Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
First of all, I want to apologize for not being able to be in Ottawa in person today. I hope to do so on another occasion.
I want to talk about three main points. The first is to just point out that populism is no longer a marginal political force in Europe. It's actually the defining force, and that is the main source of the fracture of liberal democracy at this point. The second is to explain how and why it is that populism is dangerous to liberal democracy, and the third is to speak a little bit about what I see as a potential impact on Canada in particular.
The first thing to point out is that, around the world, the four largest democracies are now arguably ruled by authoritarian populists, not just your neighbour to the south here in Washington, D.C., but also in Brazil, India and arguably Indonesia.
In Europe, the number of populist governments has shot up from about seven in the year 2000 to around 15 or 16 at this point. The average vote share that populist parties gain in national elections has increased from about 8% in 2000 to over 26% now, and the trend continues to rise. We're likely to see a record result for populist parties in upcoming elections for the European Parliament.
One really striking thing when you think of the famous phrase by Winston Churchill, “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the [heart of Europe],” is that it's now actually possible to drive along the line of that iron curtain through countries like Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria and Italy, and never leave a country ruled by populists.
That is the first point. We need to stop thinking of these as insurgent political movements. We need to stop thinking of them as marginal political movements. They are now in many ways the dominant political force in large swaths of Europe.
The question is why that is dangerous to democracy. Why should we be talking about authoritarian populism in a hearing on threats to democracy? To understand that, I think it's helpful to think about the nature of populism, which Cas Mudde and others who are present here have researched a lot as well.
In my understanding, it is at first puzzling why we should think of some of the figures I've mentioned as being related at all. At first sight, it's not obvious why we should class people like Donald Trump in the United States, people like Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, people like Viktor Orbán in Hungary and people like Hugo Chávez and now Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela as part of the same kind of political movement. After all, they have deep ideological differences, especially when it comes to economic policy, where some of them would be classified more as left wing and others more as right wing.
They also have very different enemies. Some of them, for example, tend to victimize and vilify Muslims. Others, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, for example, tend to victimize and vilify anybody who's not a Muslim. They don't have a set of common enemies.
The way to understand what does connect them, I think, is a rhetorical style, a way of thinking about politics and understanding the nature of politics. What they have in common is the claim that the real reason we have political problems is because of a political leader who is corrupt and self-serving and who cares more about various minority groups than about people who are “like you and me”.
Therefore, they conclude that the only way to deal with this problem is for somebody who truly represents the people to come along, throw out all of the current power structures and stand up for ordinary folk.
The distinctive move here is not just a claim that there are problems with the current government or the current set of politicians and that the opposition can do better or that politics needs some new faces and perhaps even new parties. All of that is a perfectly legitimate part of democratic politics. The distinctive element of these populist claims is to say that they and they alone can represent the people and that anybody who disagrees with them is, by nature of that fact, illegitimate.
That helps to explain why it is that, for a time, populists tend to do so much damage once they enter the government.
The things that we observe in a lot of these countries are that as soon as they get in, they start to delegitimize the opposition as traitors, rather than Her Majesty's loyal opposition. They start to talk about independent institutions that would limit their power and that might stand up to executive overreach, in the form of courts, for example, as “enemies of the people” or as “so-called judges”. They tend very strongly to attack the press, saying that it is working against the people if it is working against the government or criticizing the government.
If the way to understand our political systems is as liberal democracies that are committed both to individual freedom and to collective self-government, the first set of damages tends to be to the liberal element of the political system. It tends to undermine individual rights, in particular minority rights. It tends to run counter to the rule of law and the separation of powers.
But the damage isn't contained to that, because once these governments have managed to make the judiciary dependent on their will and their whim, once they have managed to limit the free press, once they have managed to vilify the opposition and change electoral rules in many countries, the democratic element itself comes under attack. We've seen that happen in countries, like Hungary, which are member states of the European Union, member states of NATO, which have had a long-standing democratic history for over the last 25 years, which political scientists believed to be safe from democratic backsliding. Viktor Orbán, a democratically elected prime minister, is no longer somebody who can be removed through free and fair elections at this point, in my opinion.
What kinds of impacts might this potentially have on Canada? I want to point out three primary things that I think you should worry about.
