Dr. Maria Snegovaya, Senior Fellow with the Europe, Russia, and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a Postdoctoral Fellow at Georgetown University's Walsh School of Foreign Service.
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Over the past two decades, postcommunist countries have witnessed a sudden shift in the electoral fortunes of their political parties: previously successful center-left parties suffered dramatic electoral defeats and disappeared from the political scene, while right-wing populist parties soared in popularity and came to power. This dynamic echoed similar processes in Western Europe and raises a question: Were these dynamics in any way connected?
This book argues that they were. And that the root of the connection between them lies in the pro-market rebranding of the ex-communist left—the key explanatory variable. This book argues that, though the left’s pro-market shift initially led to electoral rewards, it had a less straightforward impact on left-wing parties’ electoral fortunes in the long run. Traditional supporters of the left (working-class and economically vulnerable groups) were alienated by the new economic policies, and the middle-class voters newly drawn to these parties did not compensate for those losses. As a result, for several electoral rounds following the rebranding, reformist parties on the left suffered dramatic electoral defeats. In response, right-wing parties in their respective countries adopted more redistributive economic platforms consistent with preferences of former supporters of the left, and incorporated sizable shares of these electorates. This contributed to the growth of right-wing populist parties in the countries with a pro-market left.
The book traces this process in postcommunist Europe on different levels of analysis: cross-country observational data, case studies, and individual-level experimental surveys. It argues that scholars should incorporate the economic policy dimension when explaining the demise of the left and the rise of the populist right in the region. It also examines important parallels between the dynamics of Western and postcommunist countries by arguing that the idiosyncrasy of Eastern European politics has been overstated in scholarly literature. It also offers policy recommendations about ways for the left-wing parties to go back to their original platforms and re-attract traditional electorates, therefore curtailing the rise of populism.
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Maria Snegovaya (Ph.D., Columbia University) is a Senior Fellow with the Europe, Russia, and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and a Postdoctoral Fellow in Georgetown University's Walsh School of Foreign Service. She studies democratic backsliding and re-autocratization in postcommunist and post-Soviet Europe, Russia’s domestic and foreign policy, as well as the tactics used by Russian actors and proxies who circulate disinformation to exploit these dynamics in the region. Her research results and analysis have appeared in policy and peer-reviewed journals, including West European Politics, Party Politics, Journal of Democracy, Post-Soviet Affairs, and the Washington Post‘s political science blog the Monkey Cage. Her book "When Left Moves Right: The Decline of the Left and the Rise of the Populist Right in Postcommunist Europe" has just been published by Oxford University Press.