The Speaker
Thursday, 30 November 2023 – 04:01
Photo Credit: GP61editor (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Does the election victory of Petr Pavel signal a change in the fight against Populism?

NOTE: This is an opinion article – any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Speaker or any members of its team.

Last week on January the 27th and 28th the Czech Republic went to the polls to decide upon their new president. The two frontrunners, Andrej Babis and Petr Pavel represented a continuation of the incessant tug-of-war in the modern world of politics.
Babis, a billionaire aligned with Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban and Vladimir Putin, faced off against Petr Pavel, an Ex-Nato General who is firmly committed to the EU and NATO whilst also backing Liberal Social policies such as Gay marriage.
This battle between Liberal politicians and Populists has been seen across the globe: in France Macron faced off against populists from both sides, in the US Joe Biden against Donald Trump, in Sweden with Magdalena Andersson against Jimmie Akesson and many more cases to name but a few. Many would argue that this ‘populist wave’ stems from the Initial election of Donald Trump back in 2016, which was then followed by the elections of Jair Bolsonaro and the rise of now Italian Prime minister Georgia Meloni.
Populism for a while seemed to be an unstoppable force, with the wave of populism touching all corners.

It seemed a force that would never slow, however in recent elections populists have lost momentum and many have been pushed from power.
The Czech election is no exception to this, it joins a list that is getting ever longer of populist defeats. However, this election, while it may seem significant, is not the turning point in the fight against populism. I personally believe the ‘fight against populism’ is not one that will end in a knockout – I believe that Populism is here to stay and will remain a constant threat in elections for the foreseeable future.
I believe this for a few reasons. Firstly, the nature of populism means that it can be used by both sides to galvanize voters – while commonly associated with Right-wing politicians most notably Trump there is also a large contingent of Left-leaning progressive populists namely Lula, Bernie Sanders, and Jeremy Corbyn. Secondly, populism like most other things in politics can be subtle and moderate in its nature – this is best exemplified by Jeremy Corbyn who for a populist is significantly more reserved than his counterparts like Donald Trump or Viktor Orban.
That said, while I do not believe that this Czech election has turned the tide on Populism I do however believe that it has dented the sort of Populism associated with Viktor Orban and Lukashenko, which could be best described as Authoritarian Populism – which in and of itself is a massive step in the right direction. However, this is only my observation and who knows what the future of populism brings.

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