radical right populism

CfP: “The backlash of the extreme: communicative constructions and media discourses mainstreaming populism and right wing radicalism in Central and Eastern Europe” (CEEPOPCOMM); DL: 10/04/2016

The present panel is intended to be part of the 4th ESA RN-32 mid-term conference “(Dis)locating EUrope: Conflicts, challenges and changes” (28-29 October 2016, Brussel/Bruxelles, BE). It is organized by Ov Cristian NOROCEL (CEREN, University of Helsinki, FI & Centre for Social Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, HU) and Gabriella SZABÓ (Centre for Social Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, HU). We are looking forward to selecting 4-5 contributions/session.

In the present context of an extremist backlash against liberal democracy, it is of special importance to examine the extent to which public discourses are permeated by populism and right wing radicalism and the level of visibility of the populist and radical right actors in the public debates. The panel aims to identify the regional specificities of the ‘soft’ factors of radicalization such as the role of communicative constructions and media in the dynamics of populism and radical right in Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries. We also address the question of the rather under-researched populist and radical right publics: the social media are believed to be intensively used by populist and radical actors to connect with each other and mobilize electoral support. There is however a pressing need for a more systematic overview of the complex interplay between social media, traditional formats of written press, and radio and TV broadcast of populism and right wing radicalism. With this in mind, we seek contributions that discover and critically analyse the rapidly growing media universe of populism and right wing radicalism. Empirical contributions like comparative studies, longitudinal analyses, and case studies are particularly welcome to elucidate whether populist and radical media products have entered into the mainstream or they remain on the fringes of media sphere in CEE countries. We are searching for novel conceptions and innovative methods of researching the communicative constructions of populism and radical right. Therefore, the panel is open to scholars from the disciplines of political sociology, media studies, communication studies, and (digital) ethnography who are interested in the comprehensive assessments of traditional and social media in mainstreaming the extreme politics.

Please, send your abstract (approximately 300 words, include e-mail and institutional affiliation information) to both organizers at szabo.gabriella[at]tk.mta.hu and cristian.norocel[at]helsinki.fi no later than April 10 2016.

The authors would be informed in a timely manner whether their papers have been accepted to be part of the panel. The authors of selected abstract would then receive detailed information concerning the submission process that must take by April 15 2016.

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Monday, March 7th, 2016 Research No Comments

Employment opportunity junior research fellows (2) within RADAR; DL: 08/09/15

We are delighted to announce that the project ‘RADAR – Mapping the radical right populism and their discourses in public spheres: the case of Romania and Hungary’ has been supported by the Incubator Funding scheme of Centre for Social Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The 2-year-long empirical examination is driven by the main research question: what are the differences and similarities concerning the media visibility of radical right populism in Romania and Hungary? To answer the question, a multi-method approach is provided. We apply quantitative (network analysis) and qualitative (discourse analysis) methods by studying different issues of the public debates.

We are seeking to recruit 2 junior researchers (MA graduates, PhD student level) to help us with data collection and coding phases of the research activities. You may find below detailed descriptions for each position (do remember to mention the ID for the position applied):

1. Junior Research Fellow (Hungarian case study) at Centre for Social Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences/Társadalomtudományi Kutatóközpont, Magyar Tudományos Akadémia (Job ID: RADAR 001/2015.)

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Eligibility: EU only

Award details: Salary up to 87.500 HUF/months gross

Duration: Part-time (20 hours per week) 8 months fixed term from October 1st, 2015

Application deadline: September 8th, 2015 23:59 CET
Interview date: September 15th, 2015

Labour regulation: Act XXIII./1992 on the Legal Status of Public Servants

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We are seeking a PhD Student of Political Science/Sociology/Communication/Media studies/Nationalism Studies, who will participate in our research project ‘RADAR – Mapping the radical right populism and their discourses in public spheres: the case of Romania and Hungary’. More information about the project can be found at the project website.

We are looking for candidates who are enthusiastic about the media studies and researches on contemporary public spheres, interested in discourse analysis and network analysis. Proficiency in English and Hungarian is desired. Familiarity with MAXQDA and Igraph/Tnet packages for ‘R’ is an advantage.

The successful applicant will work on data collection and coding phases of the research activities. She/he may be involved in dissemination also (conference/workshop participation/publication). The selected candidate will have no teaching obligations and can devote all of her/his time at CSS HAS on research activities. We provide the research infrastructure, access to library and online databases.

The complete application, including a cover letter, curriculum vitae, list of publications, and a selected piece of a manuscript/recently published article (not longer than 8000 words) must be sent by email before September 8th, 2015 to Gabriella Szabó at szabo.gabriella[at]tk.mta.hu

In the application documents please indicate the job ID: RADAR 001/2015.

Please note that only shortlisted candidates will be contacted. Enquiries may be made to Gabriella Szabó at szabo.gabriella[at]tk.mta.hu

2. Junior Research Fellow (Romanian case study) at Centre for Social Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences/Társadalomtudományi Kutatóközpont, Magyar Tudományos Akadémia (Job ID: RADAR 002/2015.)

————————————————————————————————————————————–

Eligibility: EU only

Award details: Salary up to 87.500 HUF/months gross

Duration: Part-time (20 hours per week) 8 months fixed term from October 1st, 2015

Application deadline: September 8th, 2015 23:59 CET

Interview date: September 15th, 2015

Labour regulation: Act XXIII./1992 on the Legal Status of Public Servants

————————————————————————————————————————————–

We are seeking a PhD Student of Political Science/Sociology/Communication/Media studies/Nationalism Studies, who will participate in our research project ‘RADAR – Mapping the radical right populism and their discourses in public spheres: the case of Romania and Hungary’. More information about the project can be found at the project website.

