Grandiose projects on behalf of the people
There are several features of populist governments, but one of the primaries is that they constantly refer to people and their faith, and fight some elite
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He usually says those things that most of the people want to hear. He says it with words that the people themselves would say so that he would not only hear, but easily remember and transmit to their interlocutors. He talks about a range of measures and seems to know the smallest thing that happens in the state system. He often refers to the people, and although he refers to laws and institutions, he has no patience in dealing with their decisions so he mentions referendum and elections as the most direct democratic tool. Perhaps more politicians will be recognized in this description and the word that defines this behavior is a populist. The way of reign that keeps referring to people is not new. It is particularly specific for the countries of South America, but in recent years it has been more prevalent in the Balkans. However, analysts predict that it may be detrimental to the democratic process in the long run.
Presumably, in this description part of Macedonian citizens will recognize Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski. In these eight years the public have been accustomed to listen as he gives an assessment of the work of the Constitutional Court, what the opposition is like, the coalition partner, doctors, experts, professors, and of the open government meetings he has understood that he is interested and knows about every smallest project.
But it is also likely that part of Serbian citizens will recognize the newest political star in their country, Aleksandar Vucic.
Local analysts conclude that he is a demigod so he manages to be everywhere, knows everything and has an opinion about everything. He constantly makes new moves and says he sacrifices for Serbia. He has initiated a campaign against the political and financial elite that once he called oligarchy though as assessed there is a paradox because he himself is part of that elite. Actually Vucic is not a new politician. In the nineties he was minister for information and previously a MP in the Serbian Assembly from the Serbian Radical Party.
Such an attitude towards the public, the media and politics has generally marked the mandate of the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
On behalf of the people
The definition of this type of politicians actually puts them in the column – populists. Populism is a political doctrine which is with the people, against the elites.
Gruevski, Vucic and Erdogan repeatedly wish to refer to the people in their statements. So Macedonian Prime Minister once said that “the people are not guilty that we have such out of tune opposition“, then noted that “people see that we solve problems” and directly said that “VMRO DPMNE is a party of the people not the elites”.
His colleague from the north, Vucic, made the distinction among his party and the opponents with the statement, “while people were freezing some politicians went to solarium” thus trying to suggest that those are the ones with the people. He emphasizes that they would oppose those who plundered the people and he called the elections by the announcement “let’s check the will of the people” similar to Gruevski who urged “let’s have elections so that the people decide“.
Erdogan, who has been in power for a long time, finds that the State Council, judges and lawyers have made a “crime”, pointing out that “the Turkish people will judge it“. And he wants to emphasize the people as bearers of sovereignty and finds that he belongs neither to the government nor judiciary, but to the people.
– The characteristics of populism are imaginary struggle of the people against an elite, where leaders put themselves “close to the people” and against the elite, popular and easy promises that are often grand and national, buying social peace: lots of subsidies, increased state apparatus, high social transfers and spending on entertainment: monuments, buildings, celebrations, events, people not to be bored – explains analyst Petar Arsovski.
According to Professor Zdravko Saveski, on the Balkans populism usually comes from right-wing parties because of the space left by social democrats that, as successors of the communists, moved into elitists and forgot their base.
–Right-wing populism is mostly in line with playing on the national map and defending national interests in ethnic terms, not in terms of the people as a social category – says Saveski.
Compensation of the lack
According to him, right-wing populist reign finds support in the Balkans because in marketing sense they give certain social measures to people.
–Even though they are dosed and small, people do not perceive them that way, but something better than what they previously had – says Saveski.
Grandiose projects with which previously almost unthinkable becomes reality. Galleys in Vardar, Skopje beaches along the river, and willows in it, huge monuments and sculptures, Belgrade on water, channel under the Bosphorus.
Erdogan and Gruevski have realized their promises regardless of the fact that part of the public was suspicious of their implementation.
Belgrade on water has been just a promise so far, but according to opinion polls, the prime minister candidate Aleksandar Vucic could probably realize it as his election victory is almost certain.
According to some analysts these projects are only visible manifestation of populist rule.
–Populism is reflected in the fact that citizens are offered what they want instead of what they really need and it is in conflict with the real political leadership – Arsovski says.
According to the interlocutors, long-term populism can be dangerous.
–It is definitely dangerous in the long run. Populism undermines democracy and the series of measures, although individual and small, can in the long run threaten the basic foundations of democracy – says Saveski.
Last year there was a twist in Bulgaria. Boyko Borisov had undisputed power and when he was elected as prime minister he was considered to be a great fighter against corruption and the mafia. But years later he became favorite in Brussels, but not among the people. He left the government with a populist epithet and the reasons for this were several steps such as stopping important economic reforms, freezing unpopular health reforms, but he increased subsidies and pensions. And upon leaving he made a real drama saying that until the new elections he would not run government affairs and hoped that citizens would then soon forgive his sins.
Former Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha was also considered to be a populist succeeded by the leftist Edi Rama. Saveski, making a difference between the two types of populism, stressed that left populism was actually believed to give too much money to the people in terms of elites. But this kind of populism is still far from the Balkans. It is characteristic for the countries of Latin America.
Editor: Tamara Causidis