POPREBEL - Populist rebellion against modernity in 21st-century Eastern Europe: neo-traditionalism and neo-feudalism

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POPREBEL kodulehekülg.

Populist rebellion against modernity in 21st-century Eastern Europe: neo-traditionalism and neo-feudalism (POPREBEL) is a large Horizon 2020-funded research project on the rise of populism in Central and Eastern Europe. POPREBEL (Populist Rebellion Against Modernity) aims at taking stock of the recent rise of populism – in its various forms – in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), including the Western Balkans. Its trajectory is not just interesting in and of itself: it is also the harbinger of a possible future for the whole continent. It is urgent for Western Europeans to look into the CEE mirror, just as it is urgent for the CEE region to understand itself. We describe the phenomenon, create a typology of its various manifestations, reconstruct trajectories of its growth and decline, investigate its causes, interpret its meanings, diagnose its consequences, and propose policy solutions. Our focus is on the CEE region, but we will engage in comparisons with populisms in other parts of the world, particularly Western Europe.

The present wave of populist mobilizations in Europe is more politically consequential than any of the previous waves and it has already produced an ‘extraordinary’ [Brubaker 2017a, 2017b] reconfiguration of the political map of Europe. Populist parties have become significant political players in several countries, including Italy, Holland, Austria, France, UK, and Germany, and their number has almost doubled since 2000 (from 33 to 63) [Eiermann et al. 2018]. Brexit vote in the UK might have gone the other way had it not been for the campaigning by the populist UKIP.

At the beginning of 2019, right wing populist parties govern in two countries of the region – Hungary and Poland – and in several others populists have emerged as serious contenders for political power. ‘Populists are the strongest in Eastern Europe,’ concludes a recent comprehensive report [Eiermann et al. 2018]. We propose, therefore, to study the rise of populism in this part of Europe in order to draw lessons that will be applicable also to other countries. No doubt Eastern Europe has some specific features, but since the phenomenon is so intensely pronounced in that part of the continent we believe it is easier to diagnose the causes of its emergence, reconstruct its basic features, and formulate policy recommendations that may be helpful also in other contexts. We will, however, rely also on comparisons with other parts of Europe and the world when our specific tasks call for them.


