Panel by ECPS & SZABIST University: Populism and Electoral Politics Around the World

Autonomous community of Madrid elections in Spain on May 05, 2021. Photo: Sangiao Photography.

Date/Time: Friday, November 17, 2023 – 10:00-12:20 (CET)


This panel is jointly organized by The European Center for Populism Studies (ECPS) and SZABIST University.


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Dr. Fizza Batool (Assistant Professor, SZABIST University, Karachi)


“The Radical Right and the Radical Left in Anno 2023: What Does Populism Got To Do With It?” by Dr. Andrej Zaslove  (Associate Professor – Empirical Political Science, Radboud University.) 

“Psychological Roots of Populist Voting,” by Dr. Bert N. Bakker (Associate Professor, University of Amsterdam). 

The Psychological Appeal of Populism,” by Dr. Jennifer Sheehy-Skeffington (Associate Professor of Social Psychology, London School of Economics and Political Science)

“Electoral Populism in Pakistan and India,” by Dr. Farhan Hanif Siddiqui (Associate Professor, QAU).

“Populist Strategies of Erdogan in 2022 Elections,” by Dr. Salim Cevik (Associate at the Centre for Applied Turkey Studies (CATS), SWP, Germany). 


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Abstract and Brief Biographies

Dr. Fizza Batool is an academic and policy researcher with a particular interest in Comparative Politics, Comparative Democratization, Peace Studies and Populism. She is currently an Assistant Professor (Social Sciences) at SZABIST University, Karachi. Previously, she worked for over a decade in the research and development sector where she served in important managerial positions. Her works have been published in some prestigious research journals like South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, Pakistan Horizon etc. She is currently authoring a book on Populism in Pakistan, scheduled to be published in 2024 by Palgrave Macmillan. She also contributes to English dailies in Pakistan and international research magazines such as South Asian Voices. She was one of the 2020 SAV Visiting Fellows at Stimson Center, DC.

The Radical Right and the Radical Left in Anno 2023: What Does Populism Got to Do with It?

Abstract: Populist radical right and populist radical left parties are stable members of party systems in Western Europe. The rise of the populist radical right can be traced back to the 1990s, while the transformation of left-wing parties into populist radical left parties is more recent. This presentation will discuss the recent electoral success of left and right-wing populist parties. It will discuss some of the more recent changing features of these radical parties, discussing the extent to which, for example, the populist radical right has expanded it issue base. And it will assess the role of populism, for the parties and for their voters, discussing the manner in which populism remains important for the parties in question.

Dr. Andrej Zaslove is an Associate Professor of Empirical Political Science at Radboud University. He conducts research into populism and political parties. He measures populist attitudes among voters and political parties and examines the links between populism and democracy, foreign policy and gender. He also examines the impact of populism on party systems.  

Psychological Roots of Populist Voting

Dr. Bert N. Bakker is an Associate Professor at the Amsterdam School of Communication Research (University of Amsterdam). His work focuses on contemporary issues social polarization and populism. In particular, he studies the psychological roots of citizens’ political beliefs with the most attention to the role of personality and emotions. His work has appeared in journals such as Nature Human BehaviourJournal of Communicationthe American Political Science Review and the Journal of Politics. He also serves as an Associate Editor at the Journal of Experimental Political Science. He is the co-founder of the Hot Politics Lab – a lab-group studying the role of emotions and personality in politics. He is also the founder and co-organizer of the Dutch Political Psychology Meetings which are held twice a year at the University of Amsterdam.

The Psychological Appeal of Populism

Dr. Jennifer Sheehy-Skeffington is currently a Visiting Associate Professor in Psychology at New York University Abu Dhabi. She is also an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychological & Behavioral Science at the London School of Economics, a Faculty Affiliate of the LSE International Inequalities Institute, and an Associate Editor at the European Journal of Social Psychology and the British Journal of Psychology. Jennifer’s research examines (1) the consequences of material and social adversity on cognitive performance, self-regulation, affect, and decision-making, and (2) the psychological underpinnings of political attitudes such as egalitarianism and support for populist platforms. In drawing out the social and policy implications of her research, Jennifer has worked with the British Psychological Society, the UNDP, the World Bank, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and the Indus Health Network, Pakistan.