We are looking for candidates who are enthusiastic about the media studies and researches on contemporary public spheres, interested in discourse analysis and network analysis. Proficiency in English and Romanian is desired. Familiarity with MAXQDA and Igraph/Tnet packages for ‘R’ is an advantage.

The successful applicant will work on data collection and coding phases of the research activities. She/he may be involved in dissemination also (conference/workshop participation/publication). The selected candidate will have no teaching obligations and can devote all of her/his time at CSS HAS on research activities. We provide the research infrastructure, access to library and online databases.

The complete application, including a cover letter, curriculum vitae, list of publications, and a selected piece of a manuscript/recently published article (not longer than 8000 words) must be sent by email before September 8th, 2015 to Gabriella Szabó at szabo.gabriella[at]tk.mta.hu

In the application documents please indicate the job ID: RADAR 002/2015.

Please note that only shortlisted candidates will be contacted. Enquiries may be made to Gabriella Szabó at szabo.gabriella[at]tk.mta.hu


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Thursday, September 3rd, 2015 Research No Comments

CfP: Populism and radical right politics in Central and Eastern Europe: rethinking the role of media, public discourse and their publics (25-28/08/15, 12th ESA – Prague, CZ); DL: 28/01/15.

Part of the 12th Conference of the European Sociological Association (25-28 August 2015, Prague, CZ), the RN32 Political Sociology organizes Session 4: The Populist Radical Right as Political Actor in Europe. The proposed panel on populism and radical right politics in Central and Eastern Europe is organized by Gabriella Szabó (CSS, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, HU) szabo.gabriella[at]tk.mta.hu and Ov Cristian Norocel (CEREN, University of Helsinki, FI) cristian.norocel[at]helsinki.fi, and is envisaged to fit within this framework.

Already a decade ago it was aptly noted that the study of populist radical right in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) resembles the efforts of aiming at a target in motion. Since then, several researchers have explored the populist radical right political landscape in the region. Still, we believe that studies of populism and radical right are facing the dilemma of whether categories of Western-oriented research properly describe the populist and radical right politics in CEE countries. A case in point, anti-immigration and Islamophobia seem to be non-issues in the CEE contexts, whilst ethno-nationalism (such as in Bulgaria, Macedonia, Romania), fundamentalist Catholicism (like in Croatia, Poland) and the frustration over the loss of past glories of the country (Hungary) are often hard to synchronize with Western developments. All the more important, the study of populist radical right parties needs to take into account the increasing inequality and growing intolerance to difference (be it ethnic, religious, etc.) in the societies across the CEE. The much needed comparative analyses on European trends of populism and radical right radicalism should be supported by deeper theoretical, conceptual and empirical knowledge on the regional specificities in CEE countries. It is especially true for the ‘soft’ factors of radicalization such as the role of media and public discourse in the dynamics of populism and radical right. Therefore, we seek comprehensive assessments of mainstream media response to the populism and radical right radicalism.

The panel aims to examine the extent to which public discourses are penetrated by populism and the level of visibility of the populist and radical right actors are in the public debates. We also address the question of the rather under-researched populist and radical right publics. The social media are believed to be intensively used by populist and radical actors to connect with each other and mobilize electoral support. If it is the case, we are interested in studying the impact and the patterns of this interactive way of populist and radical right communication in CEE countries. The international literature lacks reliable information on the rapidly growing media universe of populism and radical right radicalism with a powerful mix of social media, traditional formats of written press and radio and TV broadcast to balance the hostile mainstream media environment. In other words, we are interested to examine both in a comparative perspective and in case studies whether populist and radical media products have entered into the mainstream or they remain on the fringes of media sphere. We encourage contributions that investigate complex social manifestations, such as the examination of the subcultural environment in the CEE, the intersections of popular culture (skinhead music, rock festivals, and football hooliganism), mass gathering (marches, rallies, festivals) and identity construction (with particular attention to intersections of gender, ethnicity, and sexuality).

Please, send your abstract (no more than 250 words) to both organizers at szabo.gabriella[at]tk.mta.hu and cristian.norocel[at]helsinki.fi by January 28 2015. The potential participants will be informed in due time whether their papers have been accepted and be directed to submit the abstracts through the conference official submission platform before February 1 2015.

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Wednesday, January 14th, 2015 Research No Comments

(Con-)testing and (Re-)Drawing the Political Boundaries: Acceptable and Unacceptable Political Performatives of Radical Right Populism(s) in the Nordic Context (DL: 15/01/14)

Workshop at XLVI FPSA Conference (soumeksi, tässä; på svenska, här) (6-7 March 2014, Tampere/Tammerfors)

There seems to an all too often blurred boundary line between what is acceptable and unacceptable in the political performatives (understood here to encompass all manners of communicative interaction pertaining to politics). A major line of disagreement is articulated around the commitment of political forces in the Nordic counties to address the multiple inequalities arising at the intersection of class, gender, ethnicity and/or race, sexuality, and religion in connection to contemporary socio-political transformations across Europe.

On this matter, radical right populist parties across the Nordic region appear to be most active in (con-)testing and (re-)drawing these political boundaries: from politicians writing offensive remarks about other religions on their personal blog with the admitted aim to test the limits of law, and high profile politicians that threaten people with an iron bar and shout racist and sexist slurs, to politicians that take pictures of far right acquaintances making the Nazi salute in the plenary of national parliament, and disillusioned party members that resort to violence against their political opponents. Some of the political performatives described above are eventually deemed unacceptable and lead to the ostracizing of the politician in question and condemnation of described political performative. However, some other political performatives lead to a dramatic redrawing of the boundary for what is deemed acceptable in the polity under scrutiny.

With this in mind, the workshop is envisaged to reunite papers that explore the radical right populist parties in the Nordic region with a particular attention being paid to those instances of (con-)testing and (re-)drawing  of the political boundaries, such as but not limited to: normalization of anti-immigration rhetoric and welfare chauvinist reasoning, support of the backlash against feminism, contestation of the participatory democratic structures, and utilizing violence as a means of solving political confrontations.

