Conference Agenda

Overview and details of the sessions of this conference. Please select a date or location to show only sessions at that day or location. Please select a single session for detailed view (with abstracts and downloads if available).

Session Overview
Panel 213: Populism and the Far Right - Consequences for the Health of Democracy
Monday, 02/Sep/2019:
1:10pm - 2:40pm

Session Chair: Anna Dimitrova, ESSCA School of Management
Location: Room 12.02


The Imitation of Democracy: Populism in Poland and Ukraine

Susann Worschech

European University Viadrina, Germany

Populism is usually referred to as a symptom of democratic crises, a necessary corrective or even an inherent feature of democracy, stemming from the discrepancy between the normative redemptive vision of democracy and its pragmatic realization (Canovan). However, less conceptual attention has been paid to forms of populism which only emerged in the context of democratization processes, and which are lacking the narrative of 'shocking' the political system. In post-socialist Central and Eastern Europe, Populism does not question established democratic procedures or principles, but rather destabilizes the political process even before democratic consolidation. In contexts of fragile democratization, populism as a political style or thin-centered ideology (Mudde) imitates and supplants democratic processes.

My contribution focuses on the particular characteristics of populism in post-socialist societies and on its potential for imitating, substituting, threatening or even reinforcing democratization processes. In a comparative study of populist actors, movements and policies in Poland and Ukraine since 2006 resp. 2004, I analyze specific elements of populism that resemble social movement strategies – in particular, networking and framing activities – which led to the establishment of authoritarian political tendencies and the purposeful undermining of democratic institutions before democratic consolidation. The paper provides a conceptual reflection of post-socialist and post-transformative populism. As I will show and systematize, these fragile political situations provide a number of opportunities where populist actors may establish democratic shells for nondemocratic political procedures that help to consolidate authoritarian rule and the imitation of democracy.

Concept of Democracy in the Discourse of the European Populist Radical Right in Government and in Opposition: The Cases of France and Poland

Alexander Alekseev

National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russian Federation

The populist radical right parties in Europe have been traditionally perceived as dangerous small fringe groups at the margins of mainstream politics, groups with neo-fascist agenda, hostile to the very notion of democracy, let alone democratic principles and values. This view has long prevailed in academia and is still dominant among journalists and policy makers.

At the same time, electoral successes of the populist radical right in Western and Eastern Europe alike, its active participation in coalitions with mainstream political parties and cases of populist radical right parties forming majority governments in some European countries have highlighted numerous flaws of this oversimplified approach and demonstrated that the relationship of the populist radical right with democracy and democratic practices is not that straightforward.

While the populist radical right opposes the values, institutions and rules of liberal or constitutional democracy, it does not reject democracy as such. This work resides on the assumption that European populist radical right parties have assimilated the notion of democracy but conceptualised it differently advancing a nativist illiberal populist alternative of the concept of democracy.

This article strives to uncover similarities between different concepts of democracy promoted in the political discourses of various European populist radical right parties. To do so, this research looks into the actual manifestations of their political thinking in two different, very contrasting cases – that of radical right-wing populists in permanent opposition (i.e. the case of France) and that of radical right-wing populists leading a majority government (i.e. the case of Poland).

The Political Economy of Staying Outside the Eurozone - The Case for Hungary

Norbert Szijártó

Centre for Economic and Regional Studies, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Hungary

This paper seeks to understand and conceptualize the current Hungarian politico-economic developments from an institutionalist point of view. With two-third majority victory in the general elections of 2010, the Hungarian right-wing party, Fidesz, obtained a mandate to implement comprehensive reform to realize substantial catch-up to Western European countries and a historical moment to almost effortlessly join the Eurozone. Instead of taking advantage of this period, the right-wing party exploited this situation to strengthen its economic and political power. Applying a conceptual framework derives from mixed institutional approaches – historical institutionalism and rational choice institutionalism – this article argues that Fidesz launched a new path dependency or intended consequences of their economic and legislative measures. State interventions in the domestic economy – regulating specific sectors, re-nationalization of foreign-owned companies, allotting monopolies and concessions – had the fundamental objective to create a new and loyal national elite, which depends on the goodwill of the governing party, and unconditionally supports the consolidation of Fidesz’s regime by financial means. Institutional approaches provide excellent answer why the actual government skipped the historical opportunity to introduce the euro. First, Eurozone accession is a process that would alter the regime’s decision-making patterns. Second, utility maximization is easier outside the Eurozone while the government is constrained by fewer rules and regulations and the Hungarian National Bank has control over monetary policy and exchange rate policy. Third, the introduction of the euro does not really fit into the beliefs and ideas of decision-makers.

The European Union’s Intra-Regional Contribution to the Responsibility to Protect

Julia Ruth Schmidt

University of Exeter, United Kingdom

Under the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), states hold the primary responsibility to protect their population from gross human rights violations. Regional organisations are asked to support their member states in fulfilling their responsibility through assistance and capacity building. With its membership criteria, its emphasis on the respect for fundamental rights, democracy and the rule of law as well as with its judicial system, the EU seems to be well equipped to provide an environment that supports the R2P intra-regionally and that prevents the risks of atrocity crimes.

Recent legal reforms and developments in individual EU member states have been identified by the EU as a threat to some of its core values, including human rights and the rule of law. Member states’ resistance in responding to EU demands for change point towards the limits of the EU’s legal and political system. The paper will identify the EU’s existing mechanisms and procedures that can contribute to the R2P intra-regionally. In addition, the paper will question the effectiveness of the EU’s existing framework for assisting its member states to fulfil their primary responsibility to protect and will identify potential weaknesses. The legal and judicial reforms in Poland and Hungary and the reactions of both member states in response to the EU’s criticism will serve as case studies. Finally, the paper will examine what the EU could add to its portfolio in terms of assistance and capacity building in order to increase the effectiveness of its internal commitment to the R2P.