The first is about business and trade. Canadian companies working in Europe and other countries around the world rely on the rule of law. They assume that their investments will be safe for decades to come and that the success of their investments depends on the quality of their products rather than on political connections. Where populists come into power and undermine the rule of law, that can no longer be assured. You can have threats to private property, but more importantly you can have informal ways in which companies that don't toe a political line, companies that don't have allies among the increasingly powerful ruler, are going to be disadvantaged.
The second threat that is very important is to trade. You see a form of politics that is often not fact-based and that tends to incite irrational fears rather than scientific evidence. As we've seen in the ongoing process of ratification for the free trade agreement between Canada and the European Union, that can lead to all kinds of misinformation, which makes it much harder to persuade people to agree to important trade agreements.
The third point is, obviously, military. We've seen the rise, over time, of populists, and in some cases outright dictators in NATO member states. This has put an obvious strain on this very important military alliance. Populists often have sympathy for other dictatorial regimes so that we see a real rapprochement of many countries ruled by populists across Europe, or governments that have a strong populist element, with Russia and to some extent with China and other adversaries of liberal democracies such as Canada and the United States.
The last point I want to make encompasses all of that. One way of thinking about the threat to liberal democracy, and the threat, especially to the interests of Canada, is simply from existing populist governments, but I think even there there is a deeper strategic threat, which is uncertainty. It is very hard to sustain a military alliance and it is very hard to rely on free trade agreements when you don't know which country will fall next to authoritarian populism and may, therefore, cease to be a reliable partner in the military and the economic scenes.
The threat of populism comes not only through existing populist governments but also through making it much harder for nations like Canada to know what kind of relationship they will be able to enjoy with countries like Italy, France or even Germany, in five or 10 years.
Thank you very much.
Thank you very much and thanks to the committee for giving me the opportunity to speak here today.
Given that we study the same thing, we have quite a lot of overlap so what I will do is focus on some points that Yascha hasn't mentioned and elaborate on some of the points he did.
I agree that populism is the defining force at the moment. However, I think it's very important to remember that on average they get only about 20% of the vote, and that the percentage ranges from 70% or 80% in certain countries to almost zero in others. In the vast majority of countries of the EU, populists, whether of the right or the left, are a minority. The reason they define politics today is that other parties allow them to set the agenda. I think this is very important. We're not all Hungary where, by and large, free and fair elections are no longer around and you have to play by their rules.
In most countries, self-professed liberal democrats still set the rules and still control the media. However, they have pretty much given the public debate and the issues, as well as the issue framing, to the populists. I think that's an important point. It points to something that I think is much more problematic, something that is almost like an ideological vacuum.
Today there are very few parties that defend what used to be the absolute consensus 20 years ago—things like economic integration, European integration and cultural integration. All of these things still happen but no one defends them. I think the best example was the “Remain” campaign during the EU referendum in the U.K., which, by and large, had nothing to say other than the alternative is worse. It never sold what the European Union did, and if you don't sell liberal democracy, if you don't tell people why it's good, it creates a space for those who have an agenda, even if it is a very problematic agenda.
I think it's also important to understand that populist rule is different from what we generally think authoritarian rule is. Authoritarian rule does things that go pretty much against the law. There are blatant violations of law. The clever populists, in contrast, stay within the law. They control the law, and there's no better example than Viktor Orbán in Hungary, who through a very well-timed set of changes has legally changed the whole system so it works for him.
American scholar Kim Lane Scheppele has referred to this as a “Frankenstate”, and in a Frankenstate, every individual, specific law is totally democratic. Actually, Orbán almost always makes sure that each law also exists somewhere else. Whenever you criticize him on a law, he will say, for example, France has it. In other cases, he will say Germany has it, or Canada has it. However, when you put them all together, you have an illiberal democratic state.
In the simplest of things, various countries have first past the post. Some countries have only one electoral district. This is perfectly democratic, but if you have first past the post and only one district, then one gets everything. You can have two rules that are each pretty much democratic, but when they work together, they can create a massive problem. That is pretty much how the smarter populists work. Everything individually is almost impossible to criticize, but you have to assess it on how everything works together.
Let me focus on the international relations of the populists. There's a lot of speculation about a “populist international”, but I do not believe such a thing exists. First of all, populism is divided ideologically. Left-wing populists rarely work together with right-wing populists.
However, even the radical right populists, who are by far the most important, share mostly a negative agenda. They share an anti-establishment agenda, which means that they are also anti-international establishment. They're Euroskeptic. They're skeptic about any multinationalism, be it NATO or the UN.
