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  • Author: Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Carisa Nietsche
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Center for a New American Security
  • Abstract: The rise of populism in Europe and the United States is well documented. Although studies may disagree about the relative importance of populism’s drivers, there is broad consensus that rising inequality, declining bonds to established traditional parties, increasing salience of identity politics, and economic grievance have played a role in fueling populism’s rise. Although populism is a symptom of democracy’s larger problems, the strategies and tactics populist parties and leaders use also provide their own, direct threat to liberal democracy. Many of the tactics that populist leaders use weaken democratic institutions and constraints on executive power. Populism is also detrimental to democracy because it exacerbates political polarization, which makes it hard for democracy to effectively function. As societies grow more polarized, people become willing to tolerate abuses of power and sacrifice democratic principles if doing so advances their side’s interests and keeps the other side out of power.1 The polarization that populism fuels, in other words, increases the risk of democratic decline. This report offers recommendations for combating populism. It translates key findings from cutting-edge academic research in the political science, political psychology, sociology, and communications disciplines into practical, evidence-based recommendations. The first set of recommendations is intended to equip political parties, politicians, and candidates to create a political context more conducive to the success of liberal democratic actors. Research shows that context matters—although many people may hold populist attitudes, these attitudes must be activated by the political context to translate into votes for populist leaders.
  • Topic: Politics, Democracy, Populism, Liberalism, Polarization
  • Political Geography: Europe, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Žiga Faktor
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Europeum Institute for European Policy
  • Abstract: Žiga Faktor examines the backsliding of democracy in Slovenia during the COVID-19 pandemic. Amid the escalation of the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe, Slovenia experienced a major political shift, as Janez Janša, leader of conservative SDS party, was appointed as a new Prime minister of Slovenia, filling the political vacuum created after a resignation of a former PM Marjan Šarec earlier this year. With Janša’s strong ties to Hungarian PM Viktor Orban, his endorsement of right-wing populist rhetoric and ferocious verbal attacks on journalists and established media, many fear that Slovenia’s democratic principles are at stake, while the situation can be further exacerbated by the current state of coronavirus emergency in which the new government can entrench its power.
  • Topic: Politics, Democracy, Populism, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Eastern Europe, Slovenia
  • Author: Dalibor Rohac, Matt Browne, Max Bergmann, Ismaël Emelien, Karin Svanborg-Sjövall, Andreas Johansson Heinö, Agata Stremecka
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
  • Abstract: Since 2016, concern over the resurgence of illiberal populist political parties and movements has been palpable in Europe and the United States. The election of Donald Trump, the United Kingdom’s referendum to leave the European Union, and the electoral advances of far-right parties in many European states, including France and Germany, created the sense that populist parties were a new, unstoppable political force in democratic politics.1 Yet in 2019, the notion that populist parties are the future of European politics seems far less certain. The term “populism” itself may have outlived its usefulness. Originally, it referred to parties and leaders who described themselves as true voices of the people against self-serving, out-of-touch elites—and it was prone to run roughshod over established political norms and institutions. Over the past three years, differences in approaches, tactics, and outlooks between different populist parties have emerged, making it clear that there is no clear populist governing strategy. Accordingly, beyond disrupting the current order, anti-establishment political forces in Europe share no actual transnational policy agenda. Yet populist and anti-establishment forces have upended European politics and contributed to fragmentation and uncertainty. As the example of the record turnout in the 2019 European parliamentary election illustrates,2 the EU itself has become an important dividing line for voters. The high turnout and raucous nature of the 2019 election portends animated debates over European policies. Gone are the days when the EU could move initiatives forward without much public attention or concern. In short, Jean Monnet’s “salami-slicing” method of incremental, technocratically driven European integration3 is dead. A more engaged and aware European public is in itself a positive development. Yet simultaneously, for better or worse, the sudden salience of European policies can present an obstacle to policy initiatives that otherwise would be seen as uncontroversial. Just as partisan divisions in the United States have plagued Washington with significant policy paralysis, the emergence of a similarly contentious and partisan politics in Europe may make it hard for Brussels to act. Europe has proven resilient over the past decade, but