On Populism

TitleOn Populism
Publication TypeKonferencia kiadvány / Conference Paper
Év / Year2017
AuthorsKucharczyk, Dr Jacek
Publikálás dátuma / Date Published08/2017
Kiadó / PublisherHungarian Europe Society
Konferencia helye / Conference LocationBudapest
Kulcsszavak / KeywordsEurope, Poland, Populism, V4

This essay aims to review key aspects of the upsurge of right-wing authoritarian populism across the Western democracies, including but not restricted to, the so-called „new democracies” in Central and Eastern Europe. The primary material for this analysis comes from my native Poland, where in 2015, Law and Justice government has overseen the deterioration of democratic standards, unprecedented in more than 25 years since the fall of communism in 1989.1 While the Polish developments are frequently, and rightly, compared with a more prolonged experience of democratic backsliding in Hungary under the premiership of Viktor Orbán, an equally fruitful (I would argue) are the comparisons with the political developments in what we used to be described as established democracies of Great Britain (Brexit referendum and its consequences) as well as the USA (Donald Trump’s victory and first months in office). More recent elections in the Netherlands and France have informed the debate of the ways populism can be pushed back if not defeated. Last but not least, the broader context of the phenomenon under consideration is what is often referred to as global assault on democracy or the globalization of authoritarianism, whereby “…the authoritarians have challenged the universality of democracy and sought to erode liberal-democratic norms, replacing them with new counter-norms that emphasize “state security, civilizational diversity and traditional values”2 . Indeed, there is a well-established link between Russia’s „promotion of autocracy” and the rise of right-wing populism across the Western world.3 The existence of this Kremlin-sponsored „authoritarian international” has recently become part and parcel of political debates in some democracies. In one instance, Emmanuel Macron during his successful campaign for the French presidency, stated about his main rival: "We all know who Le Pen's allies are: the regimes of Orbán, Kaczynski, Putin. These aren't regimes with an open and free democracy. Every day they break many democratic freedoms"4 .