Riders on the storm: the role of populism in the global crisis of democracy and in the functioning of electoral autocracies

Benedek, István (2021) Riders on the storm: the role of populism in the global crisis of democracy and in the functioning of electoral autocracies. POLITICS IN CENTRAL EUROPE, 17 (2). pp. 197-225. ISSN 1801-3422


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It is my contention that populism could be an appropriate framework to describe, explain and connect the phenomena of global crisis of democracy and func‑ tioning of electoral autocracies. In order to substantiate this claim, with the method of literature review, I examine first the characteristics of these phenomena. Then I focus on the nature of the relationship between them, in particular on the complex system of new types of autocracies’ stability, in which populism could play a crucial role. Populism, understood as an autocratic (re-)interpretation of democracy and representation, could be a particularly dangerous Trojan Horse for democracy. First and foremost, because its idea of a single, homogeneous and authentic people that can be legitimately represented only by the populist leader is a moralised form of antipluralism which is contrary to the pluralist approach of democracy (i.e. polyarchy). For precisely this reason, populism could play a key role in autocracies, especial in electoral autocracies which may use its core elements. Namely, the Manichean worldview, the image of a homogeneous people, people‑centrism and the autocratic notion of representation are very compatible with electoral autocracies, since these regimes hold general elections and their power is built largely upon the alleged will of the people. By using populism, it is possible for these regimes to camouflage and even legitimise their autocratic trends and exercise of power behind the formally multi‑party but not fair elections and democratic façade. As a radical turn towards closed autocracies (without de facto multiparty elections) would be too expensive, electoral autocrats need manipulated multi‑party elections and other plebiscite techniques that could serve as quasi‑democratic legitimation. Because of this, they tend to use the political logic of populism which could transform political contesta‑ tion to a life‑and‑death struggle and provides quasi‑democratic legitimation and other important cognitive functions. Therefore, populist electoral autocracies, as a paradig‑ matic type of electoral autocracies, could remain with us for a long time, giving more and more tasks to researchers, especially in the Central and Eastern European region.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: J Political Science / politológia > JA Political science (General) / politológia általában
J Political Science / politológia > JN Political institutions (Europe) / politikai intézmények, államigazgatás, Európa
Depositing User: MTMT SWORD
Date Deposited: 20 Dec 2021 09:40
Last Modified: 20 Dec 2021 09:40

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