2016 will go down in history as the year populism triumphed.
The United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, the United States elected Donald Trump, Norbert Hofer came within a hair’s breadth of winning the Austrian presidency, the Philippines elected a President who boasted about his membership in death squads, and the South Koreans impeached their President.
What do all of these things have in common? They all involved a population that felt they were being governed by a class of political elites who they believed were out of touch with regular people.
Political parties that appeal to this are known as populist parties. In the same way that UKIP presented themselves as the outsiders prepared to shake up the establishment, Donald Trump said he would “drain the Washington swamp”.
These people feel like their needs and interests are not represented by the current political class.
The best example of proper left-wing populism is right on our doorstep in Southern Europe: Greece’s Syriza and Spain’s Podemos. Both are parties that are anti-austerity, and are broadly Eurosceptic, believing, much like the populist right, that the European Union is infringing on the day-to-day life of normal people.
Though a different to a protest vote, the votes of populists tend to go to protest parties. An example of this is the fact that in the 2015 General Election, the in-Government Liberal Democrats lost a considerable share of their protest vote, whereas the populist UKIP gained almost the same amount.
With the Dutch parliamentary elections and their populist firebrand Geert Wilders, as well as the French Presidential elections featuring silver-tongued Marine Le Pen coming in 2016, there may be more to come.