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Growing Wave of Populism

Growing Wave of Populism

It is believed that the populist wave will soon rise all over the world and pose a great threat to democracy.

By Mithu G Parmar

Around the world, populism has become a prominent feature of the political landscape. Considering its growing influence it is believed that the populist wave will soon rise all over the world and pose a great threat to democracy. It has changed the political trend by distinguishing between “real people / ordinary people” versus “elite and corrupt people”. It encourages the struggle of the people against the elites whom they consider to be the looters of their wealth.

Populism usually refers to an ideology or discourse that claims to defend the interests of “pure people” against the “corrupt elite”. However, the capitalist policies of the current liberal order have exacerbated economic inequality which has made the lives of the poor difficult. One of the effects of capitalism is that it creates competition between countries and perpetuates poverty among developing countries because private corporations have individual interests rather than the needs of their workers.

Under the liberal and capitalist economy, Multinational Companies (MNCs) have drastically reduced the value of local products, controlled resources through imperialist policies and suppressed folk culture. Under this unjust system, the majority of countries, especially the third world countries, are suffering a lot.

In such dire economic and political conditions, people’s sense of deprivation led them to favor even authoritarian regimes. Economic injustices and the rise of the elite in third world countries enraged them to stand up against the economic exploitation of the system. Nativist and hyper nationalist saw a great opportunity to legitimize their rhetoric and made their presence in mainstream politics. Those who were fed up with the policies pursued by elite politicians were emotionally satisfied with the populist rhetoric.

Populism, on the other hand is believed to be threat to liberalism and civil society, emphasizes a more equitable distribution of resources and is often committed to a more just society, which enjoys the support of the lower strata of society. Populism urges the majority of people going through various hardships to go against the elite and other obstacles in their system, so it can be called anti-elite. It divides people into two groups, pure and honest people and the corrupt elite class. The former has to unite and fight politically against the elite group.

The year 2016 brought many changes to the international political landscape. The US election was an important event that shocked the whole world. In 2016, the United States witnessed Trump’s victory in the presidential election, which brought populism to the forefront. Trump was an authoritarian populist who remained in clashes with democratic institutions during his presidential era. And one of the key features of populism lied in the leader’s belief that he and he alone represented the people in the true sense. Trump had the support of economically exploited people and those who wanted American supremacy as a nation. Trump’s rhetoric of “Make America Great” and his hyper-nationalist views frightened the world that the world would no longer live by liberal and free market values. An attack on the Capital on January 6 could be a fitting end to Trump’s presidency. It was a violation of its trademark principles and an insult to institutions. It was also the logical conclusion of four years of violent bigotry. It was the first time that American capitol went under attack and peaceful shift of power couldn’t take place which left whole world in shock.

Isn’t it surprising that a country whose foreign policy is based entirely on the tactics / policies of democracy has gone through populism? This is the reaction of the people to the growing inequality.

Another major event was Brexit which further strengthened influence of Populism in western world. The Brexit vote was largely due to immigration concerns – Given the UK’s relatively positive economic outlook – lower unemployment and higher growth than its European neighbors. The referendum was fiercely contested by the rise of populism based on the desire to regain control of immigration and reclaim national sovereignty from international organizations. It is the greatest concern that the two most stable and well-established democracies in the world have embraced populism and abandoned globalization, which has led to much speculation about the future of liberal democracy.

In addition to Brexit and the President of the USA, widespread follow-up of populism is gaining popularity worldwide- race of Identity politics and sense of economic deprivation has given Populism an easy space to pose threat in Europe too. In Europe, the anti-immigrant response to the 2015 immigration crisis has led to the rise of far-right nationalist parties, whose leaders often adopt a populist approach. Populism has attaining great popularity among the masses in Eastern and Southern Europe, and even in Scandinavia, populist parties continue to either govern or enjoy widespread popularity. From Viktor Orbán’s takeover of Hungary to the rise of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil show a populist outlook. And in Asia, leaders such as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have intimidated observers into accepting public appeals, even at the risk of inciting violence against vulnerable populations. And in Asia, leaders such as Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have intimidated observers into accepting public appeals, even at the risk of inciting violence against vulnerable populations.

The populism isn’t a well- established ideology. It is just a political move for a short time that is used only when people do not get the rights in imperial-based system. Mudde argued that populism is more than just demagogy or opportunism. But it is not a fully formed political ideology like socialism or liberalism – it is instead a “thin” ideology, consisting of only a few basic beliefs. First: The most important division in society is an antagonism between the “people”, which is considered fundamentally good, and the “elite”, which is considered primarily corrupt and out of everyday life. Second: All populists believe that politics should be an expression of the “general will.”

To promote Liberal Democratic actors must also pursue strategies to reduce political polarization, including building public awareness of the principles and avoiding over-reliance on efforts that, on the other hand, focus more on “education.” Investing in long-term solutions such as infrastructure and education can reduce the negative effects of capitalism and prevent the growing threat of populism.


Mithu G Parmar is studying at international relations University of Sindh Jamshoro

[The views expressed by the writer are his own and do not reflect the editorial policy of Sindh Courier]