The Populism of the Political Discourse.

Metamorphoses of Political Rhetoric and Populism



South East European University, Macedonia


Abstract: While historically populism has been tended to be an attribute of the right oriented political parties, since the ideological shifting of ideological orientation of the parties and its disrupted relevance in the last few decades across Europe, today at some segments populism is more and more present in the political discourse of parties attempting to achieve their goals regardless of their ideological orientation or heritage. Populism seems to be a new-old means for the conquest of hearts of the people by those political parties in government or opposition that may be left, right or central oriented. The transformed approach of the political actors has been transforming as well as the concept of the populism from an ideological label toward a mean for a massive winning of votes and support for candidates in the political campaigning. The latter more and more is conducted with uninterrupted rhetoric through the entire period of political activity and not only in front of elections. Especially with the enormous grow of the use of social networks in the political campaigning, populism is finding its way within the political discourse of political actors and programs transforming itself into a fast-track way to come to power via practicing the symbolic politics.


Keywords: populism, political discourse, political rhetoric.





The general approach in trying to explain the contemporary forms of populism of the 21st century via the central role played by ‘‘the people’’ in the political discourse of political parties and programs, seems to be short in addressing the complex notions in the studies of the populism in recent political theory as far as a the new transformed forms of populism and its derivatives are scattered. The growth of the relevance of global politics, state’s reshuffled concepts and increased frequencies of transcendent political processes are shaping other kinds of grounds and scopes for the massive rhetoric policies in the 21st century, different from those traditional concepts treating populism as a label to distinguish the authoritarian rule and a way of right wing parties to mobilize ‘‘the people’’ against an undemocratic elite.

The transformation of the political landscapes has been reflected with the transformation of populist concepts and forms that seems to be more demanding within the political process and transforming the politics of masses mobilization to an indicator for the types and forms of the rhetoric use within the political discourse and as a reference to an attribute to the new political cultures.

The classical conception of populism via the central and cause of ‘‘the people’’ may seem too nebulous and too emotive. Today it is difficult to imagine the concept of populism as not worth analysing without the associated populist rhetoric within the political discourse. Instead of traditional approach in studying it as term that refers to the recurrent phenomenon of a manipulative movement directed by an authoritarian or totalitarian leader in the attempt of keeping the control of the masses with aggressive and not-accountable policies, today the new way of populism may refer to the recurrence of the phenomena directed by a charismatic leader who is able to mobilize both urbanized and rural masses with promises of inflationary public spending, seasoned by rhetorical attacks on the power of the local elites and of foreign corporations[1]. In this view the transformed populism does not anymore necessarily recall the ancient ambiguity that made Roman and Greek democracy seem a short cut to tyranny.

Not only as Shils would raise the question that the themes of inflationary economics and inflammatory rhetoric are close enough to some aspects of populism to have allowed hostile critics to cast doubt on the latter’s democratic credentials, but rather rhetoric and populism are almost merged to a common practice and it is more and more difficult to recognize any form of populism or rhetoric without each other.

The transformed populist conception of the 21st century is pretending to position itself as a substantial element of the new political culture of many nations even with a liberal economy and democratic tradition as in more and more countries for instance of today’s Europe nationalists have developed within their political programs an equally revolutionary discourse about the people characterized by a mixture of forms of cultural populism and ethnic nationalism. Consequently, the political programs of the political parties are being substituted by empty discourses of what are called popular aspirations, destined to control the masses and to impose a political regime with varying degrees of authoritarian undertones[2].

The transformed conception and practices of populism and their fused cycles with the rhetoric within the political discourse are becoming more frequent and in their conquest they call to “the people” in a sophisticated way whatever this collective group might be, and use it for the purpose of political mobilization.  From a political tradition once especially prevalent in Latin America through various European and North American movements, in today’s politics populism tends to mobilize masses of various segments of society against the existing institutions of the state all around the world. All this is accompanied by a strong psychological control of a quasi- democratic or quasi- authoritarian leader disguised under the clothes of the popular charismatic leader.



