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Parties and Populism

Sikk, A; (2009) Parties and Populism. (Centre for European Politics, Security and Integration (CEPSI) Working Papers 1). Centre for European Politics, Security and Integration (CEPSI), SSEES, UCL: London, UK. Green open access

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Populism remains a fashionable concept in comparative politics even though its ambiguity and strong normative connotations are widely recognized. The term is also used with considerably different meanings in academic jargon and in the mass media. Many new political parties have been dubbed populist aided by the fuzziness of the definition and the absence of clear operational criteria. That has resulted in the grouping together parties of vastly different nature and varying degree of democratic credentials. Many new parties in Central and Eastern Europe have appeared in niches already occupied by old parties – the paper discusses three such cases in the Baltic states. The key factor to their success has been the project of newness that naturally incorporates a degree of anti-incumbency. The appropriateness of using a loaded term like populism can be questioned if the level of political corruption among the incumbents is objectively one of the most important problems in a country. Drawing a line between conscientious anti-corruption stance and opportunistic anti-establishment rhetoric poses problems. Equating a critical style with populism risks not only overstretching the already overstretched concept but may to a serious normative bias in favour of status quo – whatever it may mean in a given country.

Type: Working / discussion paper
Title: Parties and Populism
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: http://www.ssees.ucl.ac.uk/cepsipapers.htm
Language: English
Keywords: political parties, populism, new parties, concepts
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > SSEES
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1400395
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