Challenge accepted: facing populism

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At the Asian Conference for Political Communication (ACPC) in Singapore, organised by the KAS Media Program Asia, experts from Australia, Germany and Malaysia discussed how to best deal with populism.

(from left) Christian Spahr, Head of KAS Media Program South East Europe, Ute Frevert, Head of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Wan Saiful Wan Jan, Head of the Institute for Democracy and Economy, Professor Werner Patzelt from the Dresden University of Technology and Nicole Curato, Research Assistant at the University of Canberra

(from left) Christian Spahr, Head of KAS Media Program South East Europe, Ute Frevert, Head of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Wan Saiful Wan Jan, Head of the Institute for Democracy and Economy, Professor Werner Patzelt from the Dresden University of Technology and Nicole Curato, Research Assistant at the University of Canberra

The panel on the 4th of September 2017, moderated by Christian Spahr, Head of the KAS Media Program South East Europe, was aiming at responding to current questions about handling with populism: Ignoring populist voices or integrating them in the discussion? Is populism necessarily negative? What role do media play in facing the rising trend of populism?

According to Nicole Curato, Research Assistant at the University of Canberra, political communications in general should be designed in a more democratic manner. The expert on Philippines is conducting her research in Australia. Curato has a clear opinion when it comes to countering populists like the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte effectively: "We cannot face populist rhetoric with populist rhetoric." At the same time, she warns against devaluating populist supporters in public.

That is similar to what the German expert Professor Werner Patzelt thinks. Professor Patzelt is teaching political science at Dresden University of Technology and has made a name for himself as an expert for the populist movement Pegida and the right-wing populist party "Alternative for Germany" (AfD).

Another researcher from Germany who contributed to the panel discussion was Ute Frevert, Head of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development. In her work, she deals with the meaning of emotions in a society from a historical point of view. In this way she was able to contribute a socio-cultural perspective to the debate.

Trump, Duterte, AfD – these are only a few keywords representing the phenomenon of populism. The fourth panellist, Wan Saiful Wan Jan, gave an additional example from Malaysia, where populism is to be blamed for intensifying separation between ethnic and religious groups. Wan Jan is Head of the Institute for Democracy and Economy, a non-profit organisation that stands up for the values of a liberal society.

The conference also served to discuss new trends in political communications with experts from academia and politics: What challenges is social media currently facing? What chances do online campaigns offer? How to reach target groups via Twitter? Moreover, for the directors of the Media Programs of Africa, Asia and South East Europe, the event provided an occasion to connect their activities.

Lena von Holt, KAS Media Program South East Europe

Publication series

Event Reports

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Singapore, September 5, 2017