Electoral Populism in India and Pakistan

Abstract: The electoral popularity and victory of populist parties in India and Pakistan is often explained in terms of their mobilization and electoral strategies which detail a mix of incentives including bringing the younger generation of non-voters into the voting matrix combined with reliance on existing patronage networks. Moving beyond such explanations, the argument broached here borders on the production of a neo-religious ethos in India and Pakistan that pervades the electoral space. In India’s case, religion was a protracted feature of local electoral politics in the post-colonial years which was entrenched and equally evident in the politics of the Congress party. Under the BJP, the neo-religious Hindutva electoral politics has only become more pronounced and pervasive, a proposition that allows for surveying shades of electoral populism under the Congress party and the BJP. In Pakistan, religion had a symbolic and ideological appeal, which captured the imagination of high politics under the Pakistan People’s Party government in the 1970s, with the result that it provided grounds for the weaponization of the blasphemy laws and discourse. This weaponization worryingly in present times sways the imagination of not only religious political actors but more controversially also mainstream political parties, as evident in their electoral politics. In this sense, both India and Pakistan represent case studies of a majoritarian and hegemonic neo-religious revivalism utilized for electoral gains with devastating consequences for social cohesion, diversity-acceptance and peaceful coexistence.

Dr. Farhan Hanif Siddiqi is an Associate Professor in the School of Politics and International Relations at the Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. His research interests border on ethnic politics, federalism, conflict analysis/resolution, societal security, and crisis management in Pakistan and South Asia. His new co-authored book, Introducing International Relations: Concepts, Theories, and Practices was published by the Oxford University Press in 2023. He is also the author of, The Politics of Ethnicity in Pakistan: The Baloch, Sindhi and Mohajir Ethnic Movements (Routledge, 2012). 

Populist Strategies of Erdogan in the 2022 Elections

Abstract: Ahead of Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections in May 2023, many polls predicted that Erdogan would lose power after 20 years in power. But contrary to the expectations of many, Erdoğan has managed to cling to power through a series of populist and nationalist maneuvers. First, he accused the opposition of not being "national and authentic" and openly questioned their national loyalty. He also claimed that the opposition candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu was the favorite candidate of terrorist organizations. Thus, he attacked the legitimacy of opposition actors rather than their concrete policies. His tight control over the media enabled him to spread this line. 

Second and relatedly, he played on techno-nationalism. Ambitious projects such as the national automobile and the national fighter jet were used to garner support. Developments in Turkey’s defense industry, exemplified in particular by the global success of Turkish drones, were used to bolster Erdoğan’s image as a capable leader with a global reputation. Constant references to the defense industry and the militarization of Turkish foreign policy dominated the discourse to the extent that a parallel was drawn between Erdoğan’s fate and the fate of the nation. Thus, opposing Erdoğan was presented as opposing the nation’s security.

Finally, Erdoğan pursued populist economic policies and went on a spending spree in the year leading up to the election. He granted early retirement rates, large salary increases, debt write-offs. While such measures are likely to worsen the economy in the long run, in the short term they have been very useful in restoring his popularity.

In response to Erdoğan’s tactics, the opposition has tried to build the broadest possible alliance. However, this has weakened the opposition parties because they have had to make direct or indirect alliances with parties at the opposite end of the political spectrum. But more importantly, the opposition entered the election with a weak and uncharismatic leader who was unable to counter the government’s propaganda, demonstrating the importance of the right candidate to defeat populist authoritarian leaders.

Dr. Salim Çevik is a fellow at the Center for Applied Turkey Studies (CATS) established at the Berlin-based think tank German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP). Prior to joining SWP, he held researcher and/or teaching positions at Columbia University, Istanbul Bilgi University, Ipek University, Lund University, and the Free University of Berlin. He received his PhD from the Political Science Department of Bilkent University in 2015. His main areas of research are religion in politics, democratization, nationalism, and nation-building. His most recent publications are “A Comparative Approach to Understanding Regime Trajectories of Tunisia and Turkey” published by the British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, (co-authored with Pelin Ayan Musil) and “New Turkey and Management of the Religious Realm: Continuities and Ruptures,” published by the European Journal of Turkish Studies.

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