Ne te quaesiveris extra, the golden rule of Ralph Waldo Emerson, seems to have recently backfired. Central Estern European authorities have internalised it to such an extent that they rarely listen to any arguments coming from others. This tendcency to “trust thyself” plays well into the hands of populists who have no problem with exploiting it to the fullest.
A populist in a democracy has to attract support first by continuously emphasizing threats, such as terrorism – and offering himself as an effective strongman. An authoritarian leader can enforce this sentiment from above, only using threats as a justification (or even posing a threat himself).
What if I told you that the poorest EU member state is a country in which economic populism is more often the rule of a thumb, rather than an exception? Would that surprise you, or would you think it is a fate just deserved by both the Bulgarian public and its government?
Protagonists of the free market have been therefore put into a somewhat defensive position and in the public debate we have been increasingly facing populist arguments for less competition and more state intervention. However, the battle will certainly not be won by simply denying the shift of paradigms.
The primary goal of populist politicians is to capture (or rather to “buy”) political support, win elections or keep political power. Therefore, they do not use tools necessary to bring long-term prosperity to the people but rather take advantage of whatever can guarantee them short-term political gains.
Central European countries remain committed to a parliamentary system of governance as opposed to the presidential system favored by most of their counterparts in the former Soviet bloc. Their stories were supposed to have happy endings and make Central Europe a valedictorian of the European Union. Unfortunately, this did not last long.
The democratic backlash and the illiberal tendencies in countries like Hungary, Poland and Slovakia are often characterized with the label of populism. This “new politics” in Central Eastern Europe has introduced a majoritarian model of democracy, where the elected leaders are empowered to fulfill their political agenda.
The present day Hungarian radicalism is a topic worth investigating as it is often featured in the media, it frequently enters everyday conversations as well as expert debates. However, we do not even have a clear definition of the word “radicals” as it carries different connotations for different individuals.
The new Polish right-wing government is often labelled as nationalistic, populistic and radical. However it tries to reject this epithets, they are all true. The “good change” is a political slogan of the Law and Justice government that marks the major shift that has recently been introduced in Poland.
The influx of both economic migrants and refugees to the European Union in 2015 and 2016 have initiated a heated debate across many European countries which have previously not been confronted with such a phenomenon. The humanitarian crisis led to the outburst of migrants and asylum seekers fleeing their homes and entering Europe.