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Public turns back on populist politicians

Posted September. 27, 2019 07:33,   

Updated September. 27, 2019 07:33


Having kept the world under tight control, strongman global leaders are currently under pressure to resign such as U.S. President Donald Trump, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Political experts have analyzed that a growing number of their citizens are turning their back on the strong leaders who exhibit reckless behavior and attitudes while only pursuing far-right populism and national interests.

According to BBC and other news media, the British lower house was filled with the shouts and yells of the members on Wednesday. The Commons called on Prime Minister Johnson to leave office, even shouting that he should go to jail. On the previous day, the British Supreme Court ruled against the prime minister on the suspension of parliament. Then, the opposition parties including the British Labor Party vociferously argued that they do not acknowledge him as the country’s prime minister. In response, Prime Minister Johnson fought back by calling on a no-confidence motion in hopes of holding an election at an earlier time. CNN harshly criticized that since Johnson came to power, he has only put Britain’s national reputation as the root of parliamentary democracy on a downward spiral.

Italian strongman Matteo Salvini, who is leading his far-right league, has already been kicked out of the cabinet. In June last year, he succeeded in becoming deputy prime minister in coalition with the leftist populist Five Star Movement. While he wielded powerful influence over the country, he was criticized as a “mass killer” or “second Mussolini” for suppressing immigrants and sealing ports to a humanitarian ship carrying rescued migrants. Last month, he broke up with the Five Star Movement and declared the end to the coalition after they were divided on a high-speed train project and immigrant issues. Although he aimed at another term by an early general election, his plan went down the drain as the Five Star Movement and the leftist Democratic Party formed a new coalition government.

The rise of anti-Putin protests across the country is giving a headache to the Russian strongman leader as well. Obviously, the presidential approval ratings have only fallen as the country is mired in public repulsion for the two decades of President Putin’s governance, economic difficulties and the rigged election on Sept. 8. His approval ratings have recently dropped to the low-40 percent range while they reached around 80 percent when Moscow annexed the Crimea in 2014.

Added to this, Chinese President Xi Jinping has struggled to address economic concerns due to the trade war with Washington and contain the recent outbreak of African swine fever. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to extend his presidency into a fifth term in the general election on Sept. 17. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is now under fire for gagging dissidents and failing to deal with economic difficulties.

Meanwhile, experts predict that the fall of these strongman leaders will depend on the results of the Brexit deal scheduled on Oct. 31 and next November’s U.S. presidential election. Politico diagnosed that strongman leaders and far-right populism have declined since they reached their peak, expecting that the principles of democracy, multilateralism and reciprocity will regain their power.

Youn-Jong Kim zozo@donga.com