When technocrats and populists join forces

In the journal Government and Opposition, Eliška Drapalová and Kai Wegrich argue there is a trend toward ‘technocratic populism’ emerging in local politics.

Populist parties of all kinds on have gained voters in national elections across Europe in recent years – from Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland on the right to Italy’s Movimento 5 Stelle on the left.  But what is happening at the local level?

In an article in the journal Government and Opposition published in July 2020, Eliška Drapalová, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Gothenburg and Kai Wegrich, Hertie School Professor of Public Administration and Public Policy, examine an emerging trend in local politics that combines populism – the view that the common people are governed by a corrupt or self-interested elite – and technocracy – decision-makers appointed on the basis of their expertise, rather than elected by democratic vote.

They argue that the local level is especially prone to the intersection of technocratic and populist ideologies, using Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S, Five Star Movement) in Rome and the Akce nespokojených občanů (ANO, Action of Dissatisfied Citizens) in Prague to illustrate their point.

The article focuses on technocratic populism as a political and governance strategy at the municipal level and assesses the implications for administration and public policies. The authors examine how the tensions and synergies between technocracy and populism are solved at the local level.

Article available via Government and Opposition.