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A defence of ‘populism’

December 1st, 2017

A conservative political analyst criticises the propensity of what he calls ‘technocratic political movements’ to label their opponents with popular ideas as populist. Such technocratic language, he suggests, is no less demagogic than the populist rhetoric against which they protest.

On Mandiner, Balázs Orbán, head of the pro-government Migration Research Institute interprets the surge of so-called populist parties as a consequence of a crisis of the old elites. Orbán warns against considering ‘populism’ as a political ideology. He suggests that it is a political doctrine that derives legitimacy from popular will rather than institutional arrangements. Orbán admits that ‘radical populist’ movements may weaken the rule of law, but also notes that legitimate rule requires popular consent as well, which is often overlooked by technocratic elites. The same technocratic elites like to label all their opponents as ‘populist’ and, consequently, as representing a danger to democracy with their tangible solutions to the concerns of everyday voters. The technocratic approach, Orbán believes, is no less politically motivated and demagogic than radical populism. Orbán concludes by remarking that the gravest danger to democracy is not polarization between ‘populists’ and ‘technocrats’, but rather the absence of real political debates and vision.