Populism is a form of mass politics. Historically, its essential idea resides in a representation of or acting in the name of ordinary or common people and masses and opposing those elites, privileged groups, the establishment, etc.[3]. Populism means having mass popular support, or acting in the interests of the people, hence its derivation from the Latin ‘populus’. The use of the term of ‘populism’ varies widely, having tenuous connections with one or another of these aspects. For many analysts ‘populism’ became a convenient general term to cover any kind of radicalism based on or aimed at rural rather than urban populations[4]. While the ‘classical’ Latin American populism initially represented by Peron in Argentina, Haya de la Torre in Peru, Cardenas in Mexico and Betancourt in Venezuela initially emerged in the 1930s–40s as a strategy to win political support among the unionized proletariat within the struggle by arousing urban elites to attain or consolidate power, in the 21st century a ‘populist’ phenomenon is no longer considered to represent threats to democracy arising inflexibly out of the masses’ political emancipation.

In the latter context, populism means a power in the hands of the people to be practiced in a direct way by voting in referendums that are usually initiated by popular initiative. In political science literature this sort of devices is known as ‘direct democracy’[5], implying that in this respect the populist cause is the cause of democracy. And that opens a road to the use of political rhetoric and oratory even by non-authoritarian leaders in the sense that with the growth of communication and especially the enormous growth of the use of social network platforms like Facebook and Twitter a linkage between the leader and the mass is more and more developed in a direct way, rather than mediated through organizations or media outlets.

Ironically, this context of populist democracy (balancing democracy with the people’s unmediated decisions) has been criticized by one of the main theoreticians in the field of democracy studies, Robert Dahl, even in the mid of the 20th century when he was rather offering a model of political equality, popular sovereignty and majority rule that was too simple to have much application to the real world of politics[6].

In essence the contemporary populism of the 21st century doesn’t differ so much from the previous practices and concepts of populism, however it differs in terms of its manifested forms, its perception in terms of the style of leadership and its role in terms of democracy. It is taking more and more ground within the political discourse of political actors and concepts through attempts of sparking and shaping some polarized agendas and practicing some highly irrational form of politics in the sense that it attracts advanced level of support on an emotive or moralistic basis rather than an interest or programmatic framework.

For instance, many political organizations that are fast developing all around the world are following the trend that despite their own rhetoric a manifestation of their traditional components of the populism, transform themselves or re-start up as a political organization mass-based, populist, supported mainly by the urban environment and lower classes, using a cell-based structure, embracing religious reformism and using social network platforms as tool of communication, operation, training and recruitment. The latest case is that of the Arab Spring movements at the beginning of 2010 in Northern Africa which subsequently continued with various forms of protests and networking in certain parts of Asia and Europe.

And even before them the political discourses of these kinds of movements have emphasized political empowerment, lack of corruption, culturally ‘authentic’ values, transparent distribution of public resources, etc. Despite their currently waning popularity, it is important to note that this emphasis mirrors precisely that of nationalist and socialist groups, and it is no coincidence that all these movements, despite their ideological differences, emerged in opposition to both authoritarian regimes domestically and the interference of great powers internationally[7].

Many winners of electoral processes in many post-communist countries of Eastern and Central Europe and even within members states of the EU owe their victories of winning the power to the new metamorphosed way of populism, rhetoric and oratory that is characterized by an anti-theoretical and anti-intellectual speech rather than by a coolly analytic, expository, explanatory, or abstractly elaborated theory or ideology from one side and due to the support base constructed by a discourse that attempts to promote an identity as the ‘people’ rather than a class, and sometimes aimed at neutralizing class identities. The metamorphosed cycles of populism and political rhetoric is associated with a political discourse delivered by a particular leadership style that is specifically personalized, strong and sometimes quasi- charismatic leadership.

The metamorphosed populist rhetoric has a tendency to be a set of threads for both right- and left-wing concepts, with a strong focus on leadership on the one hand, and calls for popular equality on the other hand and in most of the cases associated with a high level of intolerant position on the traditional conception of civil liberties.

