Is populism dangerous to democracy ?

I am started to read about the phenomenon named “populism” when presidency election in Europe is getting close. When I read about it, there is a lot of opinion about how controversy is populism in European democracy life. The reason is because populism endangered the existence of European Union system when they took up the […]

I am started to read about the phenomenon named “populism” when presidency election in Europe is getting close. When I read about it, there is a lot of opinion about how controversy is populism in European democracy life. The reason is because populism endangered the existence of European Union system when they took up the presidency. Thus, with their figures like Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders, Sebastian Kurz, Viktor Orban etc, they make their move to spread out their ideas. But the phenomenon is not limited in European continent, Latin America now fill with populist presidents and candidates like Maduro, Ivan Duque, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, etc. Before taking too far, let’s look about what is populism itself.
Populism, in the simplest term is the voice of common people although the definition of populism itself is diverse and debatable. The candidate population is tend to side-by-side to the common people to fight about injustice, economic right and so on. They want to change or reform existed systems and policies which harm common people. They see the elites as enemy that needs to be taking down. Thus, it makes dichotomy “Us vs. Them”. There are two categories on populism, one called left-wing populism which is back to people and right-wing populism which their idea is about culture and nationalism.

Once again, the economist does a great work in analyzing geopolitical trends.





I hope this big and simple picture about populism is understandable. Now, let ‘s move to the main topic, is populism dangerous to our democracy? There are many questions to answer and back again, it’s debatable. Furthermore, there is an opinion that has the potential for creating authoritarian government. But, despite many opinions, I want to give my point of view about this phenomenon based on what I have read and analyze.



First of all, let ‘s begin with the first question, what is the purpose of a State? For me, the purpose of the State is to give prosperity, security and safety to it ‘s citizen. No matter the State, giving prosperity and security is essential existence. Now to the second question, what is democracy value? I think in big picture, democracy is the rule of the people which means that people are the key component to democracy. Democracy is protecting citizens right to have freedom to express and give opinion, freedom from threat, to gain economy access and so on. That is why there are many mechanisms that ensure the involvement of people in government decision and States as a whole like referendum and election. And the final question what is the basic needs of human? I think the basic needs of human economy (access to economic things like food, occupation and so on) and security (safety from internal and external threat).
The state has the responsibility as long as it’s exist to their citizen. Because citizens are one of the main parts of the state itself and states running by citizen. The state is only an instrument to run the system, all policies relating to the needs of the people. When the State is not present to provide people with security and a system that is effective, what will the people do? They will definitely look for new alternatives. After all, what is important for a state is not implemented.


A state should do its best to ensure security and prosperity to its inhabitants.



Apart from all existing systems ranging from the monarchy and so on, democracy is a better system than before, there is freedom and protection of human rights contained in the constitution of each country. The people play an active role in choosing who will be their leaders and representatives in the government. One thing that must be underlined is that the leaders and representatives to carry out the functions and obligations of the State to the people. With this, the people chosen by the people have great moral responsibility. However, there are many cases in various countries in the world, both developed countries such as the European Union and the United States and developing countries such as Venezuela, Colombia, Argentina, etc. where corruption or policy making is not in favor of its people. This causes people ‘s dissatisfaction with the existing government so that they seek new alternatives so that their needs are guaranteed. However, the goals of the State relate to meeting the most essential needs of humans, namely the economy (water, food, energy) and security and safety. How can we think about politics and government if our most basic needs are not met.
I think, logic like this is used by populism. They do not have the favor of the public interest. This disappointment makes both right-wing and left-wing populism a rapidly growing phenomenon and is growing in the European Union, the United States, Latin America

pepper, and various countries in the world. We can not blame the people who support this populism, because what people want is only welfare and security for them. For me, this populism is not a danger, but it is a natural process that takes place in an order. An order or system can not last forever. Dissatisfaction and relentless demands and other unknown factors will always be the cause of the collapse of the order. Even so, we can see that the democratic system is still operating as it should. We see in the United States how control systems run very dynamically. However, the process of selecting populist leaders through democratic systems and people choice. It will be a hard challenge for democracy to prove that democracy is the better system than the one that populism proposed.
However, one thing to realize is that maybe you support populism, but there are certain limits that certainly can not overcome by populism though. I will not talk about populism in South America because I have no knowledge, apologize for that, but i follow the development of populism in Europe and the United States and there are things that really make me upset, namely they commit discrimination against people minority especially immigrants. In UN human rights documents, minorities are given the same rights because we are human beings and the global community. That sentence should be the basis for us to treat with dignity and respect. Moreover, we live in a democratic system that protects human rights so that the treatment of fellow human beings must be dignified and with respect.
Then, for the conclusion, I think populism is not dangerous for democracy because it is a natural process in a world order. But for democracy, of course populism is dangerous to democracy existence. One thing to remember and learn from populism and all of us future leaders should be remember. The state’s essential purpose is to give prosperity and security to it citizens. Whether we like it or not, populism accommodates the people and becomes the voice of the interest of the common people and what is learned from them. They see what the elites can not see. And if we become a leader of our country, we have a great moral responsibility to our people who choose us.

That is my opinion. If you think that my article is one-sided or there is a different opinion, feel free to criticize me and tell your opinion so we can learn together. My name is Rizky Ridho Pratomo, major International Relations from National Development “Veterans” University in Jakarta, Indonesia and interested in theology, philosophy, politics, security, international relations, Europe continent, Asia continent, Geopolitics and Education.


If you want to read more on populism take the exemple of France and Macron, a must-read from YoungDiplomats


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