What is Populism?
In recent years, the World has seen the rise of many different political parties that could be considered “populist.” These governments can be found on either side of the political spectrum, because they all follow the same ideology: they are typically anti establishment political movements that offer avant-garde solutions or policies that appeal to the average citizen. Cas Mudde, a political scientist at the University of Georgia, stated that “populism is a ‘thin ideology’, one that merely sets up a framework: that of a pure people versus a corrupt elite.” Populism usually arises from a disdain of the “corrupt” political elite, which usually is a consequence from anti-Nationalistic laws. One of the most influential employer of populist tactics, Donald Trump, caused political turmoil in the United States as he, and the Republican Party, proceeded to win not only the presidency, but both houses of government and a majority of state legislatures. The National Conference of State Legislatures, a bipartisan non-governmental organization, said that “[Republicans] hold more total seats, well over 4,100 of the 7,383, than they have since 1920.” Donald Trump’s sweep of the election was brought on, in part, by the influences of his populist ideals of “us,” or the disadvantaged working class, versus “them,” or the “corrupt” liberal elite. This idea has also seen a drastic increase in Europe, mostly in Germany and France, as citizens are growing rather unsupportive of their political leaders.
Can the European Union itself be considered undemocratic?
One of the struggles that the European Union goes through is comparable to the term “democratic deficit.” This is because people believe that the EU institutions and their decision making processes lack democracy and seem to be inaccessible to citizens due to their complexity. Tom Bailey, a business and finance journalist for the Huffington Post, said that “[democracy] means that those with the power to formulate the laws that govern a certain territory must face regular elections, voted in by the inhabitants of said territory.” The officials of the European Union are appointed by the governments of each nation; however, there is no input from the citizen, so it would be considered undemocratic. While there may be a “democratic deficit” within the appointment leaders of the Union, this deficit is also apparent in creation and application of laws. In the Union, a law would be passed if it is backed by 16 out of the 28 member states that make up sixty-five percent of the citizens. The London School of Economics, a public research university, states that “the UK was on the losing side [of passing laws] 13% of the time between 2009-2015.” Although Britain may have a large percent of the Union's population, making up thirteen percent, they may be forced to follow a law that was passed by the other nation states. So, the European Union is undemocratic in its appointment of officials and in the application of laws. On Thursday, June 3rd, 2016, the United Kingdom–by a slim margin– voted to leave the European Union, which has not only drastically affected both regions, but even brought up the idea that the Union may not even be necessary.
As depicted in this picture, an anti-EU protester is burning a EU flag to show defiance.
Why would “Brexit” cause such a stir within the E.U.?
Brexit has influenced the elections of other European Union states, like France, the Netherlands, and even Germany, with each having their own far right-wing parties in the upcoming 2017 and 2018 elections. The “Eurosceptic” parties are polling very high; in France, Marine le Pen’s party, the National Front, is currently polling at 30.6% in comparison to the highest leftist party, the Socialist Party, which is polling at 22.7%, according to estimates made by Radio France Internationale. Although Brexit may have allowed for the growth of other far right-wing parties, the ongoing negotiations between Pre-Brexit Britain and the European Union may dissuade others from attempting to follow in Britain’s footsteps. Rick Gladstone, a reporter and editor for the New York Times on foreign affairs, said that “[Eurozone Leaders] have suggested that Britain must be penalized economically to discourage further defections from the bloc.” The European Union is very pressured on the front of countries leaving, which is exemplified through the economic penalization of Britain in order to scare other nations to stay within the bloc. The ongoing refugee crisis was one of the major deciding factors in the severing of ties with the European Union and may even influence other countries to do the same.
How has the refugee crisis caused turmoil within the E.U.?
In the European Union, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has been promoting an “open border” policy, in which millions of displaced Africans and Middle-Easterners would be relocated to the various member states; the drastic increase in the amount of foreign born citizens has not been without its faults, however. Express, a United Kingdom-based newspaper, said, “In northern France, two armed Islamic attackers slit an elderly priest’s neck as he was performing mass at Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray church.” Countries in the European Union have been rocked by a growth of radical Islamic terrorism; France, for example, has had numerous attacks: the Charlie Hebdo attack, the Paris Terror attacks, and the Bastille Day Massacre. These attacks have fueled hatred among the right-wing throughout the bloc; the devastating effects of these terror attacks coupled with the increase in crimes perpetrated by the asylum seekers. Germany, the destination for many refugees, has seen a large increase in the amount of crimes ranging from petty theft to forgery and even murder. According to a leaked report, with official data coming from 13 out of the 16 states in Germany, “there were 240 attempted murders by immigrants - 127 in 2014 - and in two-thirds of all cases, perpetrators and victims were of the same nationality. One German was murdered, 27 immigrants were killed by other immigrants.” The growth of right-wing nationalism grew steadily alongside the influx of refugees, as they feared that the immigrants, with their “backwards morals” and “incompatible belief systems,” would tarnish their population; the rise in the amount of crimes also coupled with nationalistic sentiments, which caused strong lash-backs against their political leaders, as they were the ones who pushed the “anti-European” refugee agenda. The European stigmas that arose from the refugee crisis have also found their ways to other nations, like the United States or even Korea.
Are there any other nations that populism affected, other than those in the European Union?
Right-wing populism should only be affecting the nations of the European Union and the United States, right? – wrong. South Korea is a perfect example of what a soon-to-be right-wing nationalist state, as their neighbor, North Korea, may soon see the end of the brutal Kim dictatorship, due to political instability and paranoia within the government, and the reuniting of the two separate nations. 2015 statistics from the Ministry of Interior, a branch of government in South Korea, stated, “The ratio of foreigners to the total population is about 3 percent, with most staying in Korea as temporary workers, not permanent residents.” Since South Korea has a relatively small amount of foreigners within their nation, the development of the “us versus them” mentality has taken root; if and when North Korea eventually fails, many South Koreans will label the previous citizens of North Korea as “them,” as they have been apart since the end of World War II. Although South Korea may be a right-wing populist nation-in-waiting, the South Eastern Asian island nation of the Philippines has been a shining beacon of populism gone wild, with the newly elected president, Rodrigo Duterte. Duterte, who hailed from the Mindanao island group, campaigned off of the everyday annoyances that made citizens extremely dissatisfied. Lisandro Claudio, a research associate at the Institute of Philippine Culture, Ateneo de Manila University, stated that “Duterte campaigned on a law and order platform, vowing to ‘suppress’ criminality and drugs within three to six months of his inauguration.” Aptly nicknamed “The Punisher,” Duterte has been ruthless in his crackdown on addicts and drug cartels, which he had promised to do during his campaign for presidency, causing him to grow in popularity. So, not only has right-wing populism taken root in other countries, but it has even set up a platform for itself in many more.
This picture depicts prominent UKIP leader Nigel Farage and the then-Republican candidate for President, Donald Trump, shaking hands at one of Trump's many rallies.