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Hit by Populism: Democracy in Ruins?

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Lessons from the Romanian Transition

image of Southeastern Europe

Populist parties’ dazzling success has been registered in numerous new and old Member states for a while; populism has occupied a crucial position in Romanian politics since the onset of post-communism, with constant emphasis on the iconic role of the people in the democracy, the role of the leader in public statements and in the party’s organisation, the promotion of Manichean and simplistic solutions to the political/economic agenda, as well as the constant use of direct and emotional appeals, etc. Within this framework, the research question is: can Romanian populism be understood as a “temporary” problem of adjustment and adaptation, or is it a deeper structural effect, which requires further attention, considering its potential threats to the stability of the post-communist regime? Considering populism as a multi-faceted phenomenon that cannot be traced to a unique structure or a single/specific agency, the conclusions suggest the existence of an osmotic relationship between deep-rooted populism and democracy in Romania, in the sense that it is difficult to clearly identify which is the cause of the other. As such, the Romanian specificity stems from the constancy of this phenomenon and, above all, from its potential for contamination: populist cries become national mainstream catchwords.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Political and Social Sciences, School of Political Sciences “Cesare Alfieri” University of Florence,


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