Petra GuastiPetra Guasti is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Sociology, Czech Academy of Sciences, and an Associate Professor of Democratic Theory at the Charles University in Prague. Between 2016 and 2021, Petra served as a senior researcher, interim professor, and adjunct lecturer at the Goethe University Frankfurt. In April 2021, she completed her habilitation Democracy Disrupted at the Goethe University Frankfurt. Petra received her doctoral degree in political science from the University of Bremen. She also earned a doctoral degree in political sociology from Charles University in Prague. In March 2019, she completed an eight-month Visiting Democracy Fellowship at Harvard University's Ash Centre for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. Her research focuses on reconfiguring the political landscape and revolves around representation, democratization, and populism. Since 2003 and 2009, respectively, she serves as an expert for Bertelsmann Foundation's Bertelsmann Transformation Index & Sustainable Governance Indicators (together with Zdenka Mansfeldová) and, since 2018, as a V-Dem country expert. In 2020 she was appointed to the expert board of the Nation in Transit (Freedom House). Since March 2021, she regularly lectures US diplomats at the Foreign Service Institute of the US State Department on the interaction between democracy and the pandemic in central and eastern Europe. Between 2022 and 2025, she is a co-PI of SYRI (National Institute for Research on the Socio-Economic Impact of Diseases and Systemic Risks), supported by the CZ National Recovery Plan. In SYRI, she also leads a PA5 team working on polarization & populism.


Democratic Erosion and Democratic Resilience in Central Europe during COVID-19

During the COVID-19 pandemic, faced with unprecedented challenges to public health and the economy, established and new democracies alike struggled to maintain the quality of their democracy (Edgell et al. 2021). The violations of democratic principles included chipping off fundamental liberties and press freedom and, most crucially, erosion of diagonal accountability (Guasti 2020; Merkel 2020). The conditions for democratic resilience are vertical accountability (where elections took place during the pandemic), horizontal and diagonal accountability (Guasti 2020a; Guasti & Bustikova 2021). In vertical accountability, governments have to ensure free and fair electoral competition. Parliaments must act as checks on executive power in horizontal accountability mechanisms, as do the courts at all levels by scrutinizing regulatory and legal changes adopted 'in the name of public health'. Diagonal accountability mechanisms include media and civil society. Media demand and provide transparency and information on government actions and the pandemic. Meanwhile, civil society can mobilize against pandemic-related violations of democratic standards and support the rule of law. This paper analyzes democratic erosion during the pandemic in the Visegrad Four countries (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia) through the lens of horizontal, vertical, and diagonal accountability. The focus is on the dynamics leading to democratic erosion and democratic resilience.