Eastern Europe’s populists emboldened in limiting ‘foreign’ NGOs


Populist leaders across Central and Eastern Europe are mounting simultaneous crackdowns on nongovernmental organizations that promote open government, aid refugees and often serve as checks on authoritarian governments, The New York Times reports:

In Hungary, where the movement has reached a fever pitch, supporters of Prime Minister Viktor Orban (left) are vilifying “foreign-funded” N.G.O.s — especially those succored by George Soros, the liberal American billionaire — and accusing the groups of wanting to flood Europe with Muslim refugees and transform “Christian” nations into multicultural stews of left-wing globalism. Earlier this week, Zoltan Kovacs, Mr. Orban’s chief international spokesman, described the organizations as “foreign agents financed by foreign money.”

“This is where European democratic values will be defended,” said Goran Buldioski, director of the Open Society Initiative for Europe. “In Hungary and Poland, not in Western Europe. Democracy is more than just the ballot box, and it is more than something that happens every four years.”

The designation of civil society groups as foreign agents is a further sign of Putinization across the region, analysts suggest.

Some of Europe’s most successful far-right politicians are women, including Marine Le Pen of France, Frauke Petry of Germany, Siv Jensen of Norway and Pia Kjaersgaard of Denmark. They are leading, or have recently led, what were once fringe parties — pushing their extremist views to the political mainstream and seeking to appeal to those who once eschewed their parties: female voters, The NY Times reports:

One study, carried out across 17 countries by Swedish and Dutch scholars and published in late 2015 in an academic journal called Patterns of Prejudice, found women less likely than men to vote for what the study called the “populist radical right” — but not because women were against the ideology.

Men are neither more “nativist” nor “authoritarian,” compared with women, the study found, nor do women evince less “discontent” with their governments. Women by and large were deterred from voting for the radical right by other things, including the populist right’s “political style, occasional association with historic violence, stigmatization by parts of the elite and the general public” — in other words, their outlier-ness.


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