Why tackle Populism & Its Effects on Liberal Democracy?

Populism has developed into a veritable challenge for Western Europe’s established liberal democracies.

While populism was a marginal political force in post-war Europe, it has now entered the political mainstream with decisive implications for the performance of liberal, representative democracies. Across the continent, we have growing evidence of populist parties being a major force in dismantling fundamental rights as well as checks and balances on which liberal democracy depends. 

The success of populist, anti-establishment parties in electoral politics has dramatically transformed not only the dynamics of competitive party politics but also what it means to participate in political life, individually and collectively.

Over the course of five years, the research project Populism and its Effects on Liberal Democracy: Minority Rights and Freedom of Speech funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, explores questions of (i) how right-wing populist parties claim to represent the ‘voice of the people’ and express ‘popular sovereignty,’ and (ii) how right-wing populism, in cases where parties form part of government, affects minority rights.

Over the past years, the project has created synergies with the project “Europe-Canada Dialogue on Democracy: Democratic Deficit and the rise of populism”, co-funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union, the Centre for Global Studies, Faculty of Law and  the Cedar Trees Institute at the University of Victoria.



Debates Open to Public: Public lectures, webinars, social media 

Students Education:  New graduate level class for students at UVic

Publications:  Books, journal articles, and special journal issues

Policy Development: High-profile public forum in Ottawa

Key Questions

Modern liberal democracy strikes a compromise between the constitutionally enshrined protection of individual and minority rights on the one hand and the majority rule of the people institutionalized in elections on the other. Our empirical investigation into four national case studies in Europe (Austria, Italy, Germany and Poland) is informed by this tension between democracy and liberalism and looks into how populism often exploits and accentuates it. See also our Canada – Europe Dialogue on Democracy Project (CEDoD) 

Project Milestones