Populism, a word you probably have heard a lot in the past 9 months. The word started making rounds after the shock Brexit referendum; used often by journalists, political scientists and economists trying to make sense of the result. A few months later in November, Donald Trump - with no political experience - unexpectedly won the presidential elections. His scandals, lack of knowledge on policy issues and various conflict of interests did very little to hurt the campaign. Trump won because of populist politics, said many experts.
In Europe, Trump's success with American populism has brought optimism to parties running on populist platforms in 2017. The unexpected nature of the American election result gives many political parties a hope - that populist goals are achievable. Populist parties are winning votes and seats across Europe and are part of the government in eleven countries. In this quiz, we will try to understand the rise of populist parties in countries in Europe, that have an upcoming election in 2017.
Populism is ___________
Populism is politics designed to support the concerns of ordinary people. To an extent every political campaign is populist in nature and is an essential part of a democracy. "So, why is populism considered bad and why is it used with a negative connotation?" - you may ask. When we talk about populism in the context of Europe, we often are referring to right wing populism. According to Dutch political scientist Cas Mudde, populism has these three features:
anti - establishment : hatred of politicians, elites, rich, institutions, banks, government officials and scientists.
authoritarianism : a strong charismatic leader exerting power that reflects the will of the people; often has a disdain for any opposition or institutional checks and balances.
nativism : favours nationalism over international co-operation, closed borders instead of free movement of people and trade, mono-culturalism over multiculturalism and conservatism over liberal values and principles.
A Populist candidate can bring out the best in people, but in the hands of a demagogue it can also result in undoing years of social progress. Most populists present a very simplistic world view to the masses; that of the rich vs poor, corrupt vs good, powerful vs powerless etc. People living under socio-economic fear and uncertainties are thrown lies and conspiracies, distorted facts and manufactured scapegoats - who often end up being minorities and the powerless.
We head to France, where the populist candidate is looking at causing an establishment upset in the next french elections.
In France, the populist party National Front is led by ______________?
Marine Le Pen is the leader of the National Front, a right wing populist party in France. The party was started by her father Jean-Marie Le Pen in 1972, who has a history of anti-Semitism and inciting racial hatred. The party has largely remained in fringes, barring a few shock wins. When Marine took over the party in 2011, she aimed to re-brand it. The racist and anti-Semitic lines were toned down; trade protectionist and anti-EU policies were added to the populist party beliefs. In 2015, Marine Le Pen fired her father after his disparaging comments on holocaust.
In the recent years, France has had to struggle with issues of terrorism, immigration, slow-growth and lack of job opportunities. The employment rate is at 10.5 percent, growth rate at .3 percent and more than 200 people have died in Radical Islamic terror attacks . The previous government and EU's poor track record has provided the National Front with a perfect opportunity to highlight the establishment's failure and make strides in the April 2017 elections. Like Trump, Marine Le Pen is not afraid to express her anti-establishment, anti-immigration, anti-Islam and anti-globalisation views. And, like in America, they have found an audience with the French people who are worried about the national security and the future of the economy. By some estimates, she has a good chance of winning the elections starting in April and there is a fear that her victory could signal the end of the European Union.
In Italy, political activist, blogger, actor and comedian Beppe Grillo's populist party is called __________.
Started in 2010, the Five Star Party has gone from being an online blog to becoming the second biggest party in Italy. Decades of political corruption and the economic decline - post Euro Crisis - has resulted in a huge public outcry. The party 's anti-establishment and anti-Euro sentiments have echoed with the public and riding the tide of populism, it is expected to win the elections this year.
Though the party rarely toes the anti-immigration line, it has been accused of circulating Fake News regarding migrants. Like Trump, the Five Star Party has accused its opposition of election fraud. The party's head Beppe Grillo made a derogatory statement last year when he said that the London Mayor Sadiq Khan will blow up the Westminster.
In Germany, the right wing populist party is called _____________?
With almost a similar populist party platform as its counterparts in Europe, Alternative for Germany has seen a meteoric rise since its formation in 2013. It started as an anti-EU political party after Germany took the burden of bailing several European neighbours on the verge of economic collapse. However, after the surge in migrants due to the escalation in the Syrian civil war, the party has adopted an anti-immigration and anti-Islam stance. Image - AfD Party Members Konrad Adam, Frauke Petry , Bernd Lucke.
The xenophobic populism has appealed to some Germans opposing the influx of asylum seeker. The party has called for closed borders and separation from EU in case the economic reforms fail. In January, while referring to the Holocaust museum in Berlin, AfD’s Bjoern Hoecke said, "Germans are the only people in the world who plant a monument of shame in the heart of the capital". He also said that he wanted to rewrite the history books to show that Germans were the victims of a war crime in the second world war. He was fired from the party on 14th February for his remarks. The party is currently polling around 15%, with the German federal election to be held in September.
_______________ leads the populist party, "Party for Freedom" in Netherlands.
A self-confessed fan of Trump - who even has a hairstyle and a hastag #MakeTheNetherlandsGreatAgain to go with it - Geert Wilders's party is leading the opinion polls for the March, 2017 elections. His politics is centered around anti-Islam, which according to Wilders poses an existential threat to Europe. In December, he was convicted by the Dutch Court for Hate Speech after leading an anti-Moroccan chant.
He has plans to ban mosques, Islamic symbols and Koran from the country where only 4 percent of the population are Muslim. He has also promised to withdraw from the EU and cut down foreign aid. Though expected to win, the right wing populist party is likely going to face troubles forming a majority government coalition.
After the European crisis, there is a general sense of anxiety prevailing across Europe. The economic insecurity in a post-industrial world, rapid cultural change and apathetic political institutions have left people fearful about their future. The rise of populism across Europe is a backlash against the establishment's neglect. But, like in America and Britain, the anger is not being channeled at the right causes.
Cover Photo - Flickr
The Rest - Wikipedia Commons
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