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Refining the Anti-Populist Playbook

Although the worldwide populist surge is far from over, liberal democratic forces in Central Europe and Turkey have shown that they can reverse this backwards march. By learning from each other, opposition parties will stand a much better chance of defeating demagogues and safeguarding democracy.

WASHINGTON, DC – Czech voters delivered an upset in their country’s parliamentary election in October, choosing a coalition of mainly center-right opposition parties over the movement led by the populist former prime minister, Andrej Babiš. With the new coalition naming Petr Fiala as the new prime minister, the outcome adds to a growing playbook of strategies for competing against illiberal populists in Central Europe and Turkey.

During Babiš’s tenure as prime minister, he presided over a decline in democracy in the Czech Republic and was embroiled in several corruption scandals. Though Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have fueled more significant democratic declines in their respective countries, Babiš relied on some of their methods, including efforts to take over the state administration and undermine the independence of news media.

Anti-democratic leaders learn from one another to refine their approach to dismantling democracy. To defeat them, democratic opposition parties should draw five lessons from recent elections in the Czech Republic and elsewhere.

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