The rest of the traditional components of populism has prevailed furthermore within the political discourse of populist governments and political parties in a typical way almost all around as a set of forms of political rhetoric and continue to manifest themselves as:

oMobilization or collective action from below, with deep roots in local communities.

oA reform or anti-status quo movement.

oA multi-class or non-class based coalition.

oA heteronymous or politically subordinated, mass-support base, lacking autonomous power and subordinated to the leader and/or the interests of another class in the coalition.

oA set of economic policies or an economic model that emphasizes growth, distribution, and demand-side stimulation, and deemphasizes fiscal and market constraints.[8]

Contemporary populism of the 21st century generally consists of electoral support mobilization by leaders who make strong direct, rhetorical appeals to the ‘people’ unmediated by organizations and the trend continues beyond that with a very dynamic populist discourse associated with some forms of personalized political campaigns, symbolic politics and direct links to the people through social network platforms of communication. Different from the traditional cases of populism, the contemporary transformed populism occurs in the context not of a state interventionist economic model unswerving with distributive policies, but of the global move to symbolic politics which is not always necessarily popular.



During the 1990s, the vote share of Christian Democratic Parties declined in most Europe as the population became more secular[9], although there is some evidence of resurgence in recent years[10]. Electoral volatility has increased, with new social movement parties and populist parties playing an increased role[11]. Some of these new populist parties have strong positions against immigration fluxes alongside religious lines. Under new European political conditions, Christian Democratic Parties have behaved in different ways. Some have sought to co-opt support for rightist and populist parties, and staked their identity around the Christian heritage of Europe, while others have opened themselves to other non-Christian groups and sought to attract younger voters who are not drawn to the party’s religious heritage. As Haynes would say “some of these parties for instance have broadened their agenda to become ‘catchall’ parties of the centre and centre-right, whereas others have criticized neo-liberal economic reforms that have occurred across the continent”.[12] However, more frequent forms of populism manifested via a nationalistic and cultural rhetoric of many major European parties competing not only for a national but also for the supra-national elections and as far as it showed to be often a winning chip in their campaigning it has contributed to more common situations that populism is seen as a regular and to some extent a normal rhetoric tool and part of the culture of the political parties.

Many right wing oriented political parties in many countries of the world including those within the EU region are creating recognizable labels of their political landscapes for running for an office with a populist discourse in series of electoral processes and gradually co-opting it as an accommodating element of the political culture. Later on centre and even left parties gradually accept it as a style of the competition.

The post-modern theoretical approaches on the political culture set apart the political culture differentiating all the segments of the political and cultural phenomena under the conditions of domination and contesting for power. The phenomenon of mobilization through the populist rhetoric as a guiding force of the political discourse of political parties is getting a seat gradually more and more altogether with the other fundamental labels of the political cultures of many nations.

The political culture is usually a result of the individual and group activity after the adoption, evaluation, change and regulation of the principles of political relations in a society. And the societies following the reflections of the communities, with shaking waves of emotional expressions of frustrations and demands via group public statements in the first year of the second decade of the 21st century starting from protests to the sharing group political messages via the social network platforms, are reflecting themselves as well as nationalist, religious and cultural rhetoric. And that is one more proving example of the political behaviour hypothesis that the various types of the political cultures are usually dynamic ones having in mind that they are located in various historical, social, economic, cultural and political environments which they shape and change.

The linkage of these variables is dialectic and it determines the multi-complex causality of challenges including the division line between the populist leadership and authoritarianism. A populist culture based on sophisticated rhetoric with quick, short and frequent messages and campaigns rather than traditional rhetoric long speeches is spreading widely in various zones.

The political culture painted by the new colours of the populist rhetoric within the political discourse all around should be viewed firstly from the perspective of the fact that the unrealistic expectations of the populations are increasingly higher. Usually those populations targeted by the populist rhetoric belong to the low-capacity societies that have limited experience as to the public sphere and they correspond to the low-capacity state. For instance in the South-East, Central and Eastern Europe the legacy of Marxism-Leninism is relevant and, as Schöpflin would say, the societies which have lived with failed utopias are the most likely ones to need considerable time to readjust[13].