However, they differ on all kinds of different issues. For example, some parties are pretty much pro-American—the Dutch or the Poles—and many are anti-American, particularly in eastern and southern Europe. The position on Israel is very different. Some have become very pro-Israel, and others are still staunchly anti-Israel, bordering on anti-Semitic. They have very different positions on NATO, which is absolutely crucial to Baltic or Polish populist radical right parties, whereas some other parties see it skeptically.
They're skeptical about the UN, although that's more of a fascination or an obsession of the U.S. populist radical right than many others, but they're even very divided over the EU. Today, because of Brexit and the way it is going, there are very few parties that still openly call for an exit. Instead, quite a lot, in part because of their growing success, now don't want to get out of the EU. They want to transform the EU. They want to create an EU in their image, and this is very much what Viktor Orbán wants. It's to a certain extent what Matteo Salvini wants in Italy.
However, there, again, they have problems because in the end they're still nationalist, and their national interests are more important. A good example that we see is with regard to the so-called immigration crisis, which, of course, is crucial to the recent success of these parties.
Viktor Orbán in Hungary doesn't want to share and redistribute immigrants because that would mean that Hungary would get more, whereas Italy does want to redistribute immigrants because that would mean it would have fewer. Quite a lot of these points on which, in opposition, they have been very strong, they now find out are pretty problematic when they're in power. I think this is important. I agree with Yascha that the insecurity is problematic. I think the insecurity that comes out of the White House is much different from the insecurity that comes out of various other countries. Whatever Hungary does is much less important, obviously, than whatever the U.S. does.
However, if you look at it, in the end, very few of these governments have done fundamental things. I think Italy is a very good example. The new populist government came in with a lot of bravura. They were going to not do this and they were going to do that. In the end, they kind of rolled over. There is still damage to be done, but it's important that, so far, they haven't really offered an alternative. They mostly frustrate the existing order. Again, Donald Trump is a very good example. He doesn't blow up NATO. He doesn't blow up even the climate treaty. He just pulls out, which leaves space for others and confusion.
This is pretty much what populism is doing. It's a wake-up call to the liberal democratic forces, which are still in a majority, to actually come up with not just an anti-populist agenda, which would also be divisive and moral, but a positive liberal democratic alternative. I think that is lacking today.
Thank you very much.
Thank you very much. That's obviously an important question.
I think there are a lot of ideological similarities. Again, I think the main driving force of how to understand populism is just the anti-establishment element, which basically delegitimizes anybody who disagrees with those forces. I think you see that very similarly, whether it is in the form of Donald Trump, the form of the Polish government, the form of the Hungarian government or the form of the larger rising populist movements, even in countries like Germany, Scandinavia and so on.
I think one important difference is that a lot of the European populist forces are actually better set up to undermine the political system because they have managed to build organizations so that when they come into government, they are able to appoint a lot of like-minded people. They are starting, in many countries in Europe, to have real bureaucratic experience and expertise, because they've been in parliament in many places now for about a decade. They've had experience in government in some places again and again, so I think their actual ability to pursue their agenda can sometimes be strong.
What we see in the United States is not the rise of a new populist party with a slow growth in strength that ultimately takes over the system, but a hostile takeover of a pre-existing political party by one populist. Now, obviously, I think Donald Trump has in the last two and a half years managed to create a circle of people around him, and he has managed to turn the Republican Party into a populist force to a much greater extent than people would have predicted when he was elected in the fall of 2016. But I do think that the combination of a lack of bureaucratic and government experience in Donald Trump himself, and the lack of a coherent organization around him that actually is deeply committed to his agenda, has somewhat frustrated what he has been able to do.
To me, the greater question is what will happen in the United States if populism remains in control of the Republican Party after 2020 or 2024 and you end up with a president and an administration, a cohort of people, who are actually ideologically committed to some of the things that Donald Trump stands for. I think at that point the damage to the system could be a lot more severe than what we're seeing at the moment.
The term “forbearance” is used in the Levitsky-Ziblatt book. By and large, it's argued that politicians should use that to protect overreach.
I think one of the things that populism shows, to a certain extent, is how feeble many systems are. Many liberal democratic systems are set up on the assumption of forbearance: that people will not use all the power they legally have. This has, to a large extent, happened for most of the time and, I would argue, also quite often because parties didn't have all the power.
