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There is a long tradition of the rise of nationalist movements in the world that goes back to the 1980s. They have been turned into political parties since the inception of many nationalist activities that have achieved high levels of performance, especially in Western democracies. As seen in the 1990s, the popularity obtained by the first protests produced the evolution of such behavior to be very widespread in many countries in Western Europe. Mudde (2014) claims that in every conversation between ruling forces and those in the opposition, the current world exhibits characteristics. Several schools of thought have been forwarded trying to explain the rising populist processes in the world and their impact on the existing democracy. As such, the core of discussions involving populism in the world is the aspect of its impact. A wide section of scholars argues that populism is a threat to established liberal democratic systems in the world. Mudde stated _x0093_maybe the arguments of populists are true and that could explain why they are so successful_x0094_ (2014, p. 553). Taking an example of Western and Central Europe countries, it is clear that established democracies are under threat by emerging populism phenomenon (Krastev, 2008). However, Margaret Canovan argues that _x0093_Trust the people! Populism and the two faces of democracy” is a clearly articulated argument that discusses the main menaces of populism to democracy. Therefore, the question for consideration in this paper will be; can populism be perceived as a real threat to an established democratic system? In this regard, I agree that populism is hazardous to established democratic systems.
Decker (2013) believes that democracy populism is common because of the existence of “the people”. Understanding the definition of this aspect is important to realizing its threat to established order. There are three main approaches that form the basis of determining populism. These are as follows: populism as some right-wing parties, as a respectable way of using political power to one_x0092_s advantage, and as an ideology (Akkerman, 2013). On the other hand, populism can be percepted as a movement that manifests itself by protests of social organizations and groups, but it follows elections or referenda as a basis of political activities (Meny and Surel, 2012). Mudde (2014, p. 544) defines populism as “as an ideology that considers society to be ultimately divided into two homogeneous and antagonistic groups, _x0091_the pure people’ versus _x0091_the corrupt elite,’ and argues that politics should be an expression of the general people.” Thus, this paper will consistently follow the definition of populism offered by Mudde as a simple creation of homogenous antagonistic groups where the one is comprised of the people and the other is led by the corrupt elite.
The major argument in this essay is that populism is a real menace to established democracies in the world. As such, this matter can only be realized by acquiring an insight that the threat posed by populism is provided through two conflicting styles. According to Margaret Canovan, these are pragmatic and redemptive approaches of politics (1999). Similarly, Meny and Surel (2012) demonstrate given two contrasting styles as the power of the nation and authority of the elite chosen by citizens. The perception created by Canovan demonstrates that populism emerges as a result of a lack of balance pressure created by liberal constitutionalism and democratic majoritarianism. This aspect forms two main preconditions for populism movements to be created. However, it is argued that the law should remain supreme authority and this way the will of the majority establishes the main source of legitimization. Canovan (1999, p. 9) states that _x0093_tension […] provides the stimulus to the populist mobilization that fallows democracy like a shadow_x0094_. This concept indicates that populism evolution can take place even at the core of democracy itself.
There are two main features of populism that are correlative with establishing a danger to democracy. For example, populism parties are clearly different from general political forces. Firstly, political parties have a different perception and understanding of “the people” and leadership. Canovan (1999) creates three appeals from the understanding of the term “the people.” Firstly, it means a country is observed as the one divided into two factions of political parties. Canovan believes that _x0093_people_x0094_ do not only limit to citizens of that country, but this is any person who shares the same _x0093_blood_x0094_ (Canovan, 1999). However, in theory, it is obvious and easy to identify a population or any formation where a populist movement is advancing.
An established democratic system does not have a recognized barrier that can manage the influence of populism. In this regard, democracy is more prone to vulnerability to any populist propaganda and criticism (McDonnell, 2008). In a populist phenomenon, it is evident that populists are concerned with more leadership obtained from little participation as it was its initial understanding of more participation with diminishing leadership. It is common to find many people around the world who are not interested in politics, and there is need for charismatic leaders who will promote their will. Conversely, the main focus of populists does not in any way support democracy, but has restricted reservations on the impact of political machinations (Mudde, 2014). Thus, one side of populism does not oppose democracy completely, but it requires a democratic system, elections and voting, to achieve its primary goals. In reality, it is the idea of institutions concerned with liberal democracy that forms the basis of a populist criticism.
