Comment: Is the rise of populism a threat to democracy?

Across Europe, there has been a significant rise in the influence of populist parties.

Centre-left and centre-right parties which dominated European politics after the Second World War have become less popular and there has been a shift towards the far-right.

This is partly because of the economic problems plaguing most countries. Capitalism has failed to work for ordinary people throughout the past few decades, and therefore more extreme ideas are on the rise.

In the UK, for example, homes have become unaffordable, jobs scarce, and austerity a constant presence.

There is also discontent over mass immigration and the supposed surrendering of national sovereignty, tradition and culture.

Populism tends to arise when people become disillusioned by their governments for failing to address problems which they deem to be important to them. For example, immigration.

Several European countries have experienced this and countries such as Bosnia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Serbia now have populist governments.

The largest political party in Poland is the Law and Justice Party (PiS) and it is a right-wing populist, national-conservative group founded in 2001. It has reduced the independence of courts and is using radio and television as a form of propaganda.

Hungary is run by the Fidesz Party, the Hungarian Civic Alliance, a right-wing populist party. It has adopted an anti-immigrant stance and is supportive of interventionist policies.

Both Hungary and Poland are moving away from liberal democracy and this is concerning.

We have also seen the rise of populism in the UK. Many British people are alienated by the benefits of globalisation.

The Brexit referendum was driven by a desire to regain ‘control’ and an anti-immigration sentiment that has caused populist parties such as the UK Independence Party (UKIP) to gain support.

Donald Trump’s election as president of the United States reflects the discontent of American people, and his seemingly racist comments and drastic proposals are not helping to uphold principles of liberalism and democracy.

His tendency to cosy up with traditionally hostile countries, such as Russia and North Korea, is also undermining democratic values.

Trump has neglected his allies and befriended others, recently inviting Putin for a visit to the USA in August next year during an ongoing investigation on Russia for interfering with the US election in 2016.

How can we save democracy? First, we must not let our decisions be clouded by emotion, but should consider the real consequences to decisions being made.

We must work hard to protect democracy through the hardest of times, as democracy is the best form of government, or the least worst, and a move towards right-wing dictatorship would be disastrous and a step back from progress.

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