Last month, one of The Economist’s cover stories highlighted the advent of “The new nationalism” in the world. In fact, this description needs to be qualified because the key figures at stake, if we go by the magazine’s list — Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan etc — embodied the triumph of national-populism, and, to some extent, authoritarianism.
While each national situation is specific, these new Caesars share common features illustrating different facets of these “isms”. To begin with, they have all conquered power by contesting elections. While de-democratisation is the order of the day globally, coups d’etat are not staging any comeback, elections remaining essential to political legitimacy. The question for these personalities is how to win them. Here they have capitalised on a whole set of common factors.
First, they have projected themselves as new men against old political establishments, whereas they were often already in politics for some time (but not centrestage) and part of the establishment (but not necessarily of the political establishment — of the business elite, for instance).
All these leaders cultivate a nationalistic style with a xenophobic overtone which may have an ethnic or religious flavour. This register is effective because of the competition between “us” and “them” on the job market, but also because of the popular fear of the Other due to terrorist attacks and other conflicts. Hence the instrumentalisation of the threat posed by migrants, separatists or Islamists. The new national-populists keep promoting themselves as the protectors of besieged nations and even, sometimes, foster tensions for making their discourse more relevant.
Businessmen fund the costly electoral campaigns of national-populists. They all resort to expensive international PR companies and invent new channels of communication, including holograms, in order to saturate the public sphere.
http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/an-era-of-caesars-trump-putin-erdogan-nationalism-populism-authoritarianism-4444811/National-populism is a phenomenon that is too new for conclusions to be drawn so far as its final outcome is concerned. Lessons can only be learnt from the trajectory of some of the oldest representatives of this league, Putin and Erdogan, who have taken over power democratically in countries which had benefited from the democratisation process of the 1990s with some of the most authoritarian historical backgrounds. While these cases may be somewhat extreme, they suggest that national-populists tend to accumulate power in their hands to such an extent that no checks and balances can survive. Constitutions have eventually to be reformed or twisted. Freedom of expression is gradually contained in the name of national interest and state security. Intellectuals and the judiciary are the first casualties — and then political opponents are at the receiving end.
How come this author missed Modi?
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