For at least the past decade, global liberal democracy has been increasingly haunted by the spectre of populism. Populist leaders have assumed government power in a diverse range of countries: Hungary, the US, Italy, and the Philippines are just some of the examples. Even where 'established' parties and actors continue to govern, populism as a political style and strategy has left its mark, from Brexit to the electoral successes of right-wing populist parties across Europe. Populism has also been associated - and sometimes held responsible for - phenomena of democratic backsliding or constitutional erosion which can be observed in both 'established' and 'young' democracies around the globe: constitutional conventions are overridden, constitutions amended, replaced, or ignored; 'illiberal' or 'hybrid' democracies are on the rise in what, on the whole, constitutes a worldwide crisis of liberal democracy. At the same time, both populism and democratic backsliding are elusive concepts, subject to ongoing scholarly debate and often abused as political fighting terms. While there is clearly a link between the rise of populist politics and the decline of liberal democracy, the nature of that think requires closer analysis.
The conference 'Populism and Democracy', which takes place on Friday, 24 April 2020 in Brussels, Belgium, brings together scholars of constitutional law and political science from around the world to discuss the influence of populist politics on constitutional developments, the reasons for success or failure of constitutional defences, and potential ways out of the global crisis of liberal democracy.
This conference and project have been funded by the Staatsman Thorbecke Fund of the KNAW ( Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences).