The spectre of populism is haunting Europe

The victory of the Syriza party in Greece last week end could open the Pandora box of the European fears of populism. Is that the case?

grecia-syrizaPopulism is a label often used to describe different kind of political movements. In the conventional wisdom, the word contains a negative value judgment, referred to some forms of populism that historically have been developed. On the other hand, it entails a strong protest towards the political establishment distant from the need of the citizens. In time of individual uncertainness of the severe economic, political and social crisis, the populism can be a successful answer to the fears of many.

Though Parties like Syriza, Podemos, Front National, Movimento Cinque Stelle, la Lega Nord, Ukip, People’s Party, FPO, Alternative for Germany and even Pegida have some features of populism, they have also deep differences among them.

Starting with commonalities. All of them are antiestablishment movement, they criticize the economic restrictions imposed by the Eu on their public spending, they profess a stronger political participation, they intercept the disaffection of citizens from the traditional parties and they prosper condemning the social consequences of the economic crisis.

On the other hand, they have strong differences. Some forces like The Front National, the Ukip, la Lega Nord, Alternative for Germany are right parties. Others, like Syriza and Podemos, belongs to the left. Others, like the Movimento 5 Stelle, refuse a political positioning, declaring himself beyond that division.

Moreover, there are social differences among their voters. The “Mediterranean” parties have young voters (with less than 30 years) basically protesting for their unacceptable unemployment condition (beyond 50% in Greece and Spain and 40% in Italy). On the contrary, the parties of the north of Europe have older voters (with more than 40 years and even 50) expressing their anxiety for the competition of the young immigrants looking for a job in their country (see Tito Boeri, La Voce).

More than dangerous revolutionary extremists taking the power in European countries in the near future, the wave of populisms that has risen is the harbinger of the ultimate crisis of the Eu institutions. The Eu need to solve its democratic deficit in order to fill the gap of the lost credibility. There is a need of more accountability and responsiveness and less bureaucracy in the Eu politics.

For years, the blame shift towards the Eu has been used by national governments to pass unpopular decisions . Today, the Eu has lost the credibility for taking charge of the incompetence of national government to pass the needed structural reforms in order to exit to the economic crisis.

The result of the Greek election could ignite a 2015 of political affirmation for antiestablishment movements, but the spectrum of political instability after the economic recession and the severe socio-economic crisis is not a one track train.

The Eu possess the instruments and the capacity to regain the lost momentum, modifying some of its rules and using its policies in better ways. The national governments need to take courageous  reforms and paving the way to the future. Politics has to come back and take the lead. Consistent political decisions will follow. Antiestablishment forces can help to accelerate the change and promote more democracy, without disseminating fears.

Also thanks to the decision of the European Central Bank lead by Mario Draghi on the quantitative easing, the European feta populism 2.0 is less revolutionary than it seems. In the last days Tsipras has been amid to show a balance and a more moderate attitude in the request of renegotiating the public debt of Greece. Thus the government led by Syriza (and Podemos in Spain could follow, on the same path considering the pools) is more likely to be compared to the economic successful Lula one in Brazil than to the revolutionary one of Chavez in Venezuela.

Domenico Fracchiolla

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