Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2019

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


International Affairs

First Advisor

Dr. Sarah Wilson Sokhey

Second Advisor

Dr. Joseph Jupille

Third Advisor

Dr. Douglas Snyder


In the past decade, the decline, or backsliding, of democracy has reemerged as a concern in international affairs with many leaders overstepping constitutional restraints to accumulate power in their hands. While democratic backsliding occurs in various ways and in regions all over the world, Europe has struggled to control its spread as populist parties become closer and closer to taking power with each election cycle. In this paper, I examine the cases of Germany and Hungary, which share similar historical and cultural backgrounds yet differ in their democratic strengths: Germany remains a strong beacon of Western, liberal democracy, but Hungary has shifted towards an illiberal democracy. I aim to demonstrate how rhetoric, a tool used by leaders to mobilize the citizenry and justify policies, differs between strong democratic countries and backsliding countries. In particular, I assess speeches by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán from 2014 to 2017. This aims to add to the dialogue on democratic backsliding and encourage to further research on political rhetoric as a signal for anti-democratic policies in other countries.