Keywords: inclusion/exclusion, state feminism/antifeminist backlash, radical right populism, democratic participation/political violence.

Workshop language: English

Paper abstracts shall be sent to BOTH workshop chair Cristian Norocel (cristian.norocel(at)helsinki.fi) and to FPSA Conference Secretary Maija Mattila (Maija.Mattila(at)uta.fi) before 15 January 2014.

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Tuesday, November 12th, 2013 Research No Comments

(Internet) Hate Speech and the Issue of Finnish National Purity: A Gender Perspective

Finland has stereotypically been considered to be an example of Nordic consensus culture. For long internet hate and hate speech in general have rarely been discussed in the open in Finland, in public debates, and even rarer have been the cases in which several people would stand up and confess to being subject to hateful email and death threats.

However, the straw that broke the camel’s back came on Monday 27 May 2013 in the form of an e-mail addressed to Bettina Sågbom, well known Finnish Swedish-speaking journalist and presenter working for the state television YLE. The e-mail contained death threats targeting Sågbom and her family; the e-mail was followed by several other messages in the same register the following day. Sågbom chose to finally break the silence and made public the threats, raising the issue of internet hate but also connecting the rather abstract discussions that have taken place so far with a well-known public figure. In response, she received a subsequent threat in which she was warned she would die in circumstances made to resemble an accident (in English, here; in Swedish, här). Sågbom received the death threats because she has allegedly presented an eschewed picture about the status of Swedish language in Finland. The message contained also a demand that Sågbom invite to her TV-show a representative of the Association of Finnish Culture and Identity (Suomalaisuuden Liitto/ Finskhetsförbundet) to discuss the topic of oppression and linguistic repression that the Finnish-speakers were subject to during the time Finland was part of the Swedish realm. The said association has close ties to the radical right populist party in Finland, the (True) Finns (Party) (PS/ Perussuomalaiset/ Sannfinländarna/ SF), being chaired by Sampo Terho, who is a Finnish MEP on the PS/SF mandate.

But Sågbom is far from being the only person to have received such hate mail with such a precise request. Paula Salovaara, managing editor of Helsingin Sanomat, the largest Finnish-language daily in Finland, has also admitted on a Tweet to having received death threats for taking a public stance in support of Swedish language as the second national language in Finland. In addition, Päivi Storgård, vice-chair of the Swedish People’s Party (SFP/ Svenska folkpartiet i Finland/ Suomen ruotsalainen kansanpuolue/ RKP), has also made public that she has been target of hate messages, mentioning a recent incident in which she has been threatened with rape by a man in a telephone conversation (in Swedish, här). The Left Alliance MP Silvia Modig (Vas/ Vasemmistoliitto/ Vänsterförbundet) has later on confessed to having been harassed because of her publicly admitted homosexuality, and mentioned she had received e-mails containing dozens of pictures of male genitalia. Her conclusion was that her political convictions and the values she stands for have angered quite many, but she underlined she did not fear for her life. However, she is living now at a secret address, a direct result of the hate mails she has received (in Swedish, här).

A salutary reaction to the wave of hate speech flooding the web and pushing the boundaries of what is deemed acceptable in public debates in Finland has been the  reaction of Helsingin Sanomat. The newspaper published in its internal news pages a bilingual section addressing the issue of hate speech in the public domain, containing interviews with PM Jyrki Katainen (Kok/ Kansallinen Kokoomus/ Samlingspartiet/ Saml / The National Coalition Party) and police representatives, allocating equal space to both Finnish and Swedish (in Finnish/Swedish, tässä/här). Only towards the end of the week, on 31 May 2013, and after several demonstrations in support of the country’s bilingualism and against hate speeches, Terho has eventually distanced himself and the association he chairs from the hate messages (in Finnish, tässä).

The ongoing discussion about the need to denounce intimidation as a means to achieve certain political outcomes, while much needed, seems to be preoccupied with only one side of a multifaceted phenomenon. In my view, it is not only the language aspect that media, researchers and public figures alike should be paying attention to. Indeed the status of the Swedish language in Finland appears to have galvanized the wave of hateful reactions, but I would like to draw attention on the gender aspect that intersects the former, since the majority of those who have acknowledged to being subject to such intimidation are women, on both sides of the language divide but with an assumed commitment to defend bilingualism in Finland. So the questions that arise in this context concern the many aspects of purity, and how such purity – understood, it seems, in exclusionary language terms – may be instrumentally employed to discipline and punish those Finnish women – Finnish- and Swedish-speaking alike – that defend the country’s plural legacy and bilingualism? What place do threats of ‘corrective rape’ – both at the most physical but also at symbolic level – have in this effort to maintain national purity, and what are those mechanisms that justify them?

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Friday, May 31st, 2013 Research No Comments

Brace Yourselves for the Storm: the 2012 Parliamentary Elections in Romania under the Sign of Radical Right Populism

There is little doubt that the mainstream political scene in Romania is presently undergoing some dramatic convulsions. The current affairs have come to be compared by foreign and native political analysts alike, matter-of-factly, with the equally tumultuous period that Romanian witnessed during the early 1990s. Indeed, besides the ideological polarization specific to the eve of such important political confrontation as the Parliamentary elections (scheduled for December 9th 2012), the tone and manner of political discourse in Romania has witnessed a return to a level that many have hoped it was a thing of the past. In this context, these elections appear to be taking place under the sign of radical right populist discourse, which seems to come also from established political entities with a different ideological profile, not only the now consecrated radical right populist parties – and in here I refer to the Greater Romania Party (PRM/ Partidul România Mare) – and some newcomers – the previously discussed Popular Party–Dan Diaconescu (PP–DD/ Partidul Popular–Dan Diaconescu).