that resilience should not be taken for granted. The EU largely has failed to address its structural weaknesses that were exposed following the 2008 financial and fiscal crisis, meaning that the EU would confront a future economic crisis with the same limited toolbox it had in 2008.4 To make matters worse, influential populist actors could also obstruct swift action while benefiting politically at home from the EU’s failings. Unlike only a few years ago, fears of the EU’s sudden unraveling seem farfetched. Yet a protracted death by a thousand cuts, caused by populist leaders undermining EU rules and norms, remains a distinct possibility. The new instability of European politics poses a real challenge to the trans-Atlantic alliance. Unity among free and democratic states of the West is hard to sustain in the current political environment on both sides of the Atlantic. Yet at a time when the alliance faces a rising challenge from autocratic powers such as China and Russia, the case for unity and cooperation is stronger now than at any point since the end of the Cold War. This report seeks to chart a course for the EU and for the trans-Atlantic alliance, while acknowledging that the anti-establishment sentiments that reverberate through European politics are here to stay. While there is a strong case to be made for a Europe that works together to defend democratic values at home and abroad as well as a trans-Atlantic alliance that is willing to work in proactive partnership to tackle big global challenges—from climate change to terrorism to nuclear proliferation—that goal is still a long way off.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, NATO, Authoritarianism, European Union, Populism
  • Political Geography: Europe, Eurasia
  • Author: Daniela Pisoiu, Reem Ahmed
  • Publication Date: 11-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Austrian Institute for International Affairs (OIIP)
  • Abstract: Violent right-wing extremism is a growing threat to Western liberal democracies. At the same time, radical right-wing populist parties and figures across Europe are succeeding electorally by way of increased representation in national parliaments. These gains have been achieved against a backdrop of anti-refugee sentiment, austerity, and disillusion-ment with the European project, with populists on the left and right promising to deliver an alternative and using effective slogans and ‘people’ politics.Ordinarily, we differentiate between the extreme right and radical right: the former posing a threat to the democratic system with their fascist links and overt racism; the latter respecting the democratic system whilst offering a ‘sanitised’ version of far-right politics – namely, adopting a ‘new master frame’ that emphasises culture rather than race. Recent analyses of the far right, however, have indicated social and discur-sive overlaps between the ‘extreme’ and ‘radical’ right-wing parties and groups. The findings reported herein challenge this traditional separation within the far-right spectrum, and potentially have deeper theoretical and methodological implications for how we study the far right. The Internet adds another dimension to this threat, as far-right discourse becomes more visible on social media and messaging applications, potentially attracting more people to the cause as well as mainstreaming and legitimising particular narratives prominent in the scene.Existing literature has specifically examined the online sphere, and social media in particular, and these scholars have communicated interesting findings on how the social networks and discourses over-lap, for example identifying the co-occurrences of certain hashtags or analysing retweets and transnational cooperation.The aim of this report is to determine the overlaps apparent in the far-right scene on Twitter, and specifically, to ascertain the extent to which different groups on the scene are indeed talking about the same issues in the same way, in spite of apparent differences in tone and underlying ideologies. We utilise a mixed-methods approach: first, gaining a cursory insight into the extreme right-wing scene on Twitter across Europe; and then applying a detailed frame analysis to three selected groups in Germany to determine the implicit and explicit overlaps between them, thus complementing the quantitative findings to offer an in-depth analysis of meaning.
  • Topic: Radicalization, Internet, Social Media, Populism, Ideology, Far Right, Twitter
  • Political Geography: Europe, Germany
  • Author: David Fernández Marcos
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Unidad de investigación sobre seguridad y cooperación (UNISCI)
  • Abstract: Since the 1990s a great deal of literature has been written predicting the behaviour of right-wing populists explaining their policies and ideology. Until Brexit, there had been no such clear victory for right-wing populist policies. Drawing from the current state of the art, data from the national and European electoral party manifestos as well as Eurobarometer survey data from France, Germany, Italy and Sweden, this dissertation employs Strom’s rational choice-based party behaviour model to explore how the internal structure and each country’s political and institutional environments have mediated the right-wing populist parties’ reaction to the upswing of positive opinions about the European Union among European public opinion since Brexit. They have done so in two directions: by either continuing their promise to leave the EU or by dropping the promise and instead advocating institutional reform, in those cases where the parties seek to govern.