In essence, large numbers of people have no clear idea of what politics is about, what can be achieved through politics and what cannot. They expect immediate results and are resentful when this does not happen. The outcome may be passivity, simply waiting for an external agency to act as saviour, at any rate as far as the public sphere is concerned. And that is then a perfect ground for launching the populist political discourse and for populism to become more and more part of the political culture of certain nations.

In the case of post-communist South-East Europe even if there are not typical forms of populism, but these are rather populist attempts and improvisations and in fact they are actions of political marketing that in the end, in the best case scenario, reach the status of rhetoric, but again they are not typical manifestations of populism. However, still being accommodated as populist elements within the political culture of the nations of the region during their campaigning which is not any more like in the first decade of multi-party systems with a campaigning only few weeks before the elections but rather with more focused mobilization aims and rhetoric in continuity during the entire period of running the governments or competing for power. So, the empty populist propaganda easy compatible with inherited the communist-socialist propaganda and conceptions it has been gradually replaced by the polarized discourse in the first phase and in the second phase by more sophisticated rhetoric and attempts for populism again in combination between rhetoric and political marketing and with a risk that some rising trends of accommodating a populism alongside nationalistic, cultural and religious rhetoric lines to be introduced in systematic way in the already turbulent political landscape of South-East Europe.

Within several political scenes of the European Union members states many debates are going on regarding the upcoming EU parliamentary elections of May 2014 as to whether or not populism is a threat to, or an opportunity for, building a firmer European Union following the recent high-profile warnings of a populist backlash. Ironically, a few high level officials, including European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and European Parliament President Martin Schultz, have warned the voters that the populist radical right groups have the potential to prevent Europe from functioning[14].

As the populists are gaining strength, a significant part of Europe remains today in a prolonged period of economic stagnation and high unemployment rate, the anti-European sentiment is on the rise in Europe especially if one has in mind the fact that the anti-EU parties have apprehended this opportunity to take advantage of the dramatic fall of the popular support for European integration. Under these circumstances of fear that across Europe right-wing and nationalist parties are gaining strength with all its possible threats, populism serves an important function[15]. Although the leading major parties may dislike the arguments and style of populism, it is obvious that the anti-democratic political extremism as an alternative seems to be much worse[16].

Most European countries are guided by the democratic rules and a large attention is paid to the public opinion of people’s attitude in shaping policies and priorities and to this point having attached a political rhetoric and populism to the political culture of several nations is not a threat, but the rhetoric is being replaced by the nationalist and eventual racist rhetoric in the political discourse or most extreme in the political discourse then the European project is in danger. Furthermore, the danger increases if the growth of the nationalistic and radical parties is going to be followed up by the tendencies for making decisions on strategic issues based on the public polls where the radical transformed rhetoric and discourse of these parties, which would be the most threatening scenario.




With the transformative forms and styles of populism, consequently the transformed political discourse raise some important issues for the theories of the political sciences on democracy as far as it draws attention to the central symbol of the democracy, the sovereign people. The populist theories on democracy involve unnecessary and unrealistic assumptions about the political interest, knowledge and rationality of the average citizen. The transformative conception of populism means among others that the traditional conceptions of populist theories are being replaced by more pragmatic theories based on empirical evidence about the requirements of democratic systems. Without necessarily accepting the superiority of the populist approach there are grounds for doubting the claim that a pluralistic dispersal of political influence in a political unit can be equated with democracy[17].

Recalling Lincoln’s memorable Gettysburg Address may be of help as it suggested the three key elements of democracy. First, that it is ‘of’ the people not only in the sense of being ‘over’ all the people but that it derives its legitimacy from their commitment to it (government by consent). Second, that it is ‘by’ the people in the sense that they participate extensively in governmental processes. Third, that it is ‘for’ the people in that it seeks to realize the common welfare and safeguard the rights of the individuals. This kind of quick, effective and meaningful rhetoric is the core structure of the contemporary models of the transformed populist concepts of the political actors and movements that are widely accepted even by the liberal democracies. However, many controversy remains about the interpretation of these principles and their relative weight where they conflict. When we have a look at these three poles, it is obvious that the liberal democracies stress the safeguarding of individual rights, and the idea of the rule of law; communist regimes stress popular participation and the pursuit of the interests of the common folk and the populist nationalist leaders stress their legitimacy as the leaders by consent of the people and as interpreters of the national destiny[18].