In this context, several political events are illustrative of the said political climate. These are, in approximately chronological order: first, Dan Diaconescu’s surprising participation in the (by now failed) privatization process that the largest petrochemical companies in Romania (namely Oltchim) and in Central and Eastern Europe had undergone this September. No matter how perplexing this might sound, but Dan Diaconescu (PP–DD) has participated in the Oltchim privatization as a private person and declared he is motivated by his desire to return such a national asset back to its rightful owners: ‘the Romanian people‘. Even more perplexing, Diaconescu has later been declared the winner of the privatization bid and were to assume control over the Oltchim shortly thereof. Diaconescu played his role of being the ‘Saviour on a white horse’ (as labelled in newspapers; in Romanian, aici) very well. Despite accusations that he did not have the financial resources to perfect the privatization (accusations that are yet to be proven in court), he eventually presented no less than 1,8 million EUR in cash (several sacks allegedly filled with money had been transported in front of the Ministry of Economy in Bucharest, which was widely discussed in media; in Romanian, aici) to pay for the privatization. In this context, in decidedly populist manner, Diaconescu claimed that the sacks of money he brought to the Ministry of Economy were in fact destined ‘to pay the salaries of Oltchim workers’ (which have not received their salaried rights for several months). The governing coalition landed in a very ungrateful situation: mismanaging a significant privatization process, and coming out humiliated in such a populist manner by Diaconescu. The event signalled that the Romanian Social Democrats (PSD/ Partidul Social Democrat) are going to encounter a serious competitor in the PP–DD in their appeal for the support of Romanian working class. The few traditionally social-democratic policies implemented since the cabinet Ponta assumed office earlier this year are apparently going to be counteracted by a reputable adversary, which is versed in using the populist rhetoric.

Second, the more recent announcement that George (Gigi) Becali – former leader of a minuscule radical right populist party, the New Generation Party–Christian Democrat (PNGCD/ Partidul Noua Generaţie–Creştin Democrat), and elected EMP on the PRM list – will be joining the ranks of the National Liberal Party (PNL/ Partidul Naţional Liberal). Becali was later confirmed as the PNL candidate for a deputy seat on the common list of the Social Liberal Union (USL/ Uniunea Social Liberală). The USL consisting of, as previously mentioned, the PM Victor Ponta’s  and their allies the Center Right Alliance, which reunites the  PNL and the Conservative Party (PC/ Partidul Conservator). The fact that Becali has joined the PNL and has immediately received an eligible place on behalf of the party on the USL list for the Lower Chamber (Camera Deputaților) has determined several commentators to wonder if this was the wisest political move the PNL could have done at present, just weeks from the Oltchim privatization in which it was heavily involved. Even more so, there are serious question marks on how compatible is the PNL’s self–declared subscription to liberalism with Becali’s blatantly xenophobic, homophobic and sexist misogynistic remarks (in Romanian, aici). Some others have seen in this just another case of a nouveau riche purchasing himself an eligible parliamentary seat on the lists of a respectable party, and wondered if the PNL would actually survive past this electoral cycle (in Romanian, aici).

Right of centre on the political spectrum, the conservative Democratic Liberal Party (PDL/ Partidul Democrat-Liberal) announced to have crafted a political alliance together with the Civic Force (FC/ Forța Civică), the pocket–party of former-PM Ungureanu, and a faction of the Christian-Democratic National Peasants’ Party (PNT–CD/ Partidul Naţional Ţărănesc–Creştin Democrat). The alliance is titled the Right (or Just) Romania Alliance (ARD/ Alianța România Dreaptă) (in Romanian, aici). Among the main figures of the new alliance, Adrian Papahagi, the Vice-president of the Christian–Democrat Foundation has succeed to draw the public outrage through a xenophobic, homophobic and sexist remark, which he posted on his Facebook profile. Expressing displeasure with the acting PM Ponta and his rather chaotic months of premiership (the plagiarism scandal, which is still pending a definitive decision, the forceful change of chiefs of institutions, and the failed attempt to depose the acting President Traian Basescu, to name just a few) Papahagi argued that: “After all, if we have reached that stage to have prime minister who is a plagiarist, and a putschist and Guevarist, why shouldn’t we soon have as President a Roma lesbian atheist.” It is highly troublesome how plagiarism, intrigue–making and ideological radicalism could easily lead, what according to Papahagi was the image of absolute Alterity – yet another Evil Other – manifest in Romanian politics: a Roma (thus not Romanian, but the most discriminated ethnic minority in Romania, thereby indicating the total reversal of the ‘normal’ hierarchy of values); lesbian (thus, not only less than man – read woman –  but also sexually deviant from the heteropatriachal norm); atheist (thus, not Romanian Christian Orthodox, deviating from the allegedly one and only true way of being Romanian, and a Romanian President at it). His statement was quickly sanctioned (both original quote and the reaction to it, in Romanian, aici).  Papahagi reacted swiftly by labelling his critics as “commissars”. The word reminds both of the feared Russian “commissars” of USSR, but also closer to our present days, of the epithet usually employed by the radical right populist leader Tudor (PRM) to describe one of his female adversaries (Zoe Petre) – perhaps unsurprisingly one of Papahagi’s critics is a woman (Alina Mungiu–Pippidi) (in Romanian, aici).