  • Topic: Public Opinion, European Union, Brexit, Populism, Far Right
  • Political Geography: Europe
  • Author: Carlos Vilalta, Gustavo Fondevila
  • Publication Date: 04-2019
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Igarapé Institute
  • Abstract: The objective of this study is to offer a data-driven review of the growth, trends, and the principle reasons behind the rapid expansion of the prison population in the region during the past two decades. A key factor appears to be the rise of prison populism. We do not provide an argument for the recent decrease in the growth rate, it is too early to determine whether the recent slow-down in prison population growth is due to a regime shift in the time series, or the effect of random variation. Still, ceteris paribus, we provide a projection of the prison population rate for the region. This Strategic Note fills a gap in the literature. Our particular contribution consists of the compilation on quantitative data of the region’s prison population, with the purpose of providing a broad but novel overview of the rapid growth and challenges to a wide audience of researchers and practitioners worldwide.
  • Topic: Prisons/Penal Systems, Population, Populism
  • Political Geography: Brazil, Latin America, Venezuela, Mexico
  • Author: César Rodríguez, Krizna Gómez
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Dejusticia
  • Abstract: This book collects and analyzes a repertoire of responses by human rights organizations to the crackdown against civil society in the populist context. Written by scholars and advocates in challenging political settings from around the world, this book offers ideas and inspiration to their peers in the human rights community who are grappling with and resisting the erosion of democracy and rights. This collection takes two steps towards clearing the path for this civil society transformation. First, it clarifies the specific challenges to human rights raised by contemporary populist regimes and movements. What is the populist playbook against human rights? Second, it contributes to documenting and learning from a wealth of initiatives by human rights actors. What innovations are human rights actors introducing into their strategies and narratives to counter those of populist regimes? In short, what is the human rights playbook against populism?
  • Topic: Human Rights, Democracy, Populism
  • Political Geography: Latin America, Global Focus
  • Author: Frank Lavin
  • Publication Date: 10-2017
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
  • Abstract: Donald Trump confounds political observers. For many, he is defined by his missteps and flamboyance. His foreign policy statements contain sufficient imprecision—if not outright contradictions—to allow observers to conclude a lack of care in dealing with the issues. Is China’s presence in the South China Sea acceptable or not? Is NATO useful or not? Should the United States use force in Syria for humanitarian or geo-political goals? This ambiguity gives rise to further questions regarding his foreign policy architecture: what are the guiding principles?
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Geopolitics, Populism
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, Syria, North America, South China, United States of America
  • Author: Alberto Martinelli
  • Publication Date: 12-2016
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI)
  • Abstract: Recent political events – from Trump’s election to the outcome of the Brexit Referendum - have somehow caught the world by surprise, and are contributing to a growing sense of concern or even alarm about the future of the Western world and, particularly, Western democracies as we know them. When looking at the political landscape in Europe, populism looks like an unprecedented game-changer. Populist parties are in power in Poland and Hungary, they are in the coalition governments in Switzerland and Finland, top the polls in France and the Netherlands, and their support is at record highs in Sweden. Not to mention the recent rise of Alternative für Deutschland in Germany and the successful story of Syriza, Podemos and of the Five Stars Movement in Southern Europe. The volume explores the rise of populism in Europe and the US by analyzing its root causes and the rationale behind its success. It also draws some policy recommendations to tackle the populist challenge.
  • Topic: Democracy, Political stability, Populism
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Publication Date: 05-2016
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Europeum Institute for European Policy
  • Abstract: Conference Programme
  • Topic: Political stability, Populism
  • Political Geography: Europe