Interview #25 – Hungary & Poland: Post-Communist Autocracies and Illiberal Democracy

What is going on in Poland and Hungary? A deliberate attempt to break with liberal democracy, Ben Stanley argues. In this interview we analyze the legacy of World War II and Communism and the role of Viktor Orban and Jarosław Kaczyński in the transformation of the two countries. Governmental control over the media, attempts to bring the judiciary under political control, and breaches of the constitution: What are the causes beyond these transformtions, and which will be the consequences for the future of the European Union?

Ben Stanley is Assistant Professor in the Centre for the Study of Democracy at the SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities (Warsaw). His primary area of research interest is the politics of populism in Central and Eastern Europe, incorporating analysis of party ideological appeals and voter behaviour. His current research activities include an experimental analysis of the links between conspiracy theory mentality and populism in Poland, measurement of populist attitudes in Central and Eastern Europe, and a monograph on Polish populism.

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Three Lessons From Contemporary Populism

2015 seemed like the perfect year for populist actors. All over the world more or less populist discourses were spread among the public opinion. In 2016 the diffusion of populism reached new and unexpected peaks. What changed in the diffusion and perception of populism? Essentially, there are three lessons we can learn. Continue reading

Oxi, ley mordaza, walls and summer populism

2015-06-27 18.47.15Welcome to the Bistro POP. 2015-06-27 21.47.28

We serve fresh populism, of all types.

Hot summer in Europe. Tsipras asked the Greek people to refuse the conditions of the Troika – and the Greek people answered “oxi”, which is translated as “no” but in this case means “yes Alexis, we’re still with you”; Varoufakis announced – first via Blog and then in T-shirt, cool as usual – that he resigns from his position as Minister in order to help Tsipras with the negotiations; Spain approved a package of measures unprecedented during its democratic history, limiting freedom of expression and public protest; Hungary is preparing to build yet another wall of this Europe under siege, to halt the advance of the refugees on the eastern front.

The Greek referendum marked a watershed in the history of Europe, with consequences that will be fully understood probably in the next decades. Now it’s too early to draw conclusions. The words of Varoufakis from his blog are probably the best way to reflect on what happened:  “The superhuman effort to honour the brave people of Greece, and the famous OXI (NO) that they granted to democrats the world over, is just beginning.”

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Hungarians do it better – Jobbik and the far-right shadow

gabor-vonaJobbik, the Movement for a Better Hungary (Jobbik Magyarországért Mozgalom), looks like Golden Dawn from a political perspective, but gained more credibility than the Greek goodfellas. In 2014 they obtained 20.54% of the votes, winning 23 seats in Parliament. In April 2015, Jobbik has won its first ever individual constituency in Parliament (by-election), taking the Tapolca seat with a narrow majority. People in Tapolca must be pretty bored, but this is understandable since the only attraction in the small city is represented by a 300-metre-long cave system.

What is astonishing is that the rest of the country hardly resists to the temptation of hearing this mermaid-neo-fascist-song. It is true that Jobbik has softened its rhetoric in recent years, gaining mainstream support. (For a visual proof, confront the two spots, from 2010 and 2014: here and here).

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