Finally, the PRM leader’s return to his previous anti-Semitic discourse, manifest this time through a reiterated denial of the Holocaust in Romania, and thereby lending support to a PSD member, incumbent Minister of Relations with the Parliament in the Ponta cabinet. Indeed, the PRM leader, Corneliu Vadim Tudor, did not fail to disappoint and delivered another anti-Semitic rant. Commenting on the issue of Holocaust in Romania, and the active participation of Romanian forces in the mass killing of Jews on Romanian soil, Tudor argued that no Romanians have ever been involved into the killings, rather they have been victims of the Holocaust themselves, together with the Jews and Romani (in Romanian, aici). Tudor defended in this context Dan Șova (PSD), now incumbent Minister of Relations with the Parliament in the Ponta cabinet. In March this year, Șova, then newly appointed PSD spokesperson, argued that “no Jew suffered on Romanian territory, thanks to marshal Antonescu”, causing widespread outrage – despite expressing regret that his statement has been misunderstood, Șova has refused to apologize (in English, here).

This leaves way to a lot of questions with regard to the coming Parliamentary elections: is the Romanian political mainstream taking the road of populist xenophobic extremism? Will there be any place for a debate about viable competing solutions for the country’s economic recovery between the left (i.e. the PSD, perhaps much watered down as a result of the USL electoral alliance) and the right (perhaps in this case it would be the PDL, and their ARD centre–right conservative alliance)? Is the Romanian political mainstream, in general, becoming permeated by radical right populism, with an increasing number of mainstream parties succumbing to xenophobia, homophobia, and submission to heteropatriarchism? Is it of any help to reflect how the main political forces in Romanian plan to address the serious democratic deficit the country is witnessing (Romania has one of the lowest percentage of women involved actively in mainstream politics from the whole EU)? Why would be of any importance if any woman active in Romanian politics, would be of Roma origin or from any other ethnic minority, or if she would be a lesbian, or a professed atheist?

Parliamentary Elections in Romania (1996-2008) (Click to enlarge) (Source: NSD-EED)

In an attempt to ease the understanding of the various abbreviations present within the present post, I attach herein a succinct presentation of the main political parties and their electoral results in the Romanian Parliamentary elections between 1996 and 2008.  For this purpose, I made use of the European Election Database (EED) that has been compiled by the Norwegian Social Science Data Services (NSD/ Norsk samfunnsvitenskapelig datatjeneste). I do not have any copyright claims on the attached graph, which has been generated on the NSD–EED website containing information about Romania.

Notes:

The total number of seats increased from 332 in 2004 to 334 in 2008. Seats: 316 (elected) + 18 assigned to ethnic minorities other than the Hungarians = 334.
2000: PSD ran as PDSR as Social Democratic Pole Alliance with PSDR
2001: PDSR merged with PSDR into PSD.
1996: PDL ran as part of Social Democratic Union (USD)
2000: PDL ran as PD
2004: PDL as part of Justice and Truth Alliance (DA: PNL-PD)
2004: PNGCD ran as PNG
1996: PNL ran as part of Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR)
2004: PNL ran as part of Justice and Truth Alliance (DA: PNL-PD)

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Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012 Research No Comments

What Maps Do Not Tell Us? Peering Past Victorious Shouts and Humbled Mumbles of Defeat

The recent local elections in Romania (10 June 2012) have reflected what several political commentators and researchers have warned about: the Social Liberal Union (USL/ Uniunea Social Liberală) consisting of the PM Victor Ponta’s Romanian Social Democrats (PSD/ Partidul Social Democrat) and their allies the Center Right Alliance, which reunites the National Liberals (PNL/ Partidul Naţional Liberal) and the Conservative Party (PC/ Partidul Conservator), made significant inroads into the formerly center-right liberal democrat (PDL/ Partidul Democrat-Liberal) ‘fiefs’, thereby capitalizing on the general dissatisfaction with the PDL’s mismanagement of the past years.

Without doubt, the PDL has registered a significant loss of the citizens’ support, polling only 15.10% for the presidents of the county councils; 15.44% for mayors; 15.29% for members of county councils (according to the Romanian Central Electoral Bureau (BEC), aici). The PDL was sanctioned, not necessarily for the austerity measures during the PDL-led cabinets Boc I (2008-2009), and especially Boc II (2009-2012), but mainly for its complete lack of sympathy for the hardships the average population has been going through from the beginning of the financial crisis, for its undisguised corruption, and contempt for the principles of democratic accountability.

A lot of attention has been given to the apparent ‘colouring in red’ of most Romanian counties (with refrence to the USL’s electoral colours), though such a phrase is not the most accurate, as the PSD did not succeed to gain the majority of positions within the county councils, president of county council, or as city mayor. The USL has registered a very good election result indeed, 45.85% for the presidents of the county councils; 38.46% for mayors; 49.80% for members of county councils. However, as it was aptly pointed out, in the previous 2008 local elections, the constitutive parties of the said alliance have registered better results individually, totaling around 51% (the official results for 2008 available from the BEC, aici ).

Romania 2012 local election results (www.Infopolitic.ro)

Many commentators have rushed to assure – even ex ante – that the results of the elections are to be seen as ‘true’ measure of the coming Parliamentary elections in November 2012. With the recent change of the electoral law, the social-liberal USL is forecast to gather some 60 to 70% of the votes. Leaving aside the frenzy of counting in advance what could happen in a few months from now (especially in the very volatile context of European politics, with – among others – a very tough negotiations with regard to the future of the common currency and the overall economic (in)stability in the EU, the second round for the French Parliamentary elections yet to take place, and the new Greek Parliamentary elections scheduled later this week), there is another development, less visible from the country-wide maps of the election results.

