New Wave of Populism in Europe (2014 Elections)

Find below extracts from the following 2015 article “Populism in Europe: a primer” (emphasis mine)

What is Populism?

  • Populism is an ideology that considers society to be ultimately separated into two homogeneous and antagonistic groups, ‘the pure people’ and ‘the corrupt elite’, and which argues that politics should be an expression of the volonté general (general will) of the people.”
  • “Its essential features are: morality and monism.”
  • “The key point is that populism sees both groups as essentially homogeneous, i.e. without fundamental internal divisions, and considers the essence of the division between the two groups to be moral. its main opposites are elitism and pluralism. Elitism sees the same major division, but considers the elite to be pure and the people as corrupt. Pluralism has a fundamentally different worldview than both elitism and populism, seeing society as divided into several groups with different interests and favoring a politics based on consensus between these groups”
  • “populism is pro-democracy, but anti-liberal democracy. It supports popular sovereignty and majority rule, but rejects pluralism and minority rights”
  • “an illiberal democratic answer to problems created by an undemocratic liberalism”
  • “populists call for the re-politicization of issues like European integration, gay rights, or immigration”
  • “populism can be found on both the left and the right”
  • “Generally, left populists will combine populism with some interpretation of socialism, while right populists will combine it with some form of nationalism. Today populism is more on the left in Southern Europe and more on the right in Northern Europe.”
  • “In the public debate populism is mostly used to denounce a form of politics that uses (a combination of) demagogy, charismatic leadership, or a Stammtisch (pub) discourse. “
  • “While some populists might promise everything to everyone (i.e. demagogy) or speak a simple, even vulgar, language (i.e. Stammtisch discourse), many do not. “

Recent 20th century movements:

  • Narodniki (19th century) were a relatively small group of urban elites who unsuccessfully tried to stir a peasant revolt. agrarian populist. while both communism and fascism used populist rhetoric, particularly during the movement stage, both ideologies and regimes were essentially elitist.
  • Poujadism in France in the late-1950s,
  • Danish and Norwegian Progress Parties in the 1970s
  • PASOK in the 1980s
  • rise of the populist radical right in the late 1980s.

Some European Election Statistics

“On average, populist parties gained some 12.5% of the vote in the last European elections (2014); not insignificant, but hardly a “political earthquake” as the international media claimed”

2014 election results

  1. Populist parties are electorally successful in most European countries. In roughly 20 European countries a populist party gains at least 10% of the national vote.
  2. All populist parties together score an average of ca. 16.5% of the vote in national elections. This ranges from a staggering 65% in Hungary, shared between Fidesz and the Movement for a Better Hungary (Jobbik), to 5.6 percent in Belgium.
  3. While the overall trend is up, most populist parties are electorally volatile. Few populist parties have been able to establish themselves as relatively stable political forces in their national party system.
  4. There are huge cross-national and cross-temporal differences within Europe. While some populist parties are brand-new (e.g. M5S and Podemos), others are several decades old (e.g. FN, FPÖ, The Left, SVP). Similarly, whereas some parties are on the up (e.g. DF, SYRIZA, UKIP), others are in a downfall (e.g. PP-DD and VB).

Populist Movements on the Rise

  1. In five countries a populist party is the biggest political party – Greece, Hungary, Italy, Slovakia, and Switzerland.
  2. Populist parties gained a majority of votes in three countries – Hungary, Italy, and Slovakia. However, in at least two of these countries the main populist parties are strongly opposed to collaboration. The situation in Hungary is most striking, as both its main governmental party (Fidesz) and its main opposition party (Jobbik) is populist.
  3. Populist parties are currently in the national government in seven countriesFinland, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Norway, Slovakia, and Switzerland. Greece is unique in that it has a populist coalition government of a left and a right populist party.
  4. In six countries a populist party is part of the established political parties – Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, and Switzerland. This is important to note, as populism is normally associated exclusively with challenger parties and deemed incapable of establishing itself in a political system. Yet, while populist parties have to be extra careful not to be considered part of ‘the elite’, populists like former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi and current Hungarian premier Viktor Orbán have been successful at retaining their cleverly constructed ‘outsider’ status in power.

Why Populism Now?

  1. Large parts of the European electorates believe that important issues are not (adequately) addressed by the political elites. integration and immigration, unemployment and welfare state reform. What is more important to note is that large parts of the European populations have come to perceive this as a major problem.
  2. National political elites are increasingly perceived as being “all the same.”
  3. More and more people see the national politically elites as essentially “powerless”. transfer of issues to EU realm such as Maastricht treaty of 1992. Eurozone countries no longer control their own currency or monetary policy.
  4. The media structure has become much more favorable to political challengers. who owns the media?
  5. Populist actors have become much more “attractive” to voters (and media). Almost all successful populist parties have skillful people at the top, including media-savvy leaders like Beppe Grillo (M5S), Pablo Iglesias (Podemos), or Geert Wilders (PVV).

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