There's a big difference between Hungary, for example, and Austria. In Austria, the right-wing populists have to share power with a different party, which has bent over backwards to them but overall still controls them, so the FPÖ is kind of forced to engage in forbearance. There is nothing that holds Orbán back. I would argue that a liberal democratic party would still have more forbearance than Orbán has, but if it would really have its own power only by itself, it would also push further.
I think one of the most remarkable things—I think the U.S. is the best example but there are many others—is that I see this as a teaching moment. I see this as a teaching moment to see how much of our system is actually not regulated and is purely based on pretty much trust, the trust that people will behave democratically.
That's an important question. To put it into context a little bit, I grew up Jewish in Germany and certainly a defensive nationalism or even patriotism did not come naturally to me, as you can imagine in that situation.
As I was growing up, I had the hope that we could overcome certain forms of nationalism completely and leave them behind in the 20th century, which they so cruelly shaped. When you look around the world today, you see that nationalism remains an incredibly powerful force in all parts of the world. That's something that connects the democratic world even with non-democratic parts of the world.
Especially in places where we've tried to suppress nationalism a bit, it is now rearing its head again in its ugliest form because people are saying, “I'm not being allowed to express this kind of identity, so I'm going to show you.”
You made a distinction, which a lot of people in academic literature make as well, between patriotism and nationalism. I'm a little skeptical of that distinction because I think it's a little too easy for us. It says that there's a great form of this that is positive and all about solidarity and wonderful things, and that's patriotism. Then there's a dangerous form that's terrible and so on, and that's nationalism.
I think we're actually talking about the same phenomenon, which can find expression in positive and negative ways. For me, I think of nationalism as a half-domesticated animal. Our task is not to vanquish it. It's to keep domesticating it. It will always remain dangerous but the best thing we can do is to try to interpret it in a way that's inclusive and that ensures that we have a notion of what it is to be German or Italian. I think Canada already is leading on this, in that people of different ethnicities, religions or national origins can be seen as and feel fully Canadian. I think that patriotism or nationalism that is based on that inclusive notion is the best response to the exclusionary nationalism, rather than trying to say it's vanquishable all together.
Thank you very much. These are good but also complex questions.
Simplistically stated, European elections have always been primarily domestic elections in the sense that the issues being discussed are domestic issues rather than European. This has changed a little bit, particularly in countries that have held referendums on European issues. Then they become a bit more about Europe as well. The two are very closely related anyway, because the national elite is always the European elite as well.
I expect, by and large, populism in general and the populist radical right to do a little better in 2019 for the simple reason that they already did better in 2014 and in 2009. Certain parties are going to disappear; others are going to come up.
The key question is not so much how many seats they win overall but how many seats they can bring together in one group. On that, I must say it's difficult to speculate. Salvini had his big meeting where he was going to present the new group. In the end, there was no Kaczynski and there was no Orbán. To me, personally, I think the only person who can bring all of them together is Orbán.
A lot of the smaller parties, particularly west European parties, don't want to be lead by Kaczynski and Law and Justice. They think it's too Catholic, too parochial. They see Orbán as a European player, but Orbán will ride out the European People's Party as long as he can, because they can protect him better than any new group.
The issue of mainstreaming is extremely important. This applies particularly to the populist radical right and much more towards their nativism kind of xenophobic nationalism than towards their populism, for obvious reasons. It's a bit more difficult to be populist when you're part of the decades-old mainstream. It is increasingly difficult to see boundaries objectively between certain mainstream parties and certain populist radical right parties. There's the Conservative Party in Britain, at this moment, and UKIP, for example. There's Les Républicains in France and le Rassemblement national. There's ÖVP and FPÖ, and CSU Bavaria and AfD.
In all of these, there are differences, I still believe. However, if you just look at what they say during campaigns, you can clearly see that they've moved together, and it's not the radical right that has moved. They still say exactly the same. It is the mainstream right and, in certain countries, the mainstream left that has moved towards the radical right.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
My first question is for you, Mr. Mudde.
I was intrigued by the idea that there was a void to be filled, that social democracy had accomplished what it set out to accomplish, that the lack of debate had opened the door to neo-liberalism, which then accomplished everything it had to accomplish, and the lack of debate opened the door to the authoritarian populism we are seeing today.
First, I'd like to know why the void was filled by populism instead of some other leanings.
