Populist Governance and Policies in Europe

0

November 2021

Authors

Attila Bartha (CSS)

Dimitri A. Sotiropoulos (ELIAMEP); Dimitris Katsikas (ELIAMEP); Manos Tsatsanis (ELIAMEP); András László Pap (CSS); Mihály Tóth (CSS); Bálint Halász (CSS); Giedrius Žvaliauskas (KTU); Vaidas Morkevičius KTU; Eglė Butkevičienė (KTU); Artur Lipińsky (AMU); Andrej Školkay (SKAMBA); Veronika Vass-Vigh (SKAMBA); Boris Krešić (PIM); Veljko Turanjanin (PEM); Borko Mihajlović (PEM); Osman Sahin (GCU)

Contakt Information

contact@demos.tk.hu

Abstract

The rise of populist governance throughout the world offers a unique opportunity to analyse how populist leaders and parties govern. This study investigates the factors shaping the policies of populist governments. First, an ideal type of populist policy making is developed, elaborating the policy content, the policy discourse and the policy making procedure of populism. Then a congruence analysis is applied to test the conformity of policy making patterns with the ideal type in seven countries where populist parties have been in government. We study the two established cases of populist governance in the EU (post-2010 Hungary and post-2015 Poland), Greece where left-wing populist Syriza and the right-wing populist Anelgoverned Between 2015 and 2018, two countries where populist parties had minor influence in governmets (Lithuania and Slovakia) and two countries from the EU neighbourhood (Bosnia and Herzegovina and Turkey) where hybridization tendencies of populist governence can be observed. Policy making patterns are investicated in three policy areas: criminal justice policy, economic policy, and family policy. Our findings suggest that populist parties have a predominant role in shaping government policies in the policy discourse dimension. In addition, our analysis confirm that populist rulers may appear as particularly effective in policy reforms by circumvennting conventional institutionalised policy mechanisms. Unmediated, top-down consultations and adversarial, polarising narratives accompanies policy changes when populist leaders govern. These features tend to undermine the institusions of liberal democracy and they inevitably foster social and political polarisation. There are two important implications of the discursive power of populism in policy making: a general need of wording policy messages in non-technocratic everyday language and a specific support of independent local jurnalism initiatives as highly trasted sources of policy information.

1. Introduction

The rise of populist governance throughout the worl offers a novel opportunity to study the way in which populist leaders and parties rule. This task investigates the factor shaping the policies of populist governments. First an ideal type of populist policymaking is developed, elaborating the policy content, the policy discourse and the policymaking procedure of the populism. Then a congruence analysis (pattern-matching analysis) is applied in order to test the conformity of policymaking patterns with the ideal type in 7 countries where populist parties have been in government.

The policy aspects of populism and their relation to polairsing policy practices have largely benn neglected in populism studies. Since the seminal article of Mudde (2004) on to the emergence of populist Zeitgeist in Western Europe, the scholarship of populism research has focused on political actors and discourses of populism and particular attention was devoted to the ambiguous relationship between populism and liberal democracy (Canovan, 1999; Jagers and Walgrave, 2007; Mudde and Rovira Kaltwasser, 2012). The lack of attention to the real-world consequences of populist governance is all the more striking in that in the past decade, populist parties have come into governing positions in several European countries and in the Americas (Hawkins and Littvay, 2019). Policy reforms that were adopted by populist governments may have tangible impact on social and political polarisation although this effect is yet to be explored. The fact that populist parties and leaders are in power thus offers a novel opportunity to study the practice of their governance and policy making. In this respect, the case of Central and Eastern Europe seems particularly relevant as “in these countries, populism, if anything, is even more widespread” (Kriesi, 2014, p. 372) than in Western Europe.

Accordingly, our research has the ambition to conceptualise the specific features of populist policy making and to suggest a way in which to study this phenomenon. To this aim we theoreticaly address three core elements of policy making: substantive (the content), the procedural and the discursive patterns of populist policies. This syntesis working paper is structure as follows: After presenting the analytical framework and the methodology of the reaserch we reconstruct the implicit ideal type of policy making in liberal democracies. Then as an antithesis of the liberal type we elaborate an ideal type of populist policy making. Finally, we summarize the main findings of the congruence analysis in seven cases: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Turkey. The qualitativeassessment has a focus on three policy areas: criminal justice policy, economic policy and family policy. In the concluding part we discuss the implications of populist policy making on the polarisation of societies and the future of liberal democracies.