The worldwide expansion of populism in power

What do populists do once in power? In what do they differ from traditional authoritrian leaders? In this article, Wojciech Sadurski answers these questions while introducing his new book “A Pandemic of Populists” (Cambridge University Press). First, all populist leaders in power, he claims, share some common characteristics: they use aggressive language about their opponents, and often demonize their enemies. The narratives they develop often draw on conspiracy theories, and their discourse deploys familiar tropes that brings it close to fascism (anti-Semitism, religious bigotry, antipathy to rationalism and Enlightenment, xenophobia). Moreover, formal institutions are viewed by populist leaders as irritants, unnecessarily throwing obstacles on the path of implementing the leadership’s will. Finally, populist regimes rely on a thoroughly corrupt symbiosis of political power with the economy.

But isn’t this just traditional authortiarianism? No, argues Sadurski, because populist regimes respect at least one civil right of their citizens: that of participating in free, fair and regular elections. Indeed, populists are unlikely to fundamentally abolish free and fair elections because their whole legitimacy relies upon the claim to represent the People. But what sort of democracy do you have if there are no checks and balances which prevent the accumulation of all powers in the hands of one person?

Enjoy the read.

Continue reading

Populism the Dutch way: a double interview

The Dutch elections quickly disappeared from the first pages of international newspapers and from the debates of the prime time TV shows: the populist wave of Geert Wilders has not swept away democracy, and the country is already focused on other issues such as banning hidden costs on concerts tickets.  However, the government coalition is not formed yet, and the political consequences of the elections which were held last March are still unclear.

POP asked Matthijs Rooduijn and Stijn van Kessel – both Dutch experts on populism, see profiles after the interview – to explain what is going on in the country and what should we expect next. Do you want to know who won the elections, which coalitions might be formed, who is Jesse Klaver, and mostly, which one is the funniest Dutch political party?

Keep reading and enjoy.

Continue reading