go to top
A poster mocking Viktor Orban held on a stick above protesters' heads. A protester holds a sign mocking Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban during an anti-government march in central Budapest, Hungary, Dec. 21, 2018 (AP photo by Marko Drobnjakovic).

What’s Driving the Rise of Authoritarianism and Populism in Europe and Beyond?

Friday, Sept. 11, 2020

Globally, the past decade has been marked by the twin advances of authoritarianism and populism. The two are not always linked, but in situations ranging from the Philippines and Cambodia to Hungary and Poland, politicians have leveraged populist movements to seize power. Once in office, they have begun the process of dismantling the institutions designed to check their authority and protect human rights, particularly the judiciary and the media.

The populist boom is fueled by disparate, local issues, but these often share common features, such as feelings of disenfranchisement, of being left out of a global economic boom and of discomfort at seeing familiar social orders upended. The movements these grievances generate have spurred anti-immigrant xenophobia—and, in places like Hungary and Greece, even horrifying episodes of political violence—as underlying prejudices are exploited by opportunistic politicians.

Champions of liberal democracy have often appeared hamstrung in their attempts to counter these forces, but there have been some recent successes, including the rise of the Greens across Europe and electoral setbacks for extremist parties in countries where they once seemed ascendant, such as France, Spain and the Netherlands. And in countries where centrist or right-wing parties have chosen to adopt populist policies rather than to push back against them, civil society groups have been resurgent.

WPR has covered the rise of populism and authoritarianism in detail and continues to examine key questions about what will happen next. What role will Venezuela’s political crisis play in the U.S. presidential election? Can Europe push back against illiberalism in its midst? Will the coronavirus pandemic weaken or strengthen populist movements around the world? Below are some of the highlights of WPR’s coverage.

Our Most Recent Coverage

Turkey’s Challenge to the Regional Status Quo Begins in the Eastern Mediterranean

Turkey is making a major move to end the regional status quo established by the Treaty of Lausanne, and the crucible for that challenge is increasingly the Eastern Mediterranean. For many of Turkey’s neighbors and current allies in Europe, that effort is already having some significant and dangerous consequences.


[SPECIAL OFFER: Want to learn more? Get full access to World Politics Review for 12 weeks for just $12 and read all the articles linked here to get up to speed on this important issue.]


Europe’s Anti-Immigrant Parties and Illiberal Leaders

The continent is a hotbed for populist movements, mostly driven by anti-immigrant sentiment. In countries where those parties have won power, particularly in the east, they have often attempted to dismantle democratic institutions.

The Philippines

Ahead of his 2016 election, Duterte won widespread support for his pledge to wage an extrajudicial war on drugs. And he has delivered. Since his election, thousands of Filipinos have been killed in the “war on drugs,” even as that campaign has masked Duterte’s other efforts to consolidate power.

Turkey

Over the past decade, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has gone from being a model of democratic political Islam to a traditional autocrat, using a counterterrorism campaign to crack down on dissent and a failed coup as an excuse to purge political opponents. But significant electoral gains by the opposition in last year’s local elections show that Erdogan’s hold on power might not be as absolute as he thought it was.


[SPECIAL OFFER: Want to learn more? Get full access to World Politics Review for 12 weeks for just $12 and read all the articles linked here to get up to speed on this important issue.]


Cambodia

After facing a stiff electoral challenge from a united opposition in 2014, Prime Minister Hun Sen initially responded by seeking reconciliation. Since then, however, he reverted to his traditional authoritarian ways, cracking down on the now-fractured opposition to consolidate his power in elections in 2018, at the cost of his ties with Europe and the U.S.

Nicaragua, Venezuela and Brazil

Their individual circumstances are unique, but in each country there are concerns about how an elected leader is wielding his power.


[SPECIAL OFFER: Want to learn more? Get full access to World Politics Review for 12 weeks for just $12 and read all the articles linked here to get up to speed on this important issue.]


Not yet ready to subscribe? Download our free report instead to get a taste of WPR's in-depth news and expert analysis.

At the outset of the Biden presidency, we are covering how myriad aspects of U.S. foreign policy are changing under the new administration. While Biden will undoubtedly repudiate Trump’s approach, which was itself a radical break from U.S. foreign policy traditions, it’s unclear whether a restoration of the United States global role is even possible. What immediate challenges will the Biden administration confront? And how will he successfully pivot policy in key areas? This report is just a sampling of our coverage so far of U.S. foreign policy under Biden. Download your FREE copy of U.S. Foreign Policy Under Biden to learn more today.

Download our free report and better understand the future direction of U.S. foreign policy.

With your copy of U.S. Foreign Policy Under Biden you’ll also gain free registration to the WPR newsletter, delivering uncompromising news and analysis directly to your inbox. Your FREE registration includes access to select articles, early announcements, and periodic discounts on our full-service subscription.

Download your FREE copy of U.S. Foreign Policy Under Biden to learn more today.

As the Biden administration takes over, the world is experiencing a sort of whiplash, as the United States performs a second about-face in its posture toward multilateralism in only four years. Although the U.S. has oscillated through cycles of internationalism and isolationism before, it has never executed such a swift and dramatic double-reverse. The Biden administration will repudiate the “America First” platform on which Donald Trump won the White House in 2016, and the hyper-nationalist, unilateralist and sovereigntist mindset that undergirds it. Such a stunning shift in America’s global orientation would have major implications for global cooperation on everything from climate change, health and nuclear proliferation to trade and human rights, as well as for U.S. relations with its Western allies.

The stage is set, in other words, for a massive reorientation in U.S. foreign policy. It remains to be seen if Trumpism will remain a potent political force, shaping Republican attitudes around foreign policy for years to come.

Download U.S. Foreign Policy Under Biden today to take a deeper look at these trends and get a glimpse at what the future may hold.

In this report, you will learn:

  • What Biden's presidency will mean for the future of multilateralism
  • What is in store for U.S. policy on human rights
  • How the new Nuclear Weapons Ban treaty will be an early trial for Biden
  • What Biden's policy toward North Korea is likely to look like
  • Whether Turkey's frayed ties with the West are likely to improve under Biden
  • How the Biden administration may try to clean up the mess in Afghanistan
  • And more . . .

Download our free report and better understand the future direction of U.S. foreign policy.

With your copy of U.S. Foreign Policy Under Biden you’ll also gain free registration to the WPR newsletter, delivering uncompromising news and analysis directly to your inbox. Your FREE registration includes access to select articles, early announcements, and periodic discounts on our full-service subscription.

Download your FREE copy of U.S. Foreign Policy Under Biden to learn more today.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in May 2019 and is regularly updated.