Published on Saturday, 23 June 2012 22:08 Written by Jurgen Balzan
During a seminar on populism and the far right organised by the Green European Foundation and Ceratonia Foundation, Briguglio said the far right was embraced by elements within the main political parties.
The Green Party chairperson said examples of this include the Nationalist Party's cultural populism, where it aims to give the impression that Maltese society is homogeneous and characterised by one-size-fits-all lifestyles, at the exclusion of minorities such as LGBT persons.
He added that other examples include Labour's "energy populism, where it aims to give the impression that it can maintain wasteful practices and lower utility bills; Labour's immigration populism, where it attempts to sell the idea that Malta can do it alone and solve the 'problem' once and for all; and the fiscal populism of both the Nationalist and Labour Parties, who promise expenditure increases in areas such as social policy without committing themselves for progressive generation of revenue."
Briguglio said the PN and PL's staunch opposition to the financial transaction tax was another case in point.
"When elections approach, both PNPL increase populist propaganda, as was the case in the 2009 European elections when both parties gave a false impression on the immigration issue through cheap propaganda," Briguglio said.
During the seminar, Dutch sociologist and director of the Bureau de Helling, the think-tank of the Dutch Green Party, Dick Pels spoke about reinventing Europe in the face of the populist challenge. Pels noted that the neopopulist parties are not simply the remnants of fascist movements but it is a movement in its own right which has taken root in modern society.
He said populism was a new political phenomenon which "looks like it is here to stay." Talking about the situation in the Netherlands Pels said populism which first surfaced in his country in 2002 with the emergence of right wing politician Pim Fortuyn "must be grasped better."
Pels said populist political parties are present in 12 out of 27 national parliaments in the Europe. He said this success is down to charismatic leaders and the clever use of the media coupled with aggressive nationalism. He added that other factors such as the distrust of professional politicians and the political elite.
The Dutch sociologist is the author of a recently published book "The 'people' does not exist - Leadership and populism in media democracy."
Pels cited a few examples of popular movement across Europe which are moving away from the traditional linear political spectrum to a situation where extreme ends are becoming are converging on a model of politics based on "we versus them." Among these movements Pels mentioned the Italian Lega Nord and Five-Star Movement led by Beppe Grillo, the Dutch right-wing parties led by Pim Fortuyn and Geert Wilders, the National Front led by Marie Le Pen in France and Jörg Haider's Freedom Party in Austria.
He also discussed how modern political leadership works and noted that the success of popular right wing politicians is based on personality politics with strong elements of peculiarity. Pels added that this has led to the creation of political celebrities.
During the seminar sociologist Mark Anthony Falzon tackled the contemporary Maltese far-right movement which saw the emergence of Norman Lowell's Imperium Europa movement. Falzon explained that Lowell's initial popularity has been on the wane since the 2008 election.
Falzon also mentioned Viva Malta and the Alleanza Nazzjonali Repubblikana movements which advocated a nationalist and conservative anti-immigration agenda. He also cited Josie Muscat's short-lived political party Azzjoni Nazzjonali. Falzon explained that the closer these movements moved towards mainstream politics the faster they dissolved.
He added that it is wrong to frame these movements solely to anti-immigration politics, but these movements through the use of internet and social media have established a populist streak founded on anti-establishment feelings.
The seminar was also addressed by Maria Pisani from Integra Foundation who said that popular myths have influenced the way Maltese people look upon migrants which are deemed as a threat to Maltese society.
Pisani said hard line anti-immigration discourse finds widespread support in Malta, not only to defend borders but also to defend national identity and religion. She said the term 'illegal immigrant' which is widely used by institutions and the media has fuelled unwarranted fears and added that the majority of migrants who land in Malta actually qualify for international protection.
Credit: Malta Today