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Covid-19: impact on ‘populism’

Democracies throughout the world are facing increasing challenges from their failings, rise of ‘populism’ and damage to economies wrought by pandemic Covid-19. The trends are towards ill-liberalism, authoritarianism, racism, and narrow nationalism by certain populist leaders.

The phenomenon of populism has preceded COVID-19 pandemic since the last decade. Originally, populism grew in Central and Eastern Europe in 2018. The popularity of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage in the UK were not significant. Matteo Salvini in Italy and Marine Le Pen in France were unequivocal but almost insignificant compared to Jaros?aw Kaczy?ski in Poland and Viktor Orbán in Hungary.

It was a hot topic in world politics from 2017-2019, up until the end of 2019. Various factors coalesced to form this movement which is neither a philosophy nor a doctrine. It has an assortment of ultra-leftist and far-rightist groups with main antecedents traced to the 2008 financial crisis. Anti-elite in disposition, it is against big business, political leaders, intellectuals and company magnates. It holds them responsible for economic gap, poverty and exploitation. But in 2020 things seem to be changing significantly.

The COVID-19 crisis is unprecedented, rapid and growing just as it was unexpected. It is the biggest social, political, and economic challenge the world has faced since the end of WWII. Populism of right and left varieties derives its strength from use of symbols. That slogan shaped and catalyzed the populace when Donald Trump used the slogan: “Make America Great” and Boris Johnson in Britain said: “Take back control: get Brexit done” — slogans which led to their respective victories in national elections. These symbols are wrapped around the nation-state which is still the main actor to galvanize people.

Of course, slogans and narrative are not the only game. With Coronavirus, they are integrating the narrative on nationalism by terming the virus as the ‘Chinese virus.’ This ties in with President Trump’s policy of sealing borders, anti-immigration and anti- China policy. Whether the pandemic crisis will strengthen or weaken the rise of populism is worth considering? In fact, as a Third World major crisis after 9/11 and 2008 financial crisis, it shall have socio-political impacts far and wide. One such area where it might impact is on populism: nearly 12-15 countries in European have populists running the government or as allies. Both so-called liberal and conservative populists are arguing endlessly on opposite sides of the spectrum by defending their respective positions.

Dr Maqsud Nuri, "Covid-19: impact on ‘populism’," Business recorder. 2020-07-28.
Keywords: Social sciences , Economics , Financial crisis , Economic challenge , Pandemic crisis , Matteo Salvini , Boris Johnson , Itley , America

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