Division was a most common word used to describe outcomes of the majority of political events in Europe during the last year. Political division of the society, based on hate and fear. Such politics came from the ruling parties and from the opposition as well. It was reserved for the semi-authoritarian and authoritarian regimes, but it didn’t avoided „The Cradle of Democracy“ – UK, or some other democratically oriented countries. No matter where or from whom, no matter if liberals won or lost on the elections, our societies became divided on the basis which deteriorates values of free and open world.
Global dissatisfaction in politicians by the people is huge, to some extent justified, to other it is demonization, spreading of fake news or populism based on fear to blame for. Such environment of mistrust was a fertile soil for the nationalist who are protecting „national question“, authoritarians who are able to create ostensible sense of justice and freedom while undermining those values, or even opposition whose messages are based on fear from the government but not on the value-based politics. It created space for populism and limit rationality on the corner of the game. Those political parties and movements created division on establishment and anti-establishment, first and second class societies, us and them, life and death. Instead of having a space for rational ideological discussion where accumulation of new ideas is happening, as some time ago Karl Popper imagined, we have situation all over Europe, where people hate each other on the political lines. „We are the people. And who are you?“ says Turkish president Erdogan.
In countries where liberal democracies are still struggling to see the light of the day, such as Hungary, Serbia, Poland or Turkey, ruling parties are basing its political agenda and activities on strong leadership and weak system of check and balances. Executive branch is controlling everything from education to judiciary and security forces, while at the same time proclaim their efforts to establish „a democracy of national interest“. If by accidentally you’re against such democracy, you are risking to be marked as someone who is working against its own country. In such countries, opposition also has a lot of responsibility for contributing to the division of the society. Of course, not that much as the other side. Lack of ideas or mechanisms to compete with the ruling parties, they are accepting the rules set by politicians in power, thus starting to offer populism instead of liberal and democratic values. Just like populism in power, the one that is coming from the opposition side is also excluding on the ground of blaming and hate. Not only that in such a game authoritarians have much bigger chances to remain in power, by playing on their own rules, but also level of political intolerance among citizens is rising toward its peak.
In countries with deeper democratic root, situation differs for the fact that rise of populism and promotion of hate and fear is coming mostly from the opposition side, from nationalist and extremists in the society. One will protect country from the „terrorists“ and foreign influence, others from capitalism and globalization. While they were sowing fear and getting more and more support for their actions, liberal and democratic parties instead of promoting firmly their values, they started to promote fear from the nationalists and extremists. And in that situation, no matter if they won or lost on the elections, they are losing battle for values. Society is not getting more free, open or tolerant, but closed, bigoted and divided.
This strategy, applied no matter by whom or where, is the one that left scars of dividing on every society. However, we were lucky enough to see in the past that some elections showed that open and loud, creative and honest, advocating for free and open societies can be winning strategy for both, establishing a better society and defeating populism.