The Quality of Democracy & Populism in Western Balkans

Seminar with Dimitri A. Sotiropoulos, Oct 6th 2016
  • CC BY 2.0_Armel Le Coz_on_FlickrCC BY 2.0_Armel Le Coz_on_Flickr

Seminar with Dimitri A. Sotiropoulos:

The Quality of Democracy & Populism in Western Balkans in the Comparative Perspective of Contemporary European Politics

LIEPP is glad to invite you to attend the seminar held on:

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

12:30 pm - 2:30 pm

LIEPP's Conference Room

LIEPP's Office, 1st Floor, 254 bvd Saint-Germain

75007 Paris

Interested participants should register here

Dimitri A. Sotiropoulos (University of Athens, Greece) 

Abstract of the paper:

Assessments of the quality of democracy focus on deviations from the rule of law and decreasing levels of political participation, but do not adequately explore the mechanisms through which the quality of democracy decreases to the point of almost reaching a breaking point, without however becoming an outright dictatorship. Populism can be both a mode of political participation and a means of political domination. The linguistic turn in the study of populism has sidelined the study of social and organizational means which populist leaders use, after they ascent to power.

Populism in power, showing authoritarian tendencies, is on the rise in Europe and particularly so in the Western Balkans, where there is a theoretically interesting combination of populism with clientelism and corruption. These three phenomena combine as means of political domination in democratic regimes which have been derailed. Spanning the grey zone between illiberal democracy and outright authoritarianism, the regimes of Aleksandar Vucic in Serbia and Nikola Gruevski in FYR Macedonia purposefully use corruption and clientelism. They also rely on a distinct populist discourse, but also on social class bases and organizational means which are characteristic of populism.

Evidence from recent field research in Belgrade and Skopje is used to discuss how populism, clientelism and corruption are associated with a backsliding from electoral democracy, the reproduction of the same governing elites in power and the emergence of a new type of political regime. Comparable trends of derailment of democracy, based on a variety of other causes, can be traced in other West Balkan and East European countries.