Altogether with the metamorphosed transformation of populism in terms of forms and intensity of the political rhetoric and its reflection in the political discourse, as well as it has undergone a substantial transformation in terms of the ways of populists to come to power or strengthen their impact on the people’s massive mobilization to follow them. The main factors in this shift are coming from the globalization impacts in terms of easier ways of following trends and networking and especially the transformative ways of populists to come to power it has been taking more side and more platforms with the permeation of the internet. But, the transformative ways using populists all around the world do not necessarily mean that there may be meanwhile major differences in the styles of populism as compared to the original components of populist styles.

Today in the era of the social internet communication – networks - the size of modern democracies is no longer a barrier to the exercise of Athenian democracy and as a result the populism apart from its transformation under these factors as well as it is taking an advantage, too.

The idea of involving as many citizens as possible in the governmental process via the electronic platforms remains an important element in the concept of democracy, helping to support the maintenance of the government system from one side and open more ground for sophisticated and quick forms of the populist rhetoric from another side. Even the issue of calls for referendums on strategic issues against the time factor is seen more and more as a normal part of the political processes rather than as a populist rhetoric of actors with less sense of the democratic accountability and courage. Namely, one of the main indicators of the wired forms of the transformed populism today is the discourse of threat with proclaiming on certain issues referendums of the political leaders and authorities. Referendums are enable political elites to appeal directly to the ‘masses’, thus bypassing democratically elected representatives.[19] It is then another question that if the masses are becoming potentially dangerous with referendum opportunities because they are persuaded by emotion rather than reason or by the quick ways of mobilization and empty rhetoric that turn on then to go out of the plans. Referendums in democratic systems may encourage populism, but at the same time as well as it may keep not always the realistic spirit of the democracy especially when there are many failures of democracy as concerns and democracy is seen by populist leaders to be promoted by the opportunities and occasions for people to run for referendums. Cochrane[20] say that the referendums may also help feed the illusion of participation in political decision-making.

Regardless many critics on populism coming from scholars of democratic theories (including the leading Robert Dahl[21]) who in one or other way assume that populism may be bad for democracy, however populism and their radical discourses seem to be of help to promote democracy in certain regions versus other alternatives such nationalistic, racist and xenophobic rhetoric who as well via populism attempt to mobilize the masses. Firstly at all, populism and especially its transformative populist rhetoric can increase democratic accountability and it can press the authorities to be more transparent and less corrupt which traditionally seems to be one of the major concerns of the populist causes.

In its annual report, the World Economic Forum identified among the top ten trends of 2014 in the EU countries the following topics: a lack of values in leadership; widening income disparities; and the diminishing confidence in economic policies. The report argues that “a generation that starts its career in complete hopelessness will be more prone to populist politics. Accordingly, there’s a disassociation between governments and the governed”[22]. According to Schori-Liang, populism can address these sentiments by allowing the ideas and interests of more marginalized sections of the electorate to be integrated into the political process and as well as it can provide an ideological bridge that supports the importance of building political coalitions. Populism can also give a voice to groups that do not feel represented by the elites and can help put forward topics that are important to the silent majority[23].


While right-wing movements and political parties use populist politics as their platform of justification with their rhetoric following the decline and shift of ideological concepts, the transformation of the populist rhetoric and the quick possibilities for presenting the causes and messages via social networks, the line of differences in the political discourse of right-wing and left-wing parties and movements is somehow vanishing. In both cases the appeals of the discourses no longer aim at uniting a target group against another target.

The reshuffled political discourses of the two ideological poles seem to pose equal possibility of social networking and political differences and divisions, as well as fostering cultural and political warfare, rather than aiming at the widening or uniting those social and political differences and ceasing the warfare.

