The Institute for Democracy “Societas Civilis” Skopje held a presentation of the study “The Populist Citizen: Why do the citizens support populist leaders and policies in North Macedonia?”, which investigates the societal demand for populist leaders and policies in North Macedonia.
Vlora Rechica, Researcher and Head of the Centre for Parliamentary Support and Democratization at the Institute for Democracy, gave opening remarks at the event. She said that following the work of many leading scholars the study argues “that populism exists as a set of widespread attitudes among the people and that these attitudes must be explored for us to understand what triggers populism demand,” adding that “the starting point of the study was the definition of populism as a “thin” ideology that assumes that the society is, above all, divided into two homogeneous and conflicting groups – the “common people” on the one hand and the “corrupt elite” on the other; and which argues that politics must be an expression of the general will of the people.”
The keynote speech was delivered by leading scholar of populism and the radical right, Professor Cas Mudde from the School of Public and International Affairs, University of Georgia.
Mudde said that populism is a thin ideology that considers societies to be openly separated into two homogeneous and antagonistic groups – the pure people versus the corrupted elite.
“Theoretically, at the heart of populism is antagonism to liberal democracy. Populism is always problematic for liberal democracy because it doesn’t accept pluralism and it doesn’t accept compromise, the core of democratic systems. Today, in Europe, the populist threat very clearly comes from the right-wing. Populism is illiberal democratic, it does want people to elect their leaders, and it does believe that politics should follow the general will of the people. At the same time, it doesn’t accept minority rights, has problems with separation of powers and the rule of law”, emphasized Mudde.
The study findings were presented by Misha Popovikj, Senior Researcher and Head of the Centre for Good Governance at the Institute for Democracy and Jovan Bliznakovski, Assistant Professor at the Institute of Sociological, Political and Juridical Research, Ss. Cyril and Methodius University and associate at the Institute for Democracy.
Talking about the findings from the study, Popovikj said that there is no particular association between personality traits and populist disposition.
“Actually, we find some relationship with social space of values which are politically contextual. They are, of course, accumulated values but they can be overtime changed with policy intervention. Similarly, there can be policy intervention that can decrease the acceptability of the population to conspiracy theories”, stressed Popovikj.
According to Bliznakovski, as the trust in institutions drops, populist thinking goes up.
“Whenever people believe that they are excluded from the system, whenever they believe that they don’t get their voices heard, it amplifies the populist ideology within a person. Secondly, we found that people who believe more in conspiracy theories also tend to engage in populist ideology. And finally, authoritarianism also amplified populism”, said Bliznakovski.
You can read the study in the English language here:
You can read the study in the Macedonian language here:
You can read the study in the Albanian language here:
You can watch the video from the discussion here: