Faces of Populism: Prof. Norbert Merkovity

University of Szeged Faculty of Law and Political Sciences

“The economic difficulties that Europe had to face have created a general dissatisfaction among the citizens. Due to the disappointment of the traditional political parties, a new era of populist leaders have emerged in European politics. But what is populism? Who are populists? How does it affect democracy? These frequently asked questions have been answered by many scholars in many different ways. Instead of arguing the altering concept of populism the objective is to investigate how the politicians themselves see populism: how they perceive the connection between democracy and populism, why the populist rhetoric can be successful, and how the media contributes to it.

The politicians’ perception of populism suggests that after all the global phenomenon of populism has many faces with diverse effects on the society. Three different variations of populism can be observed: (1) populism that must be used during political and election campaigns, because politicians and parties want to show difference. This populism could be found mainly in the political sphere and resonates with the electorate. When politicians want to realise what they promised in campaigns then (2) populism is observable in the political and the social sphere, where the electorate will use same phrases. While populism could lead to changes in laws, constitutions, too, therefore, (3) transformative populism will have effects on social, political and media system.

As we can see, there is no good or bad forms of populism, but there are different faces of it that could be used for good or bad purposes.”

Professor Norbert Merkovity, University of Szeged