When one has in mind the contemporary widespread upsurge of protest movements and political action from the Arab Spring and ahead and the XXI protests in the European countries then it is obvious that the ideological affiliation doesn’t matter so much anymore as in both cases left and right-wing movements have equally absorbed some of the reshuffled populist agenda, and prospered among groups who felt they were wronged or left out by the system regardless of their affiliation but rather united under a same political discourse, but maybe with a different load of rhetoric.

This is most evident in those countries in transition and it is even more obvious in those post-communist countries in Eastern, Central and South-East Europe where the populist rhetoric is more frequently used not only for using it as a platform doomed to provide more support (votes), but it is rather reshuffled to populist discourse often to hide lack of programs and a substantial offer.

Both right and left-wing parties in these landscapes instead of coming with real political offers, they exhibit their populist rhetoric associated more with a sharply polarized rhetoric and mutual accusations among rival political leaders rather than promote the political discourses of their parties.

There are more reflections on the personal blames, threats and improvisations for some kind of big projects (in essence often empty projects) and less focus and concentration on the real issues related to the life of the people whom they pretend to mobilize and they are successful in this view for many years.

Recalling the folklorist records and slogans within the political culture of several post-conflict Balkan nations for instance unfortunately is not helping the modernization or democratization of political parties and institutions, but it is functioning for the populist rhetoric of political parties to mobilize the people and keep them as a stable electoral body for a longer period regardless of the fact that people read less and are aware of the political programs of governments and parties and become more familiar with the idea of accepting the populist political folklore. The audience is either not informed about the decisions or even if it is informed it is informed in quite an impulsive and emotional way.

This reshuffle of the balancing between populism and finding a decision and a solution in an unpopular way often seems to be dangerous and with potential for accumulating the explosion mass in the society.

Consequently, this way of reshuffling political populism is reflected in unstable and inconsistent governments associated with frequent elections and over-powerful state legislatures. Regardless of their ideological backgrounds and settings they often tend to be irresponsible governments with frequent changes of the law, resulting in unjust laws (by which they attempt populist attacks on property) and interference in the courts.

With the metamorphosed transformation of the political rhetoric and political discourse with populism the political apathy is guiding a threat. Citizens are deprived of access to the political process consequently they are cautious and trust politicians less. They are not interested in current political programs and most frequently they are not well-informed about the issues that are on the top of political party agendas.

The issues promoted by political parties and the issues on which citizens are asked to contribute by involving themselves are simply not at all related to their needs and interests, but they are rather some kind of improvisation, leading points and vocabulary of the political discourse of political parties.

In this view, two major phenomena are raising in a casual linkage:

·           Membership of parties is declining, though explanations are multi-causal;

·           Party activism is declining as well. Explanations are again multi-causal with electoral outcomes being particularly significant[24].

This casual linkage is characterized by several additional problems as follows. First of all, under a significant shift and reduced relevance of the traditional ideological discourse and aside from the influences of transnational actors and movements frequented more easily due the globalization opportunities, the political scene is not well defined in many countries of the world where there are numerous political parties with unclear and undefined political programs, and the political scene overflows with reshuffled populist political discourses. However these may be seen as an advantage by the political actors for running the politics with domination of the personalized items, still there is at least one disadvantage that there is a higher lack than ever of a propensity for partnerships within the political scene of these countries or eventually not-stable and not coherent partnerships. Furthermore, in this context are insufficiently being developed the internal party capacity, the lack of professionals, the lack of knowledge and a higher degree of institutional disorganization.

The political activism is thus reduced mainly to an electoral enthusiasm and personal benefiting, the temporary interest of the voters is marked by a multitude of electoral improvisations which is not able to mobilize the people anymore in a classical populist way but rather merely to use or trade their votes, yet not like one or two decades ago only for limited time intervals, but rather and paradoxically with a strong and constant populist rhetoric and polarized political discourses but with no real offer or programs and instead only with obvious intentions for the mobilization of masses for the required moments.

