The Rise of Far-Right Populism Threatens Global Democracy and Security
This article, published online by the Center for American Progress (www.americanprogress.org), discusses the threat to democracy posed by rise of far-right populism in Brazil and around the world, an issue at the heart of ALI. The authors’ argument that the rise of populism is an affront to American values and a challenge to U.S. leadership, was a key motivation behind the development of ALI. Our mission is focused on the premise, echoed in the article, that the United States will need to adopt bold new policies, focused on American values, in order to combat populism both at home and abroad.
Brazil’s recent election of soon-to-be President Jair Bolsonaro demonstrated that far-right populism and authoritarian promises to restore law and order remain a potent and growing force in global politics. Bolsonaro’s campaign drew from a familiar playbook, placing at its heart an authoritarian and xenophobic vision of Brazilian society. He declared that he would not accept election results if he lost; defended Brazil’s decades-long brutal military dictatorship; threatened to shoot supporters of the opposing Workers’ Party; and vowed to pack the country’s supreme court with sympathetic jurists and persecute media critical of him. Like many right-wing populists around the world, Bolsonaro embraced racist, homophobic, and misogynist rhetoric, achieving a level of provocation so incendiary that the country’s attorney general charged then-candidate Bolsonaro “with inciting hatred and discrimination against blacks, indigenous communities, women and gays.”
We’ve seen this before. Bolsonaro’s rise to power is only the latest chapter in a global resurgence of right-wing, illiberal populism. Far-right populist parties across Europe have seen a surge in public approval, making parliamentary gains in 15 of the 27 EU member countries over the past two election cycles. Far-right parties made the most significant gains in Italy, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and Estonia, winning 5 percent more in vote shares. Additionally, the right-wing Fidesz party cemented its control over Hungarian politics with 49.3 percent of the vote shares in their April 2018 election, even though their vote share only increased by 4.4 percent from 2014 to 2018. Simultaneously, public support for democracy in many countries has declined—with the exception of Western democracies, where support has rebounded in recent years.
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