Populism as a phenomenon rejects and does not agree with limitations set on the expression of a popular will. An example is a protection of minority rights and independence of constitutional bodies in a country (Mudde, 2014). This is a serious threat to democracy because populists will create their own ideal political system. Therefore, an increased manifestation of illiberal democracy is the whole mark of populism that poses a great menace to established political order. On the other hand, populism is exclusive in nature making its activists intolerant, racist, and xenophobic in many occasions, the activity excludes individuals who do not meet their definition of “the people.” For instance, the Lega Nord is a populism movement that has a strong hard-line position regarding Muslim foreigners and multiculturalism. In many democracies, the impact of populist movements is observed as hostility created towards intellectual, economic, and political leaders. Here, delegitimization of political opponents makes a notion that they are not adversaries, but rather are evil enemies to the country. In this regard, a populist movement destroys a symbolic framework unto which a political stage that initiates a democratic struggle is understood (Abts & Rummens, 2007). As such, such a democracy will experience a permanent situation of conflict that will not promote any further development of a prosperous democracy.
Populist parties increase the chance of racism and xenophobia, especially when intense radicalism is practiced. This is because its radical nature influences and motivates people’s thoughts and advances political acts. Majorly, populist actions will establish the evolution of racist violence and any attack on immigrants. Contrary, forceful behavior is often common in populist movements. In some cases, the expulsion of perpetrators is a clear indication that political parties are not involved in violence (Eatwell and Mudde, 2009). According to Posquino, populism can result in abrupt aspects when it is affected by excessive expectations that are unable to be delivered.
According to the Pericles_x0092_ assumption of democracy, it is not wise to jump into an action unless its implications are completely debated. A populist culture can be a threat to political stability because its plebiscitary perception of democracy leads to a situation of being victims of truth. Populist opinion is very responsive because the activists are determined by mood, and this makes it irresponsible. As such, the movement favors decisions rather than patient negotiations leading to a diminishing quality of a decision-making process (Decker, 2013). In this regard, populism may be considered as an anti-pluralistic ideology when it gets to power which is a real threat to any established fundamental rules of a democratic system. This matter is consistent with a populist theory of voting that promotes the tyranny of the majority.
Populism is not only a menace to activities of political parties, but it is also a major source of concern for parliamentary legislations. In many democracies, the ruling elite respond to demands of populist movements in several ways that cause antagonism. The ideology propagated by populism forms the basis of response. For example, right-wing populism in Germany has been treated very hard compared to left-wing parties. Similarly, in France, the communist party of France was forced to be accepted as a part of a socialist coalition whilst its counterpart the French National party was rejected by the right-wing and left-wing parties. The ideal strategy for dealing with a challenge of populism is to compete and possibly defeat this movement through cooperation, hostility, and marginalization. In other cases, parties will exclude populist coalitions portraying them as enemies of the system and refusing any cooperation with them at any level (Mudde, 2007). Lack of cooperation is a restriction to advancing democracy in a particular country.
In conclusion, populist emergence is a demonstration of a crisis in a democratic system leading to a feeling by a section of people that their dissatisfaction cannot be heard. On the other hand, democracy is founded on the ideals of openness and a diverse society that is built on an integrated political stage. This aspect is contrary to the ideals promoted in a populist society that focuses on a closed, collective identity that discourages individuality (Abt and Rummens, 2007). In its initial stages, populism starts as a threat to the existence of democracy, but issue this advances to a more complicated problem that concerns the realization of fundamental objectives of democracy. At the start of populist movements, the activities do not have much influence, but as populist coalitions become a part of the government and acquire power, they are able to implement plebiscitary democratic ideologies. The main threat posed by populism is its erosion of openness and cohesion of democracy through the effect of prejudice, bigotry, and self-righteousness. Therefore, according to Canovan, “Trust the people! Populism and the two faces of Democracy” is a true statement because populism is a menace to the existence of democracy. The movement also requires elements of a democratic society like elections or a referendum to achieve its objectives.
Abts, K. and Rummens, S. 2007. Populism versus democracy. Political Studies, 55(2), pp. 405-424.
Albertazzi, D. and McDonnel, D. 2008. Twenty-first century populism. The specter of Western European democracy. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
Canovan, M. 1999. Trust the people! Populism and the two faces of democracy. Political Studies, 41(1), pp. 2-16.
Decker, F. 2013. The populist challenge to liberal democracy. [Online] Available at: [Accessed Nov. 16, 2017]
Eatwell, R. and Mudde, C. 2009. Western democracies and the new extreme right challenge. New York: Routledge.
Krastev, I. 2008. The populist movement. The Prague Journal of Central European Affairs, 11(4), pp. 43-45.
Meny, Y. & Surel, Y. (2012). Democracies and populist challenge. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Mudde, C. (2007). Populist radical right parties in Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Mudde, C. (2014). The Populist Zeitgeist. Governance and Opposition, 1(1), pp. 541-563.

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