For the people, against the elites: left versus right-wing populism in Greece and Turkey
While the rise of populism has been a global trend in recent years, it has been prevalent in Greece and Turkey for longer, leaving a strong imprint on the politics of both countries. Left-wing populism has become one of the constitutive elements of the Greek political party system since the collapse of the 1967–1974 military regime. The 2009 outbreak of the Greek economic crisis set the stage for the radicalization of Greek politics through the rise of extremist far-right and far-left populist parties that professed populist agendas of different hues. Such populists accused old-party personnel of being members of a “treacherous elite” that sacrificed Greek national interests against foreign powers. The 2011 “indignados” movement is key for the better understanding of the social dynamics that facilitated the rise of the unusual SYRIZA-ANEL coalition government. Debates on Greek constitutional reform also highlighted the relevance of populism, especially as the SYRIZA-ANEL government sought topics to resonate with its disenchanted voters. On the other hand, a right-wing populist rhetoric has been one of the key instruments for the rise of Turkish political Islam and the establishment of the AKP hegemony in Turkey. Establishing a Kulturkampf-based narrative about the “secularist, ‘white-Turk’ elites” versus the “conservative, ‘black-Turk’ people” was of great political significance. The constitutional reform process proved again crucial for manifesting the relevance of populism in Turkish political discourse. This article explores the circumstances under which left- and right-wing populism have emerged into a dominant feature of Greek and Turkish politics. It also discusses the decreasing relevance of the established left-right political divide in party politics and suggests alternative classifications.