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Dahrendorf Forum hosts discussion on Populism in Turkey and Europe

The event discussed the reasons behind populist movements and their potential consequences for Europe and Turkey.

Experts, academics, and practitioners came together to discuss populism in Turkey and in the European Union, in an event co-hosted by the Dahrendorf Forum at the Hertie School of Governance on 27 October.

The panel discussion featured Dr. Günter Seufert, Senior Fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Berlin, Isabell Hoffmann, head of eupinions, a European-wide survey by Bertelsmann Stiftung, Sezin Öney, journalist and a political scientist from Turkey, and Dilek Kurban, Fellow at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin.

The panelists discussed different aspects of the populist trend, taking a historical point of view as well as calling attention to its different shapes around the world – from South America to Europe, the US to Turkey. Partly due to the many forms populism can take across time and geography, they stressed the difficulty of defining and conceptualizing it as a coherent ideology or worldview.

Sezin Öney emphasized the role of new media, particularly social media, as central to our understanding of how populism works today. She pointed out that populism is anti-political and leader-driven in its essence. Based on a recent report she co-authored, Isabell Hoffmann pointed out that migration is the main driver of divisions in contemporary European societies and that populist movements feed on the fears of individuals who feel they have been harmed by globalisation. Günter Seufert drew attention to the main difference between populist movements in Europe and the US, which are driven more by a sense of economic decline, and those in developing countries such as Turkey, where populism projects a hope for a future which will emerge as an alternative to the Western political and economic model.

The discussion was welcomed with enthusiasm by participants in the room, who debated the role of media and social media in populism and other aspects of the phenomenon during a lively Q&A session.