Migration, walls and populism in Bulgaria

In this article Ildiko Otova and Evelina Staykova present their new book ‘Migration and Populism in Bulgaria’, published by Routledge. They descrbe how Bulgaria was unprepared for the arrival of migrants and asylum seekers in 2015, and how this phenomenon produced a sense of emergency that was exploited by populist actors. The populist rhetoric about the ‘migrants crisis’ of 2015 became so widespread that also non-populist actors started framing the topic in the same way. This produced a normalisation of right-wing, authoritarian, and populist discourses. Fear and scapegoating were used to generate a ‘crisis’ that has exacerbated popular dissatisfaction with the country’s institutions. In this context, real solutions and effective policies remained a mirage. Apart from walls, obviously, which are an all-time favourite and an instinctive response of authoritarian populists. In July 2021, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Bulgaria’s pushback practice violates human rights, and in August, amid growing concern in Europe over an influx of migrants from Afghanistan, Bulgaria decided once again to bolster its border with Greece and Turkey with hundreds of soldiers.

Ildiko Otova and Evelina Staykova tell us how we got here…

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A Specter is Haunting Brazil: What to Expect from Him who claims to represent “the people?”

In this article, Eduardo Tamaki analyzes the last, worrying developments from Brazil. President Bolsonaro does not simply claim to represent “the people” in opposition to the “elites”, as the classic populist textbook prescribes, but went further. He hijacked religion and introduced nationalistic, patriotic elements. This allowed him to start a moral, religious crusade with the goal to defend the “fatherland” against every sort of enemy: the “old politics”, Communism, the Supreme Federal Court. Of this crusade, of course, he is the leader, the Commander, the Messiah.

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Democracy and Populism: the (Black) Mirror of Society

The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people.
― Charlie Chaplin, The Great Dictator

Why democracy should listen to populism

Governing well is possible —in fact, it is necessary— and not despite populism, but thanks to it. How? The first step consists in clearing the table from a classic misunderstanding: populism is not the opposite of democracy. That would be authoritarianism, or dictatorship, or fascism. Populism can actually be very helpful: it measures how much democracy is under pressure and offers a potential relief valve. When we witness Donald Trump, Recep Erdoğan, Jair Bolsonaro, or Rodrigo Duterte tearing apart democratic principles we are not observing the effects of populism, but the effects of authoritarianism on its way to become fascism.

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Interview #40 — Lessons from the Great Recession

Catherine Moury has studied the effects of the last economic crisis and the subsequent Great Recession, the impact of the bailout on Portugal, the rhetoric used by political actors and institutions, the austerity measures imposed in name of the famous motto of Thatcherism: “there is no alternative”. This time, is there an alternative to austerity?

In this interview she explains whether the EU and its member states are responding in a similar way compared to the 2008-2012 crisis, she reflects on the use of Eurobonds and the European Stability Mechanism, and claims that governments are less likely to use the emergency to implement austerity reforms as it happened during the last crisis.

Enjoy he read.

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