Indeed, something does not become apparent

Romania 2012 local election results (www.adevarul.ro)

at a simple look over the various maps displaying the election results (see for instance the one provided by Infopolitic.ro, aici ; Adevarul, aici; and even Evenimentul Zilei, aici). In the electoral competition between the USL, on the one side, and the PDL on the other, a third political force has made its presence noted on the Romanian political scene. More clearly, the third largest party is the newly founded People’s Party–Dan Diaconescu (PP-DD/ Partidul Poporului Dan Diaconescu) (the party’s website, mainly in Romanian, aici). The PP-DD polled 9.23% for the presidents of the county councils; 7.29% for mayors; 8.96% for members of county councils. Concomitantly, the consecrated radical right populist (RRP) parties in Romania, namely the Greater Romania Party (PRM/ Partidul România Mare) and the New Generation Party (PNG/ Partidul Noua Generaţie) seem to have had only a marginal presence in the preferences of the Romanian electorate (the PRM polled somewhere around an average of 2%, while the PNG only 0.20%), and might actually signal that popular dissatisfaction is most successfully channeled by the PP-DD.

The PP-DD is the product of the eponymous TV-channel owner Dan Diaconescu, who more or less single-handedly has founded the party and created its nation-wide network of branches. At a quick glance, judging from the 20-Points Proclamation the party has uploaded on its website (see link above, in Romanian), the PP-DD appears to have a rather complex ideological makeup, displaying strong populist appeals, such as social justice to be undertaken in the framework of a strong state (which reminds of the former communist state); trial of all

Romania 2012 local election results (click to enlarge) (www.evz.ro)

previous governments found to have mismanaged the country; confiscation of illicit fortunes gained from pillaging the public goods, but also some surprising decidedly right wing, such as tax cuts, tax unification. All these are tinged with discrete nationalist appeals (the numerous and insistent references to supporting Romanianism, respecting the Romanian national anthem, subscription to Romanian Orthodox Christianity, etc.). In a sense, it reminds a lot of the PRM‘s main tenets at the beginning of 2000s as they were expressed by the party leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor.

Even more so, as Romanian sociologist Mircea Kivu aptly noted in his analysis of the Romanian local elections and the emergence of new political entities contesting the elections (in Romania Libera, in Romanian, aici), the PP-DD candidates did not engage in any classical campaigning, opting for having their candidacy endorsed ‘on air’ at the TV station owned by Dan Diaconescu. This comes so strengthen my categorization of the PP-DD as an emerging radical right populist party, with a strong (male) leader that gives his formal ‘blessing’ to his acolytes on TV. In this light, if Corneliu Vadim Tudor had a very influential weekly magazine at his disposal to maneuver his captive electorate, Dan Diaconescu has taken the process to a new level, having his own TV station.

Looking at how the local electoral competition has tested the newly founded parties within the Hungarian-speaking community, it becomes apparent that the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR/Uniunea Democrată Maghiară din România, RMDSZ/Romániai Magyar Demokrata Szövetség) has managed to fend off the negative effects of its being in government the past decade, and used the nationalist escalations sponsored by the Hungarian government to appeal for a return to rationality and moderation. As such, the UDMR/RMDSZ registered some loses, but succeeded to collect 4.95% for the presidents of the county councils; 3.90% for mayors; 5.52% for members of county councils.

In this context, the questions that arise pertain to the stability of the present political system in Romania, especially having in mind the wider developments across Europe. Is the USL alliance aware of the very delicate situation it is facing, with an interim government, already marred by serious scandals – it suffices to point at the no less than 3 ministers that succeeded in the Education portfolio in less than a month- , and the PDL apparently surprised by its own defeat? Does the PP-DD have the electoral appeal to play a similar function as the PRM in the 2000 Parliamentary elections, when it became the largest opposition party? Is the PP-DD the emerging radical right populist force in Romania? What would be the consequences of such a development, with the UDMR/RMDSZ apparently excluded from future government coalitions, and an ever more polarizing and nationalist Hungarian government? Are we witnessing yet another backlash against women in Romanian politics – only one woman has been elected mayor in one of the major cities in Romania, namely Lia Olguţa Vasilescu (PSD) in Craiova?

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Thursday, June 14th, 2012 Research No Comments

When ‘Joking’ Fails, Use ‘Satire’ – How to Make Sure Finland Is Kept Pure If Social Engineering Is No Longer An Acceptable Solution: Make Those Others Wear Patches

It appears that the Nazi ideology has consolidated its place at the main source of inspiration for the True Finns (PS/ Perussuomalaiset/ Sannfinländarna) rank and file. Indeed, in October 2011 the PS MP Teuvo Hakkarainen was suggesting ‘jokingly’ – as it was later on quickly dismissed – that the autonomous Åland/Ahvenanmaa islands (inherently symbolizing the Swedish–speaking Finnish community in Finland) are the perfect place where to ‘put’ all ‘homosexuals’, ‘lesbians’ and ‘Somalis’ to live side by side and see what kind of ‘model society’ takes shape from that (see my previous blog entry discussing the matter, here). It was then evidence the uncanny resemblance with the anti-Semitic Madagascar plan of the Nazis (a Wikipedia entry on the infamous Madagascar plan – in English, here; in Finnish, tässä; in Swedish, här).

On 11 April 2012, this was further exploited by Helena Eronen, assistant to the PS MP James Hirvisaari. Helena Eronen published an article on the Uusi Suomi e-newspaper, titled ‘Ratkaisu poliisin ulkomaalaisratsioihin’ (‘The Solution to Police’s Raids Among Foreigners’, in an approximate English translation). Shortly after it was published, the article was removed from the e-news platform (yet, available in its entirety in Finnish, tässä). It is worth noting that the PS MP James Hirvisaari was elected in April 2011 into the Finnish Parliament (Eduskunta/Riksdagen) on a strong anti–immigration platform, being one of the authors of the Nuiva Vaalimanifesti (on signatories, in Finnish, tässä). The same PM MP James Hirvissari has been also the subject of a trial for incitement to racial hatred because of his blog entry on the same Uusi Suomi, titled ‘Kikkarapäälle kuonoon’.