This way of launching the rhetoric is somehow choking the normal process of political communication and rather it is faded communication with the electorate and not with the people focused concepts of classical populism propaganda rather than attempts for meaningful political discourse under an influence of the populist effective transformed rhetoric.

Among the new political systems of Eastern, Central and South-East Europe emerging from an ideology of post-communist/post-socialist setting and legitimated by the language of democracy, there are discrepancies in terms of political discourses between those that have completed their transition in a quicker way (those of Central and eventually some of Eastern Europe) and those undergoing more slowly their transition process (most of them from South-East European countries). While the former societies identify democracy as understood or at least similarly to those already established democracies of Western liberal-democratic systems, it is not the case with the latter as the seemingly irrelevant bickering, the empty contests for symbols and moral purity that had no bearing on everyday existence, above all the rapid and continuing economic deterioration[25] that opens widely the gates for various transformed cycles of populist rhetoric for some longer period and re-discussing the transitions with a lot of dilemmas about the strategic post-transition orientations.

These are the same initial indicators like in recent post-Arab Spring movements in North Africa and especially in Egypt. Egypt’s based Brotherhood, despite its own rhetoric that was not a manifestation of traditional Islamism but rather a typical hope - example of a modern political organization with mass-based and populist characteristics supported mainly by the urban middle and lower classes, using a cell-based structure, and embracing religious reformism, however in a later phase the radical populist rhetoric proceeded further in the reconciliation phases with unfortunate failures and dilemmas about the country’s future strategic democratic orientation. It attempted during the Arab Spring to reform primarily Egyptian politics, not the universal Islamic community in the region, but still at some stage of the transition two years later in the dangerous forms of the radical populists rhetoric continued to struggle at a crucial phase of expected progress of transition and with that bringing Egypt back to the edge again.


Under the internet era, the political concepts of running and crafting politics are transformed and consequently so is the political discourse. At this phase of the ideological shifts and political transformations of the political landscapes and discourses, from an infantile disease typical for the non-modernized societies and immature democracies as populism used to be seen by its numerous critics, today the transformative populism is regarded by its supporters[26] as an authentic democratic participation as its characteristic discourse is one that democratic politics cannot do without and with perspectives likely to persist as long as democracy itself.

While prior to the internet era, the political rhetoric used to be mainly characterized by full-blown campaign speeches, today the political rhetoric in each of its forms is more and more guided by the transformative populist premises, with quick messages, frequent and longer campaigning, not only during the electoral periods but also much in advance during most of the phases of the political process. Instead of the long speeches through all these changes the political rhetoric has been transformed as well to effective propagandistic campaign information conveyed to voters but still in the same populist spirit of mobilizing masses in frequent periods although that with transformed populist practices with advanced styles: by very short messages on social network platforms (mainly Facebook and Twitter), short TV and radio spots and bites or even few words sms-texts on mobile phones sent to the target groups. And all that within much heavy exposed populist discourse without any attempt to hide it as the transformative populism is not necessary estimated as any dangerous ideology for the democracy when it comes to be compared to the rhetoric of the other radical alternatives such as racism or xenophobia for instance. Although, it is obvious that much more than ever before fast information is available to contemporary voters, with opportunities to learn in a direct way of communication about the attitudes and messages of the political actors and organizations through the social network platforms, plenty web sites and other instant access to news the political discourse does not aim to reach the individuals but rather to mobilize people in a massive way through populist methods and full-blown rhetoric.

The political rhetoric of today’s political actors and organizations can’t be noticed without at least certain dozes of populism all around. Populism is more and more popular in the 21st century politics. Moreover it is further transformed to sophisticated forms of attracting the support of masses for running for the office though with different methods and platforms of mobilization, with the advanced set of the transformative styles and methods of populism. Though often populist attempts seem to remain only at the level of improvisations with more labels of the political marketing rather than with real populist components, however under the political transformation of the ideological relevance and with the quick internet opportunities, the core outline of populism is aiming to apply quick and more effective marketing premises of the transformed political rhetoric.





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[1] Torcuato S. DI TELLA, “Populism into the Twenty-First Century”, Government and Opposition, Vol. 32, No. 2, 1997, pp. 187–200.

