I have been sent an advance copy of the publication “Democracy, Populism and Minority Rights”, published today by the Socialist Group in the European Parliament, on the basis of a common seminar with the Renner Institute in Austria. The book is edited by Socialist Group MEPs Hannes Swoboda and Jan Marinus Wiersma although not all the contributors are socialists.
I must admit that I have not had time to look over the whole publication as yet, but 2 articles particularly caught my attention – those dealing with populist movements in Slovakia (article by Monika Benova) and Romania (article by Adrian Severin).
“The socialist Chairman Robert Fico had to choose from five right-wing oriented parties out of which two have a strong nationalist background, one is ultra-conservative and the other two are viewed as conservative in orientation.Â Finally, the choice was made in favour of the SNS (Slovak National Party) and the HZDS-S (the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia). Was this the right decision? Only time will tell.”
So, in short, Fico went for the 2 more extreme conservative parties (the anti-Hungarian SNS and MeÄiarâ€™s populists) rather that more moderate parties of the right. One wonders what price those on the left are willing to pay for power? Hard for someone within Fico’s party to answer I suppose.
Severin, on the other hand, takes a measured and theoretical approach to why populism has risen in Romania – his party, the Social Democrats, are currently in opposition after a period with Adrian NÄƒstase as Prime Minister until 2004 that was beset by numerous controversies. Today’s government, characterised by the tension between Traian BÄƒsescu (the President) and CÄƒlin Popescu-TÄƒriceanu (the Prime Minister) has fared little better and – after all – BÄƒsescu is best known for the populist yet effective policy of eliminating the street dogs in Bucharest. Need I say more.
Anyway, with its comparative perspective on populism there are plenty of lessons that mainstream political parties can learn from this. I just hope the Socialist Group puts the publication online to download!