In her article, Helena Eronen identified a readily available solution to the Finnish Police’s dilemma on knowing a person’s ‘worth’ in the Finnish society: make them wear sleeve badges! According to her, it is useful to know, from the very first sight, ‘who is a Somali Muslim’ or ‘a beggar from Romania’. The symbols on badges were just as easily provided to the readers: a half-moon for the Muslims, a hammer and a sickle for Russians, a landmine for Cambodians (sic). Neither the Swedish–speaking Finns, nor and the LGBTQI–community members were forgotten – in the latter case it was aptly suggested a patch depicting ‘a rainbow’ (media comments on her article, in Finnish, tässä; in Swedish, här). Helena Eronen even envisaged a means to account for someone’s accommodation to Finnish customs: a Muslim foreigner’s half–moon could later be exchanged to a blue–white half–moon thereby enforcing integration (on her article, commented at length in English, here). Eventually, the ‘blue–white half–moon’ badge could be handed in, a sign of the person’s complete assimilation and secularization: the birth of a new Finn. In other words, there are degrees of Otherness, and degrees of sanction and reward for all Others. The similarity with the Nazi methodical classification of the undesired Others is, yet again, uncanny (a detailed article on the Nazi identification system using badges – in English, here; in Finnish, tässä; in Swedish, här).

One may wonder why has it become so crucially important among the PS rank and file to be able to make a distinction between an apparently ‘true’ Finn (to keep with the PS’ own denomination) and a ‘Somali Muslim’ or ‘a beggar from Romania’? What is the purpose of such process of selection and differentiation? Why to distinguish between a Muslim with a ‘red half–moon’ and one with a ‘blue–white half–moon’ when Islam is squarely rejected by the PS as foreign to the Finnish national fiber? Having a closer look at the hierarchy suggested by Helena Eronen, another question that insinuates itself is why are Swedish–speaking Finns to be ‘marked’ – what is their shortcoming for not being deemed worthy to be part of the Finnish un–badged majority, and why would this justify them being bullied by the majority Finnish–speaking Finns ?

Even more so, applying what appears to be a rudimentary heteropatriarchal logic of structuring, if the LGBTQI–community members have to bear a rainbow, how should then the distinction be made between, for instance, ‘true’ Finnish women dutifully married with Finnish men and bearing Finnish offspring, and those also ‘true’ Finnish women, but who however fail do so? In the Nazi system of badge marking, the political opponents were also classified; with this in mind, it would have perhaps been instructive to know if Helena Eronen also considered a system to differentiate between the common voters and those ‘true’ citizens identifying themselves with the PS cause? And by ways of conclusion, why continuously ‘making jokes’, and writing ‘satire’ on a subject that appears to be such a sensitive point of discussion? Whom is to gain from a radicalization of the whole discussion and at which price?

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Thursday, April 12th, 2012 Research No Comments

The Finest Art of Finnish Social Engineering: A Heterosexual (True) Finn Envisioning the Society of Tomorrow?

Not so long ago, the True Finns (PS/ Perussuomalaiset/ Sannfinländarna) has decided to change its English name and be titled (only) the Finns (see my previous blog entry discussing the matter, here). However, it appears that despite their name change, the the PS is keeping true to its previous radical right populist (RRP) line of discourse that so often has bordered with outright instigation to hate (be it against the Swedish-speaking Finns, the Somali community in Finland, or the LGBTQI–community in Finland).

The most recent example is constituted by the remarks of Teuvo Hakkarainen, the PS elected MP. He appears to have remained truthful to his line of reasoning (on this, please see my previous blog entry, here). When told he has a certain amount of male admirers that happen to be homosexuals, Teuvo Hakkarainen replied to the newspaper Ilta Sanomat that he would be more interested in having a female following. On the topic, he then presented his ideas about a ‘model society’ (in Finnish, tässä; in Swedish, här). According to him, the autonomous Åland/Ahvenanmaa islands (seen as the epitome of what the Swedish–speaking Finnish community in Finland stands for) are the perfect place where to ‘put’ all ‘homosexuals’, ‘lesbians’ and ‘Somalis’ to live side by side and see what kind of ‘model society’ takes shape from that. This way, the Swedish People’s Party (SFP/ Svenska folkpartiet i Finland/ Suomen ruotsalainen kansanpuolue/ RKP) could no longer accuse the PS of not taking into consideration the needs of the minorities in Finland. He then concluded that on Åland/ Ahvenanmaa the ‘Somalis would finally be free to ‘shout from the minarets’ whatever they see fit. The ‘model society’ could be then replicated on the mainland.

Despite the uncanny resemblance of such a suggestion to the anti-Semitic Madagascar plan of the Nazis (a Wikipedia entry on this matter – in English, here; in Finnish, tässä; in Swedish, här), the Finnish MP Teuvo Hakkarainen does not seem troubled with that. Instead, he appears to have taken on himself this laborious task of social engineering. It does not take long to understand what would such an undertake entail. Finland as it is nowadays has failed the standards of truthfulness established by the PS. In order to correct that, Åland/Ahvenanmaa appears to be safely far and yet soundly Finnish to have all those who fail off the normative spectrum of Finnishness removed from the native mainland soil and sent there. What would this mean? If the Swedish–speaking Finns native of Åland/ Ahvenanmaa and from the rest of Finland, together with the deported Somali community and all those identifying themselves as LGBTQI previously living on the mainland would engage in crafting that ‘model society’ envisioned by the PS MP Teuvo Hakkarainen, one can only wonder what would happen in the meantime on the Finnish mainland thus vacated? Will a purely and truly Finnish heterosexual society blossom on the Finnish mainland, a place where only Finnish men will marry Finnish women and born Finnish babies that would finally balance the pressing demographic problems Finland has to deal with, where finally there will be no calls for prayer from the minarets, where there will be no minority one could think of? And if the SFP/ RKP would probably be busying itself with the ‘model society’ taking shape on Åland/Ahvenanmaa, what would the other parliamentary Finnish parties do then? Would the Left Alliance (Vas/ Vasemmistoliitto/ Vänsterförbundet) or even the Greens (Vihr/ Vihreä liitto/ Gröna förbundet) – only those who are (true) pure heterosexual Finnish-speaking Finns, that is – be participating in engineering this purely Finnish heterosexual society, or would this task be exclusively assumed by the party that IS the Finns?