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 6 of 6
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    Estonia: Empowering the Executive
    (Palgrave Macmillan Cham, 2022-12-02) Talving, Liisa; Ehin, Piret
    Estonia successfully curbed the spread of COVID-19 in spring 2020. The government reacted relatively rapidly to the crisis outbreak, declaring an emergency situation on March 12 and introducing measures such as closing schools, banning public gatherings, and restricting movement across borders. Saaremaa, the largest island and the epicenter of the virus, was isolated. A 2 billion-euro aid program was launched, including labor market support, sickness benefits, and tax incentives. Adjustment to the emergency situation was alleviated by Estonia’s advanced digital society. Levels of public compliance with the restrictions were, in general, high. While the government’s handling of the crisis is considered successful overall, the emergency situation facilitated the concentration of power in the hands of the executive. In a situation where normal parliamentary and societal debate were hampered, the government pushed through legislative proposals concerning migration, environment, and social affairs that extended beyond the immediate needs of the pandemic and that undermined democratic values.
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    Biopolitical Populism in Poland: The Case of PiS
    (Brill, 2020) Yatsyk, Alexandra
    This paper examines the discourse of PiS party in Poland as a form of biopolitical populism. I view this phenomenon as a specific style of political discourse rather than an ideology, that, first, focuses on bodily issues, including family and gender policy, sexual behavior, etc., second—it is inherently performative and as such it appeals to emotions, and, third—it directly communicates with “people” while circumventing the existing institutional framework of the state. Based on the cases of PiS rhetoric on the Smolensk catastrophe, and its narratives on gender and anti-LGBTQ issues, I demonstrate how the latter could be used for political othering and for subverting the core democratic principles. My data includes publications in Polish media and on social platforms (Twitter and Facebook), mostly before and after elections to European and national parliaments in May and October 2019, as well as during the presidential election in spring 2020.
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    Populism in Estonia and Slovakia: Performances, Transgressions, and Communicative Styles
    (Brill, 2020) Kazharski, Aliaksei; Makarychev, Andrey
    The paper relies on empirical evidence from Estonia and Slovakia to develop an understanding of populism as a performative and transgressive political performance. We argue that populism cannot be defined in ideological terms nor can it be attached to particular political subjects. Instead, it is a political style that can be adopted and mimicked by various subjects from extreme right to social liberal. The performativity of populism presupposes forms of transgression that disrupt the normalcy of political routine. Populist performances thus seek and construct an authenticity by taking politics outside of its conventional institutional frameworks. We examine the cases of EKRE in Estonia and ĽSNS and OĽaNO in Slovakia
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    Assessing Populism at Europe’s Margins: Pervasive, Performative, Persistent
    (Brill, 2020) Makarychev, Andrey; Crothers, Lane
    This special issue is a collection of articles whose authors explore different forms of populism in countries located beyond the Western core and therefore much less known to specialists in the field. The country-based case studies selected for this issue reflect diversity of populist forces in non-central polities in Europe. Each of them has a rich legacy of conflicts and controversies with major European powers, which serves as one of powerful sources of contemporary populist discourses, pushing many of them towards national reassertion and EU-skepticism.
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    Still second-order? European elections in the era of populism, extremism, and euroskepticism
    (2021-02) Ehin, Piret; Talving, Liisa
    The continued relevance of the second-order elections (SOE) theory is one of the most widely debated issues in the study of European Parliament (EP) elections. While the theory has been criticized from many angles, the recent success of populist, extremist, and Eurosceptic parties raises additional questions about the applicability of a model that depicts EP elections as a lowstakes affair revolving around national issues. This article tests the SOE model with party-level data from all 175 EP elections held between 1979 and 2019. While turnout in EP elections remains well below participation rates in national elections, the 2019 EP elections were marked by a significant reduction in the average turnout gap. Across all election years, party size is the most potent predictor of electoral gains and losses in EP elections. Incumbency is associated with electoral losses in most EP election years. These effects are moderated by the electoral cycle and the electoral system in some but not all years. The expectation that the SOE model performs worse in countries with fragmented party systems was not confirmed. All in all, the SOE model continues to wield significant explanatory power in both the West and the East.
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    Second-order effects or ideational rifts? Explaining outcomes of European elections in an era of populist politics
    (Cambridge University Press, 2020) Ehin, Piret; Talving, Liisa
    This article seeks to enhance our understanding of the European Parliament (EP) elections in an era of populist and anti-European Union (EU) politics. Specifically, it aims to evaluate both the conventional second-order elections theory as well as an alternative approach that regards EP elections as an arena for conflict between liberal-democratic Europeanism and populist, extremist and euroskeptic alternatives. It does so by deriving a series of hypotheses from both approaches and testing these with party-level data from all EU member states in the context of 2019 EP elections. Our results challenge both explanations. Party size is a robust predictor of electoral performance in EP elections, and its effect is moderated by electoral system design. While large parties lost votes across the EU, their losses were more pronounced in countries where national legislatures are elected under plurality or mixed systems. We find no evidence of incumbent losses or electoral cycle effects. Party-level populism, extremism and euroskepticism did not systematically predict electoral performance but party ideology appears to have moderated the effects of incumbency and party size. Incumbency was associated with vote gain among populist and far-right parties but not other parties, and the effect of size also varied across party ideologies. In sum, these results suggest that vote fragmentation in the 2019 EP elections is partly explained by electoral system design, while it was not driven by the desire to punish political incumbents. Populist and far-right parties in power appear to be particularly immune to punishing behavior often associated with EP elections.