Second, I'd like to know how, in accordance with our Liberal democratic rules, we can create institutional security structures to prevent this type of situation, especially these days, when more authoritarian or more populist groups promote mistrust in the elites. On top of that, social media exacerbates it all. I'm thinking about the phenomenon of fake news.
How can we establish this type of institutional security, in accordance with our existing system and rules?
Obviously, I don't have the right answer because I've been shouting several answers for the last few decades.
I think what is absolutely crucial is that the response is not aimed at defeating the populist. If we did defeat the populist, we would still have that distrust. We would still have that sense that liberal democracy isn't functioning well. The response has to come in strengthening liberal democracy. By definition, if you strengthen liberal democracy, you weaken populism.
How do you do that? First and foremost, you do it by being honest and by accepting that various things did not work perfectly. It is pretty important because in the current anti-populist mode we're in, we have made them the evil ones and us the good ones, as if everything were great before. I think it is crucial that ideology is brought back. People don't just want to know how to make a certain policy. They want to understand why. They want to understand why we have a European Union. Most people are not going to support that just for economic arguments. Of course, if they do, then a great recession is the end of it.
The argument initially was “no more war,” and that has completely disappeared. Similarly, social democratic parties have pretty much given up on the key ideology of international solidarity, and the Christian Democratic party is the same. I think an ideological renewal, as well as an explanation of why we support liberal democracy. The protection of minorities is not about one specific minority. Everyone, at a certain point in time, can and will be a minority and that system will then profit them.
It can only be strengthened through a positive agenda. Let's be frank here. The trust in the system was lost over various decades. It will not be won back by one great PR campaign. It has to be won back by a clear, ideological agenda that is then implemented consistently.
This is a very important question.
In recent years, there has been a big debate in Canada, the United States and Europe over whether populism was tied strictly to the economy or whether it was also caused by identity, immigration or perhaps social networks. I think it is all three.
To fully understand, we first need to look at the idea of social status. For example, populist movements are the strongest and receive the most support from people in the most isolated, rural areas, with a bit less economic growth. This is what we see as the rationale for support of populist movements in almost all countries. It's clear that the economy is a factor.
Am I rich or do I have a good job? That's not the question, because lots of people who vote for populism have good jobs. Do I see a future for my region? that's the question. Do I have a reason to be optimistic? Will the region I live in and where I want my children to live be better off in 20 years? Will I be in a part of the country that is being overlooked? Will my children have to move to the capital or to a big city to have opportunities? These are very important questions.
Immigration, or change, is also connected here, in the sense that people are trying to determine who is a real member of a society, for example. Imagine a small town 40 years ago, where many people who may not have been the wealthiest, most intelligent or most skilled could at least tell themselves that they were German and not one of those Turkish immigrants, that they were men and that this gave them some privileges, or that they were not black or weren't from Asia. A lot of these people feel as though they've lost their social status. They're rebelling against this loss of social status, which can be a significant catalyst.
Social networks are important, because they give these frustrated people a way into the political arena and a way to dominate political discourse in a way that may not have been possible 20 or 30 years ago.
I don't think it's necessarily a matter of intelligence. I'm also very skeptical about so-called “fake news” and the better informed supporting liberal democratic policies and the less informed supporting populist policies. I think a lot has to do with self-perceived economic and cultural, as well as gender, interests.
Study after study shows that urban people with higher levels of education, for example, support European integration. People have said that it's because they're smarter. No, they're better educated and live in urban centres and these are the people and the places that profit the most from European integration. If you're less educated and you live in the industrial periphery, like the Rust Belt, you get less out of that. I think both have self-interest. I don't think, systematically, people make decisions that are that much different.
Does that mean the liberal democrats have failed those people who now vote for the populist radical right? Are these the so-called “losers” of modernization? Only a small subset of them are. This is one of the biggest problems. We have this cliché image of white working-class men, pretty much, who are the support base of these parties, but it's only a small portion of the larger point.
On top of that, many of these men have not been hit hardest by the system. Non-white minorities have been hit much harder. Women have been hit much harder. It's about, first of all, whether you feel grievances, and—I think this is very important—whether those grievances are acknowledged by the broader community. This is where we all play a role. After Trump won, we had article after article about the poor white male in the Rust Belt, who yes, has issues, but what about older African-American men and women who live in the depleted cities? They were again written out of the story, so they don't get a voice. I think it's a bit more complex.
As a member of Her Majesty's loyal opposition, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the current situation going on here in our Government of Canada.
