this site, can be found here under the title of: RCA Viktor: His Master’s Voice.

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

    Part 3:

    Part 4:

    Part 5:

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