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Good, bad and ugly populism

Hans Vorländer

Hans Vorländer pins three labels on today’s populists: good, bad and ugly.

The professor from the Technical University in Dresden tells Alpbuzz: “As you look at Austria, at France, at Italy, the post World-War II party system has just broken down.” Then he adds, “and out of the ashes of the old party system come populist leaders.”

But not all the populists can be lumped together. “There is good, bad and ugly populism,” Prof Vorländer says. In Europe, “we are at the cross-roads. We have leaders who take recourse to populist strategies of mobilisation, as Kurz (chancellor of Austria) did, as even Macron (president of France) did, but Macron’s populism is good populism.”

The good form, Prof Vorländer says, “can make a contribution to rehumanise democracy to make it more viable.” The bad form, “changes the political landscape, hurts and violates rights, neglects the autonomy of institutions and attacks the freedom of the press.” The former Berlusconi government in Italy he cites as an example of the latter.

“Today Europe witnesses the implosion of the old political system of parties which stemmed from large divisions, most of them social and economic,” Prof Vorländer says.

Where is Trump in this equation? For Professor Vorländer his leadership is at a dangerous point “between bad and ugly.”  Donald Trump “has already changed the democratic system. He violates rules, he destroys trust.”

Bad and ugly populism makes the political landscape and society increasingly polarised. To overcome this, Prof Vorländer says we need parties because of their mediating role between citizens and political decision makers. We need citizens who continuously engage with politics instead of only participating ad-hoc in specific topics. And we also need “public space rules that people really stick to.” This could lead to a drop in hate crime and criminal attacks.

By Verda Uyar & Katharina Ratzmann

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