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Populism Against Democracy or People Against Democracy?


While populists claim that they will rejuvenate democracy if elected, they have promoted authoritarian regimes on many occasions. This transition from populism to authoritarianism reflects the affinities between these two in terms of personalization of power and delegitimization of opponents and institutions. Affinities are particularly obvious in the case of national populism that relates clearly to ethnic democracy (a form of illiberalism). Two other versions of authoritarianism—“electoral authoritarianism” and “sultanism”—match especially well with populism: the former fulfills the populists’ need to win elections for legitimizing his claim to “be the people” and sultanism kills three birds with one stone: its arbitrariness is in tune with the populist personalization of power, its patrimonial dimension gives him the resources he needs to win elections and the privatization of violence allows him to neutralize dissent. However, voters may reelect populists turned authoritarian: security may prevail over liberty, ethnic majorities pay mainly attention to the demotic side of democracy and transition from populism to authoritarianism is so incremental that people do not realize fully what’s going on.
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hal-03605734 , version 1 (11-03-2022)



Christophe Jaffrelot. Populism Against Democracy or People Against Democracy?. Contemporary Populists in Power, Palgrave Macmillan, pp.35-53, 2022, The Sciences Po Series in International Relations and Political Economy, 978-3-030-84078-5. ⟨10.1007/978-3-030-84079-2_3⟩. ⟨hal-03605734⟩
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