Increasing numbers of voters are supporting parties with populist authoritarian agendas. Authoritarians attack progressive causes such as equality for marginalised groups, environmental protection, the civic space, judicial independence and media freedom and pluralism. Even in countries where populist authoritarians have not entered government, they have prompted mainstream parties to adopt authoritarian policies in an effort to retain and recapture lost voters.
Mainstream research on the causes behind the success of populist authoritarian parties has offered many, often contradictory, answers. Experts have been unable to deliver a holistic and coherent explanation for the rise of authoritarianism. Nor have they been able to suggest a comprehensive package of counter-measures. This has left funders and civil society organisations that promote progressive causes without the analysis and guidance they need to respond to the current climate effectively.
Liberties has published a policy paper, based on its recent book 'Countering populist authoritarians: Where their support comes from and how to counter their success'. The book is based on research from the field of social psychology explaining the contributory elements that result in voters endorsing authoritarian attitudes.
The paper explains to funders and civil society organisations how the various factors identified by political scientists, sociologists, historians and philosophers operate as short-term triggers and long-term background causes. We then outline a series of measures that funders and civil society organisations could take to rebuild public support for progressive causes such as human rights, environmental protection, democracy and the rule of law.