[2] Margaret CANOVAN, “The People”, in John S. DRYZEK, Bonnie HONIG & Anne PHILLIPS (eds.), Political Theory, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2006, p. 350.

[3] Apart from populism as a mass politics, in the political process and political studies, two other major forms of mass politics traditionally dominate: pluralism which is based on multiple, shifting, overlapping interest groups and a rejection of the populist dualism that stresses the representation of the general will of the people vs. some minority; and class politics that is based on class organizations of unions and social democratic parties.

[4] Paul Barry CLARKE and Joe FOWERAKER (eds.), Encyclopedia of Democratic Thought, Routledge, London and New York, 2001, p. 674.

[5] For more details on this topic see Ian BUDGE, The New Challenge of Direct Democracy, Polity, Cambridge, 1996, who is estimated to be one of the leading authors in the field.

[6] Robert A. DAHL, A Preface to Democratic Theory, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1956, p. 55.

[7] Jeffrey HAYNES (ed.), Routledge Handbook of Religion and Politics, Routledge, London and New York, 2009, p. 103.

[8] Veton LATIFI, Politikologjia, IDD, Skopje, 2008, pp. 461-462.

[9] Russel DALTON, “Political cleavages, issues, and electoral change”, in L. LeDUC, R. G. NIEMI and P. NORRIS (eds.), Comparing Democracies 2:New Challenges in the Study of Elections andVoting, Sage Publications, London, 2002, pp. 189–209; K. R. LUTHER, “A framework for the comparative analysis of political parties and party systems in consociational democracy”, in K. R. LUTHER and K. DESCHOUWER (eds.), Party Elites in DividedSocieties, Routledge, London, 1999, pp. 3–19.

[10] Steven Van HECKE and Emmanuel GERARD (eds.), Christian Democratic Parties in Europe since theEnd of the Cold War, Leuven University Press, Leuven, 2004, pp. 3-19.

[11] Jens RYDGREN, “Explaining the emergence of radical right-wing populist parties: the case of Denmark”, West European Politics, Vol. 27, 2004, pp. 474–502.

[12] Jeffrey HAYNES (ed.), Routledge Handbook of Religion…cit., p. 218.

[13] George SCHÖPFLIN, The New Politics of Europe: Nations, Identity, Power, Hurst & Company, London, 2nd ed., 2002, p. 68.

[14] Christina SCHORI-LIANG, “Afraid?”, The Role of Populism in the EU,, 31.01.2014. 

[15] Ibidem.

[16] For instance, in Eastern Europe the most extreme variant of anti-European populism has reinforced nationalism and fostered racism and xenophobia.

[17] Anthony H. BIRCH, The Concepts and Theories of Modern Democracy, Routledge, London and New York, 2007, p. 115.

[18] C. B. MACPHERSON, The Real World of Democracy: The Massey Lecture, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1966, cited in Stephen TANSEY, Nigel JACKSON, Politics: The Basics, Routledge, London, 2008, p. 171.

[19] Gary D. RAWNSLEY, Political Communication and Democracy, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2005, p. 131.

[20] Allan COCHRANE, “From Theories to Practices: Looking for Local Democracy in Britain”, in D. KING & G. STOKER (eds.), Rethinking Local Democracy, Macmillan, Basingstoke, 1996, p. 209.

[21] See Robert A. DAHL, A Preface to Democratic Theory, University of Chicago Press, Chicago,1956.

[22] See The World Economic Forum’s Newsletter, World Economic Forum, Köln/Geneva, January 2014, p. 9.

[23] Christina SCHORI-LIANG, “Afraid?”, The Role of Populism in the EU,, 31.01.2014.

[24] Veton LATIFI, Politikologjia…cit., p. 383.

[25] George SCHÖPFLIN, The New Politics of Europe: Nations…cit., p. 197.

[26] Paul Barry CLARKE and Joe FOWERAKER (eds.), Encyclopedia of Democratic Thought, Routledge, London and New York, 2001, pp. 674-679.