Unfortunately, Pirkko Ruohonen–Lerner the chair of the PS parliamentary group did not allow for a full development of the PS MP Teuvo Hakkarainen’s ideas and label them as ‘vitsailua‘, or joke (in Finnish, tässä). On who this joke is, however, it has not yet been disclosed. Is it a joke on the Swedish-speaking Finns who see themselves thrown out of the national construct called Finland, or is it on the Somali community whose members have come to Finland with the hope of escaping death and oppression only to be welcomed with a discriminatory superiority of the native Finns, or is it a joke on the LGBTQI–community that is refused membership in this construction of (true) Finnishness? Or is this joke on those who were not yet named and who would, one way or another, end up as unaware pawns in the social engineering plan of a rightfully elected parliamentary representative into the Finnish Eduskunta/ Riksdag?

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Sunday, October 23rd, 2011 Research No Comments

The Oslo Terror Bombing and the Utøya Shootings: Where Is the ‘Man’ in the ‘Gunman’?

22 July 2011 was black day for Norway and for the whole mankind. According to police reports, at least 85 youths have been killed by a gunman that opened fire at an youth camp of the Norwegian Social Democratic Youth (AUF/ Arbeidernes ungdomsfylking) on Utøya – an island close to the Norwegian capital Oslo, just hours after a bomb was detonated in downtown Oslo, in the vicinity of the Norwegian Prime Minister’s offices, killing 7 and wounding dozens. The two attacks are the worst to occur in Europe since the 2004 Madrid train bombings in which 191 people missed their lives. The terror attack in downtown Oslo was first assumed by an Islamist terrorist organization, and some European medias had hurried to collectively condemn Islam, such as the Italian Il Giornale that read ‘It is always them who attack us’ (‘Sono sempre loro ci attaccano’) only to alter its main page hours later as new information uncovered that the Norwegian police has apprehended a man whom they suspected was the perpetrator of both attacks (see, in Italian ecco qui).

The main suspect, Anders Behring Breivik (32) is a native Norwegian, residing in a wealthy neighborhood in Western Oslo. A first insight into the main suspect’s background was that he was a lone man that lived together with his mother, who during the past few years has had several companies. His latest enterprise (Breivik Geofarm in Rena) founded in 2009 apparently activated in agriculture, through which he apparently purchased around 6 tons of fertilizers, which seems to have been used to manufacture the explosives in the two bombs (the one detonated in downtown Oslo, and the other one found on Utøya) (in Swedish här; in Norwegian, her). The manner the bombs were made has a strong ressemblance to that used in the attack in Oklahoma City in the USA in 1995 when 168 people were killed. There are speculations that Breivik might have been assisted in his shooting spree by a second person, not yet apprehended by the Norwegian police (in Swedish, här).

As more information continued to be gathered, it was revealed that Breivik had been active in the Oslo western district of the main radical right populist party in Norway the Progress Party (FrP/ Fremskrittspartiet/ Framstegspartiet) since 1999, but disagreed with what he regarded too appeasing an attitude in immigration questions (in Norwegian, her), and was expelled from the party in 2006 for not paying his membership fee. On this regard he was very active on radical right forums where he unveiled his uncompromising stance against what he called the dominating ‘cultural Marxism’ of the Norwegian elites and their constant ‘bashing’ of the nationalist conservative right. Even more so he unleashed a vivid critique against PM Stoltenberg and his Social Democratic Party, talking about ‘Stoltenberg’s jugend’ thus comparing the Norwegian Social Democratic Youth organization to the Nazi ‘Hitler jugend’ (in Swedish, här). A collection of his internet comments on various political issues has been put together and is available on document. no (in Norwegian, her); illustrative are his comments with regard to whom is entitled to be considered a full-fledged Norwegian and his opposition to the inclusive definition of citizenship:

“Everyone who are holders of a Norwegian passport are ‘authentic/full-fledged’ ‘Norwegians’ … Which in other words means that even those Somalis (with a Norwegian passport) who all day (do nothing but) chew khat, do their wives and send half of the social benefits to al-Shabaab should be viewed as fully Norwegian. If anyone in this country DARES to look at these Somalis as something other than full-fledged Norwegians, then they are racists and should be stygmatized publicly. And they say that everyone who disagrees with their extreme cultural-Marxist worldview – the utopian, global citizen definition – are racists?” (my translation, in original in Norwegian, her).

Perplexing, the gender dimension shines with its absence from any media analyzes. It is puzzling that a man in his prime designs such a terror attack on such a scale, not only literally besieging the Norwegian center of power, but also killing a whole generation of future political activists animated by Social Democratic ideals. The questions that flood in on this issue concerns the gendered nature of violence, and the perceived ‘cowardice’ (read unmanliness) of the Norwegian radical right populists that have sold their souls to be accepted by the political mainstream and turned themselves into the puppets of PR firms. Is Breivik the representative of an extreme masculinity that resorts to violence to ascertain its traditional patriarchal masculine values and purify the national body through the physical extermination of those threatening it with a multicultural accommodative project? What sort of parallels can be drawn with the shooting incidents in Finland that I have addressed in earlier blog entries, such as in here? Why was the gender dimension silenced in the media reporting? How far is the ‘far right’, or ‘extreme right’ as the media reported from ‘radical right populism’ that I also wroteabout in here, and here?

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Saturday, July 23rd, 2011 Research No Comments