Macaulay examines the extent to which populism functions within representational democracy. Populist leaders such as Hugo Chávez threaten representational democracy by virtue of their consolidation of power within themselves. This same possibility is evident for Donald Trump who narratively constructs himself, much like Chávez, as a Saviour figure who by virtue of his own power can remedy the losses of the state. Vladimir Putin supports not representational democracy but direct democracy in his support of a Crimean referendum to reunify the Crimea with the “Russian people.” Obama, in contrast, invokes the need for representational democracy for both “NATO nations,” and the “Ukrainian people.” Bernie Sanders envisions the American people finding themselves through the process of representational democracy. Winston Peters, who is viewed much like Chávez, Sanders, Obama and equally Trump, as one of the people, functions exclusively and successfully within New Zealand representational democracy. Equally, the Scottish National Party, with its strong populist arguments for a new ‘heartland’ and a redefined Scottish ‘people,’ makes its populist demands within the British Parliamentary System. Populism can function within representational democratic systems, but where populist leaders privilege their own power to act for ‘the people,’ they can also threaten such systems.
KeywordsPopulism Representational democracy Direct democracy
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