Dr. Mounk, in terms of the elements of forbearance, you mentioned the judicial system being manipulated, little or no regard for the rule of law and the media being manipulated. I'm sure you may have heard of the recent SNC-Lavalin scandal going on here in Canada, where the Prime Minister and his chief of staff allegedly attempted to influence the Attorney General, who resisted, to create a deferred prosecution agreement for this large corporation. The primary secretary, in support of that, said they'll spin the media so the story played better.
There, within the story itself, we see three of these elements: the manipulation of the judiciary, no regard for the rule of law and attempted manipulation of the media. However, we are supposed to be studying here, as a model democracy, how to set a good example and how to help other democracies that are challenged by the upholding of these same principles that are eroding.
Given this, what advice would you have for our government here in Canada and what advice would you have for the Canadian public, please?
I agree. This is one of the reasons why sometimes the critique of populists and the populist radical right is so hard. No liberal democracy is perfect and several slip up regularly. What you actually see is that, overall, populists do particularly well in countries that slip up regularly. Hungary was not working perfectly before Orbán came. Italy has a long history of populism for a very good reason.
At the same time, some of them are successful in countries that are considered to be the cleanest, like Sweden or the Netherlands or whatever. It's important to keep perspective, but it also shows the importance of opposition. What you see in the countries like Hungary, for example, is that, to a large extent, with Orbán's power, he's very popular but he also has no opposition, because the opposition, particularly the social democrats, were involved in massive corruption and then split.
Left to their own devices, I personally would trust no one. That's why opposition is important. There is also a major difference between someone who believes, in principle, that there is a legitimate opposition but just under certain circumstances would wish them not to be powerful, and someone who believes that there is no legitimate opposition. They will always go further. This is an important issue.
In my own country of the Netherlands, there is a lot of corruption coming out of the governing party as well, which should be dealt with both by the media and politics much more pronouncedly, if only so that you don't leave issues like this only to the populists, because then they can profit from it.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair and honourable members of the committee, for giving me this opportunity to address you today.
I will make a brief statement. I'm calling you from Ukraine. This is where I'm working now, implementing some projects for the Canadian government. I would be happy to answer any questions that you may have at the end.
In my opinion, the main threat to liberal democracy in Europe today is a crisis of identities. Over the past 70 years, Europe has moved from the chaos of World War II and the tensions of the Cold War to a period of economic and social progress under the governance system of the European Union. In the context of globalization and world co-operation from the 1990s on, the European Union expanded and opened itself to the world through trade and diplomacy. Individual national identities incorporated into a global European identity. European countries that were not part of the EU aspired to join.
This has led a number of European leaders to complacency over democracy. They took for granted that, after the defeat of fascism and communism, Europeans had universally accepted that liberal democracy was the only possible form of governance. The EU became mired in bureaucracy and the European Parliament failed to bring enthusiasm in voters. The 2008 financial crisis brought resentment against liberalism in countries most affected by the crisis. As well, the influx of migrants and refugees has tested, and continues to test, the limits of European openness.
In some European countries this crisis of identity is exacerbated by Russian aggression. The Russian Federation still considers many states to be within its sphere of influence. Therefore, the fear of seeing these states turn to the European Union, NATO and other symbols of western democracy has pushed the Russian Federation to intervene militarily in Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova and to offer veiled threats to the Baltic States.
The reaction has been a turn to populism in a lot of European countries. In most cases, voters have turned to far right movements. What these movements offer voters is an identity that is defined, constrained and familiar, promoting traditional values and a limited place for women in society. However, they also advocate for the fight against corruption, which makes them popular with a number of sectors of the population. They generally take an anti-establishment stance and promote a narrow vision of national identities that excludes all perceived “others”, which often means national minorities, immigrants, refugees, LGBTQ, etc. In some of the countries experiencing Russian aggression, far right movements use the threat of invasion to promote nationalism, order and the repression of dissenting voices, a kind of movement to rally around the flag.
The younger population in particular, representing the next generation, is becoming more and more attracted to these far right movements. This stems from being on the “losing” side of the status quo, disenfranchised by economic and political structures of society. As we see in Ukraine, youth have become highly skeptical of traditional politics and political parties. This is due to the slow pace of reform and the loss of the fight against corruption.
Many Europeans are at a crossroads today, where they need to make a decision about the kind of society they want to live in. This choice is between inclusion and diversity on the one side, and exclusion and uniformity on the other side. If I may use a metaphor, European societies must choose between being Canada or being Serbia.
