When right-wing politics and populist rhetoric are combined, the result is right-wing populism, also known as national populism or right-wing nationalism. There is a strong emphasis on speaking to or for the "common man" and on using anti-elitist rhetoric that rejects the status quo.
One common element that ties all right-wing populist movements is a charismatic leader striving to defend national culture, identity, religion or economy against supposed attacks by "outsiders". Here we list a few such leaders who have built a cult of personality around their politics.
Hungary's Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, was dubbed "Trump before Trump" by Trump's former strategist Steve Bannon. In the recent past, Viktor Orbán destroyed Hungary's opposition and gained legitimacy by weaponising popular consensus. Although he gave the Hungarians a fleeting sense of security, they paid a heavy price for it in the form of economic instability and, most importantly, the loss of their rights.
In September of this year, The EU parliament voted to approve a report that says Hungary cannot be considered a full democracy and accused Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of creating an "electoral autocracy".
Known as the "last dictator in Europe," Alexander Lukashenko rules Belarus with an iron fist. Sanctions against Lukashenko and other Belarusian officials have been enacted because international observers did not consider elections held in the country to be free and fair, with opponents of the regime repressed, and the media stifled. Protests against the government were the largest they had been during his reign due to his contested 2020 presidential election victory, which was followed by widespread allegations of vote rigging. After the election was challenged, the UK, EU, and US all decided not to recognize Lukashenko as Belarus's legitimate leader.
Lukashenko promotes himself as a "man of the people." After winning 80% of the vote in Belarus's last fair election in 1994, Lukashenko became the country's president and immediately began a campaign against corruption. His right-wing populism found favour with voters who were looking for change in the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse and who held the communist-era establishment responsible for the country's ills.
Lukashenko claimed that people's fears of the Covid-19 pandemic were "frenzy and a psychosis" and that working the tractors, drinking vodka, and going to saunas would protect them from the virus. "Tractors with workers on board. Absolutely no one has mentioned the virus," the Belarus president said.
Slovenia's outgoing prime minister, Janez Jansa's far-right party came to power on an anti-immigrant platform. Not surprisingly, he became the first elected politician to back Donald Trump's false claims that he has won the 2020 US presidential election. He called journalists critical of him liars and "presstitutes".
He started out as a pro-democracy activist before progressively moving further to the right over time, picking up anti-immigration and climate change skeptic rethoric in the process. In his election campaign, he has made use of hate speech, xenophobia, and Islamophobia. He was a close ally of Hungary's controversial prime minister, Viktor Orbán.
Giorgia Meloni became Italy's first female prime minister on 22 October 2022. Meloni formed Italy's most right-wing government since World War Two.
In 2019, when 42 migrants who had been rescued at sea disembarked from the rescue ship Sea Watch, Giorgia Meloni suggested on Twitter that after arresting the crew, the ship ought to be seized and sunk with the migrants onboard.
She is opposed to abortion and euthanasia. She also opposes the reception of non-Christian migrants and multiculturalism and voiced support for a naval blockade to halt immigration, and she has been accused of xenophobia and Islamophobia. And her moral and economic inspiration? Viktor Orbán.
Brazil president Jair Bolsonaro is known for views that are widely considered as sexist, homophobic, racist. As opposed to right-wing populist movements in the US and Europe, whose rhetoric focuses mostly on immigration, a substantial amount of Bolsonaro's views concern gender issues, often reflecting misogynous beliefs. When a female lawmaker accused Bolsonaro of rape, he responded that she was too ugly to rape.
He allowed the Amazon rainforest to be deforested and rolled back protections for indigenous groups there during his presidency. Political leaders from all sides of the aisle criticised Bolsonaro's handling of the Covid-19 pandemic in Brazil because he attempted to minimise the disease and its effects, opposed quarantine measures, and fired two health ministers as the number of fatalities rose quickly.
This former military officer is a big fan of the US–supported Brazilian military dictatorship which ruled the country from 1964 to 1985, going so far as to publicly refer to the military rule as a "glorious" period in the history of Brazil.
Since his party won the general election in 2019, India's democracy has weakened under Narendra Modi's leadership, marked by his administration revoking Jammu and Kashmir's special status scrapping the constitutionally guaranteed autonomy of Jammu and Kashmir. He passed three contentious farm laws. These actions sparked widespread demonstrations and sit-ins across the nation, resulting in the controversial laws being eventually repealed.
Fear-mongering is a component of Modi's style of governance. These stand out the most when it comes to issues of corruption and national security, like the updating of the National Register of Citizens in Assam and the expansion of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
Modi and his party BJP are huge advocates of the idea of Hindutva (Hindu-ness), an ethnonationalist ideology and movement that claims Hindu racial and cultural superiority and seeks to establish the hegemony of Hindus and Hinduism in India. So, it comes as little surprise that Modi served as chief minister of Gujarat when 1,200 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in riots.
What can be said about the poster child of right wing populism Donald J Trump that hasn't been said already? Trump's meteoric rise to power in 2016 came on the back of anti-establishment, anti-immigration, and anti-free trade rhetoric. During his presidency, Trump promoted conspiracy theories and made Islamophobic, xenophobic and racist statements to a degree unprecedented in American politics.
He signed off a travel ban on citizens from a number of Muslim-majority countries, diverted military funding towards constructing a 'wall' on the US–Mexico border, and implemented a policy of family separations for detained migrants.
Trump lost the 2020 presidential vote to Joe Biden but refused to admit defeat, spreading a false narrative about widespread electoral fraud. On 6 January 2021, he caused an insurrection after he urged his followers to march to the Capitol, which led to a storming of the Capitol hill, resulting in multiple deaths.
Trump leaves behind the legacy of being the only American president to have been impeached twice. Once for pressuring Ukraine to investigate Biden in 2019 and again in 2021 for his role in the Capitol attack.