Recent elections in the Czech Republic did nothing to reverse a trend of populist candidates carrying a message of reform into office in this part of Europe, according to Virginia Tech political science professor Besnik Pula.
“Andrej Babis’ victory in the Czech elections indicates that the populist wave sweeping Europe has not spared this relatively successful democracy and market economy,” said Pula. “His victory indicates that even sustained growth and low unemployment – in other words, a relatively strong economy – do not necessarily provide an antidote to the rise of populist politicians in Europe and elsewhere.”
Babis, a blunt-talking billionaire who made his fortune through a business empire, has been called the Czech answer to U.S. President Donald Trump.
“Unlike the ruling illiberal and nationalist leaders in neighboring Hungary and Poland, Babis is seen as less ideological and more pragmatic, and may not stir up Czech and European politics as much as Viktor Orban in Hungary and Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Poland have done,” said Pula.
“His anti-EU rhetoric has already stirred up trouble for German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron and their plans to implement reforms within the EU,” he said.
Professor Pula’s research expertise lie in the comparative political economy of developing countries, post-communist transformations, and the social and institutional impacts of globalization. His current interests include issues of European integration and what those processes have meant for both regional economies in Europe as well as the global political economy more generally.
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