Canada can play an important role in the promotion of liberal democracy around the world and in Europe by, first and foremost, leading by example. Canada has a history of promoting inclusion and diversity. However, this has not always been an easy and straightforward road, with many setbacks, even violent ones—for example, Quebec in the 1970s. It is also still a work in progress on many fronts, with the full integration, respect and [Technical Difficulty—Editor]
I'm sorry. The video had gone off. Thank you.
I was saying that it is still a work in progress with the full integration, respect and recognition of our indigenous peoples not yet achieved.
In my opinion, this is why Canada is a good example to the world. We should not be shy to show our successes, be open about our struggles and discuss our experiences with liberal democracy. In other words, in my opinion, we can show the world that the path to diversity, openness and inclusion is difficult and requires hard work and compromise, but that it is both possible and highly desirable. Canada's federal system of governance is a good example of how to recognize and promote diversity while also creating a national identity that inspires all citizens.
The Canadian government can promote liberal democracy in Europe by supporting democratic reforms in emerging democracies. This can include the fight against corruption, for example, transparency of government processes, the promotion of free elections and a responsible role for parliaments. For example, through funding from Global Affairs Canada, CANADEM is currently managing an election observation mission in Ukraine to observe both the presidential and parliamentary elections of 2019.
In addition, Canada should invest and play an active role in international institutions such as the UN, the OSCE and other multilateral organizations. Canada's role in peacekeeping in history under the UN banner and its support to the OSCE's special monitoring mission to Ukraine are good examples of this. These mechanisms, while imperfect and requiring improvement, are crucial to a world order based on liberalism and democracy.
I thank you for your time and I'm ready to answer any questions you would like to ask me.
I'm in Moscow—rather apropos.
Liberal democracy is under a threat in Europe and the world today. On the one hand, it's worth pointing out that the number of democracies in the world has not declined by a significant number. There were 86 democracies in 2000, 87 in 2010 and 86 today. The number of democracies in the world is still at a historical high. I think that's just important to keep in mind to temper some of the pessimism. Nevertheless, there are real reasons to worry.
First, countries such as Hungary that were once considered consolidated can no longer, in my opinion, be called democracies. In such cases, the main threats to liberal democracy come less from violent attacks on the opposition or obvious democratic violations, but instead arise from less visible, but systematic, attempts to create an uneven playing field by packing the courts and buying out opposition media in order to eliminate alternative sources of information.
While such measures rarely inspire headlines, they create a fundamentally uneven playing field that reduces political competition and seriously harms the democratic process. For example, Viktor Orbán in Hungary has not engaged in large-scale vote fraud or killed any journalists, as has occurred here. However, his government has used a variety of legal mechanisms—gerrymandering and the selective distribution of government advertising—to seriously undermine critical media, as well as the opposition's capacity to compete for power. As a result, I do not think that Hungary can be called a democracy.
At the same time, in many western European democracies, politics have been infected by the rise of populist forces that often rely on racist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic appeals. Such appeals foment intolerance and intensify polarization, undermining the compromise that is critical to democratic governance. The rise of populism clearly presents a threat to the the transatlantic alliances. A number of these parties, including the National Front in France and the far right alternative for Germany, opposed NATO, as well the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement. In turn, many have, of course, received support from Putin in the form of misinformation campaigns on the Internet or, in some cases, direct funding.
Russian money has also been used to undermine pro-EU and pro-NATO forces in Macedonia, Montenegro, the Czech Republic, Ukraine and many other cases. How do we explain the emergence of such populist threats to liberal democracy? It's helpful to distinguish between bottom-up and top-down factors.
Bottom-up factors include the resentment and fears generated by immigration, which were just mentioned, and a backlash against perceived changes in European culture. A number of studies have demonstrated a link between immigration and support for far right political forces. In particular, the refugee crisis of 2015 increased the salience of immigration and strengthened the hand of right-wing parties. In Hungary, Viktor Orbán's decision to build a fence on the Serbian border in response to the refugee crisis contributed to a dramatic increase in support for his party. Similarly, in Poland, the refugee crisis appears to have bolstered support for far right parties.
Furthermore, the presence of immigrants with different languages and cultures reinforces the impression that traditional norms and values are disappearing. Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris argue that such perceived threats to traditional European culture, both from immigrants and from shifts in cultural values among the young, have generated what they call a “cultural backlash” among older and less educated parts of the population that has motivated them to support far right parties. At the same time, many studies suggest that the political attitudes fuelling support for far right populism—anti-immigrant attitudes, disenchantment with democracy—have remained relatively stable since the early 2000s. Indeed, a range of studies show that overall tolerance of differences in race and sexuality has increased over the last 50 years.
This fact points to the importance of top-down factors in explaining the rise of populism—namely the increased use of culturalist and xenophobic appeals by parties such as Fidesz in Hungary. Such parties have likely emerged less because attitudes have changed and more because political entrepreneurs have figured out how to tap into a reservoir of populist sentiment that existed all along.
In several ways, the traditional centre-left in Europe has created an opening for populist appeals. First, populists have been aided by the fact that many mainstream centre-left parties have adopted liberal stances on lifestyle questions, thereby distancing themselves from less educated and older cohorts who support more traditional views on heterosexuality and gender roles.
Furthermore, as Sheri Berman has argued, nationalist appeals have been indirectly facilitated by the left-right consensus on the economy that emerged in the 1990s and 2000s over support for deregulation and neo-liberalism.
Dalston Ward argued that when parties cannot differentiate themselves on the economy, they activate other non-economic issues around which to compete. The economic consensus has encouraged some parties to make environmental appeals, but many other parties to foment resentment towards minorities. In Poland, for example, parties now differentiate themselves along what can be called the “axis of values” between secular liberal cosmopolitans and religious authoritarian nationalists, more than by differences in economic policy. The left-right consensus on economic issues can also encourage the emergence of new anti-liberal parties, such as the Alternative for Germany, created in 2013.
The left-right consensus on the economy has also meant that the traditional left was unable to capitalize on the resentments generated by rising inequality and the financial crisis, thereby creating an opening for populist political forces. Indeed, the mainstream centre-left has witnessed significant declines in recent years in France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and even Scandinavia.
In many cases, populist parties have filled the void by combining authoritarian nationalism with left-wing economic appeals. Thus, a number of far right parties—the Freedom Party in Austria, the National Front in France and the Alternative for Germany—have shifted from supporting lower taxes and cuts in the welfare state to now supporting greater social protections.
More generally, the rise of populism can be seen as a result of failures by mainstream parties to sufficiently address the legitimate concerns of those left behind. In turn, this analysis points to ways in which Canada can support liberal democracy and reduce the appeal of populism. First of all, I agree with everything that was said in the previous talk. I just want to add one other thing, which is that the rise of populism has been driven in part by voters who feel that their concerns are not represented by mainstream parties and who are, therefore, attracted to populist alternatives.
With this in mind, the Canadian government should support democratically minded forces that represent a diversity of views on the economy and economic reform in emerging democracies. After the Cold War, there was a temptation in places like Russia to exclusively back political leaders who supported radical economic reform, and to pay little or no attention to those who opposed or were hurt by economic changes.
Today in Ukraine—which I think is on everyone's mind—the natural focus has been on groups from western Ukraine that are the strongest proponents of much needed economic reform. I completely understand the focus on this group. However, the recent rise of the outsider comedian Volodymyr Zelensky, who actively courted votes from southeastern Ukraine, shows the potential dangers, in my view, that arise when the political class ignores significant parts of the electorate. Ultimately, democracy will be most stable when mainstream democratic parties exist that represent all groups in society.
Thank you very much, Chair.
Thank you very much, Ms. Dugal and Mr. Way, for being here today. My interest, in addition to the examination within this committee, is also to evaluate Canada's position from an executive level, in communication and coordination with other nations and other multilateral organizations, to determine how we can support these flailing democracies as well as developing democracies.
First, I would turn to what is now referred to as the great power struggle between, of course, the historic power of the United States and the more recently emerged Russia, as well as China. What role do these three great powers play in either encouraging democracy or defeating democracy? Russia, obviously, is a more obvious example, as Ms. Dugal and other witnesses have alluded to, but perhaps we can focus more on the United States and China.
Again, I reference it a lot here but certainly in Venezuela.... I was a diplomat for 15 years, most of the time in the Americas. We've seen Maduro's success. When I say “success” I mean that any semblance of governance he has maintained is largely the result of receiving resources support from two or three of these great powers. Would you comment on the role of those, please. I'll start with Ms. Dugal, please.