Populism is a political doctrine in which one sides with "the people" against "the elite". Political parties and politicians often use the terms populist and populism as pejoratives against their opponents. Such a view sees populism as merely empathising with the public, (usually through rhetoric or "unrealistic" proposals) in order to increase appeal across the political spectrum.
Academic definitions of populism have varied widely over the centuries, and the term has often been employed in loose and inconsistent ways to denote appeals to "the people", "demagogy" and "catch-all" politics or as a label for new types of parties whose classifications are unclear. A factor traditionally held to diminish the value of "populism" as a category has been that populists rarely call themselves "populists" and usually reject the term when it is applied to them.
In its contemporary understanding, however, populism is most often associated with an authoritarian form of politics. Populist politics, following this definition, revolves around a charismatic leader who appeals to and claims to embody the will of the people in order to consolidate his own power. In this personalized form of politics, political parties lose their importance, and elections serve to confirm the leader’s authority rather than to reflect the different allegiances of the people.
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