[Answered]“Populism is a threat to democracy and national interests.” Illustrate with examples.

Demand of the question

Introduction. Contextual introduction.

Body. How populism is a threat to democracy and national interests?Measures to tackle populism.

Conclusion. Way forward.

Populism refers to a range of political philosophies that emphasise the idea of the people and against the privileged elites. When important concerns of the people are not addressed by the elites, the populist movements form to challenge the establishment. There are multiple consequences of populism.

Populism: a threat to democracy and national interests:

  1. Again representative institutions: Populism often turn against representative democracy. Populists reject pluralism. This threatens democracy and unity in diversity.For example, it is the duty of elected representatives to take care of their voters, populism threaten this.
  2. Authoritarianism: Populist movements are often led by charismatic leaders and have little internal democracy and accountability. These leaders tend to develop personality cults and, when they come to power, they often turn authoritarian.
  3. Against democratic defences: Populism is a threat to democracy primarily because it holds the potential of providing the state with a moral status that it otherwise lacks. For example,It is widely perceived by political parties that providing individual benefits is the surest way to win over voters, especially the poor. This perception is in accordance with our political tradition that is directed more at the individual voter than interest groups.
  4. Weak opposition: Populist often claim absolute moral superiority and possession of the whole truth. That makes them reject the legitimacy of the opponent. It erodes the respect for the dignity of political opponents and of minority groups and weakens the culture of reasoned debates. This lead to suppression of dissent which is major pillar of democracy.
  5. Majoritarian nationalism: Populism of the right, tends to acquire the form of majoritarian nationalism, unconstrained by minority rights. Thus minority voices are suppressed and denied fundamental rights.
  6. Corruption and abuse: It often results in a decline in rational debate about political issues. There is a high risk of corruption and abuse of power.For example, Political parties now see an opportunity to formalise and institutionalise such allurement and regard the median voter as a commodity to be purchased in the political marketplace.
  7. Divisive: Populist Nationalism is divisive and affects unity of the country. It cause damage to cohesiveness in the society by exploiting majority emotions.
  8. Hostility: Populism is hostile to ethnic, religious and racial minorities, and inhospitable to new migrants. This endanger peace and security in the society.For example, In U.S and Europe population groups are suffering from stagnating incomes, job losses, and social insecurity, rising inequality ,radicalisation, immigration issue leading to leaders taking populist decisions like Mexican wall, not allowing migrants in to a country etc.
  9. Social polarisation: The populists exploit loopholes and issues in order to polarise society. They try to divide people along religious, racial or linguistic lines to win elections through majoritarian tactics. Indian politics is replete with numerous examples of political parties competing in promising individual benefits such as social welfare pensions, loan waivers, housing, free power, etc.

Measures to tackle populism:

  1. Socialmedia should be regulated and held accountable for damaging a pluralistic, fact-based and hate-free political debate, in the same way as traditional media.
  2. Civil society organisations defending human rights and equality against populism should agree on a common agenda and strategy across identity politics divides.
  3. Participatory and deliberative platforms and initiatives (citizens’ assemblies, forums) should be embedded into the decision-making processes to balance the oligarchic tendencies of electoral democracy.
  4. Political parties (established and emerging) should seek to propose inclusive visions and programs that deliver benefits for all citizens, not only for a part of the voters.

There is no doubt that division in the face of an organised populist threat is problematic. Only rational thinking rather than impulsive feelings and anger can solve the problems of our times.Democracies work best when we remember that there is no one people or party or politician has a monopoly on knowing what the people want.

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