Anti-populist lessons from eastern Europe’s civil society


There are lessons to be learned on populism from new initiatives in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, argues Orysia Lutsevych, the manager of the Ukraine Forum with Chatham House, the London-based foreign policy think tank.

Civil society,* with active and effectively engaged citizenship could help mend deficiencies in representative democracies. High level of mobilization and civic oversight, as demonstrated by developments in the transition economies, such as Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, offer important insights into successful anti-populist measures, she writes for Open Democracy:

  • To seize the opportunity in putting a cap on populist politics, civil society oversight and control should be directed mainly towards ruling elites, who under the temptation of quick wins adopt populist rhetoric. Civic actions could include fact checking of party candidates and politicians for the use of false narratives. For example, VoxCheck in Ukraine regularly rates politicians for lies and populist rhetoric. In Georgia, a coalition of civil society organisations. led by the Media Development Foundation, monitors disinformation and anti-liberal propaganda disseminated by media outlets and politicians. …
  • By offering meaningful engagement for citizens beyond elections, civil society could help shape inclusive policy. This kind of engagement should be easy, clear and extend across different ages. For example, in Ukraine consultative Civic Councils at the Ministry of Health and National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU) deliver civic representation at the national level. Over 70,000 citizens participated in electing the council members online that maintain a feedback loop between citizens and national agencies. …
  • Finally, effective communication could bridge disconnect between citizens and elites and help channel citizens’ view into political society. By monitoring the implementation of public policies, civil society organizations could bring to the table practical policy results and identify false narratives spanned by the populists….

*Including grantees of the National Endowment for Democracy.




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