Leaders’ Decision Framework
Classifying Populist Leaders and Their Responses
- ^ Several leaders who took the crisis seriously, like the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte, initially tried to downplay it, but quickly changed course when they saw how rapidly it spread in Italy.
- ^ We classify Prime Minister Alexander Lukashenko as an anti-establishment populist because he was an anti-establishment populist when he first won the presidency in 1994. In our coding scheme, we classify leaders who have won consecutive elections based on which type of leader they were in their first election victory. Even though Lukashenko is clearly the political establishment in Belarus and is, according to reputable sources, a dictator, we classify him as an anti-establishment populist because he was an anti-establishment populist when he first won the presidency and he has remained in the office since then.
- ^ Lukashenko continued to downplay the coronavirus and encourage mass gatherings throughout May, even as hospitals became overwhelmed.
- ^ President Daniel Ortega has downplayed the virus throughout the pandemic and encouraged people to attend mass gatherings, even in June.
- ^ Surprisingly, given its disastrous and often violent handling of its recent economic troubles, Venezuela, under its socio-economic populist president, Nicolás Maduro, has taken a fairly liberal response to the crisis. There has been some cooperation between Maduro’s government and the parliamentary opposition led by Juan Guaidó.
- ^ Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is difficult to classify. He has used the crisis to pass a law giving the security service Shin Bet the power to track cell phones and another to limit parliamentary oversight. Despite conflicts with protestors on these measures, he has not used the crisis to take harsh measures against them or the political opposition, so we classify his response as “intermediate”.
- ^ While Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic enacted a strict lockdown in March, he lifted it quickly, including for large gatherings, in early May. This led to an immediate spike in cases, and Vucic’s attempt to reimpose a strict lockdown led to mass protests, especially because it was seen as an attempt to manipulate the June elections.
- ^ There was some concern about President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s consolidation of power while the country was without a parliament in the run-up to new elections, which were originally scheduled for June but were postponed until August. But he doesn’t appear to have made serious attempts to crack down on minority groups, which is significant given the country’s recent history of ethnic violence.
- ^ We classify the Italian government as populist because the majority coalition partner, the Five Star Movement, is an anti-establishment populist party, even though its minority partner, the Democratic Party, is non-populist and the prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, is an independent.