Right-wing populism … and the second coming of civility
2019-04-01 15:48:46 -

By Panu Höglund


One of the most salient characteristics of right-wing racist populism is hypocrisy. Before racism was as fashionable as it is today, similar movements – even the very same parties which later turned racist – kept boasting that they were just about fighting corruption in public life.


In Donald Trump’s propaganda, for instance, the ”draining of the swamp” is a common metaphor, and you hear the precisely same thing from similar populists in Finland.


Countries ruled by these kinds of parties tend in reality to be the most corrupt. Rule of law, fair legislation and correct law enforcement are the best ways to fight corruption, but instead, populists rely on sloganeering and empty bravado. Instead of strengthening the rule of law, they only make promises about fighting corruption, and they tend to fight those who try to disclose corruption and bring it to the attention of the nation.


We have seen an example of that in Slovakia. The woman who won the first round of the presidential elections this year, Zuzana Čaputová, relied on good manners and civility instead of the vulgarity that is so widespread in European politics in these dark times. But, what a surprise, her message was received well by the people of Slovakia — although as I write we don’t yet know how she’ll succeed in the second round.


This success is due to the fact that Slovaks recognised the difference between the theory and practice of populism in a tragic way last year when two journalists, Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová, were murdered in Galanta, a small town in western Slovakia. The pair had been involved in researching into and reporting about corruption, and in the end they paid the price for their courage.


It seems, though, that lots of eyes were opened in Slovakia by this martyrdom. Robert Fico, the prime minister who, although representing a historically left-wing party had recently adopted many of the antics of right-wing populists, resigned after the murder in order to show responsibility, and it seems that Slovaks are so sick and tired of the hypocrisy of racist populism that they this time prefer a woman with good manners as president.


Slovakia is a country which hasn’t been fairly treated in European life. It would be great if Slovakia took the torch of civility to put an end to the darkness that is rising everywhere in the continent – if the name of Slovakia were from now on perceived as the name of liberty.


Panu Höglund is a Finn who writes in Irish. His newest publication is the anti-racist thriller Tine sa Chácóin.

TAGS : translation right-wing corruption government Slovakia
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