(26 March 2014) Populism and personalist parties: the case of Bulgaria by Assistant Prof. Emilia Zankina

The cycle of lectures of the Institute for Advanced Studies Balkanski-Panitza aims to present to the wide audience leading researchers from Bulgaria and abroad who work in various academic fields (humanitarian and social sciences, science, engineering). Among the lectors are distinct figures from the civil society, means of mass communication and business with respect to the education and science issues in Bulgaria. The lectures aim to bridge the different fields of the scientific knowledge and to contribute to the enrichment of the academic life in Bulgaria in accordance to the mission of the Institute.

What:    Populism and personalist parties: the case of Bulgaria
When:   26 March, 2014, 19:00
Where:  Sofia University Rectorate, lecture hall 224 (hall America for Bulgaria)

This lecture builds on continuing research that offers a new approach to the study of populism.  Adopting a transaction-cost framework, I argue that populism is a political strategy that reduces the transaction costs of politics by increasing the use of informal political institutions in the name of “direct” and “immediate” action. As such, populism contributes to the emergence of personalist parties which, having a dominant leader and weak organizational structure and thus, being a single-, as opposed to a multi-actor organization, reduce transaction costs by definition. I use the Bulgarian case as an illustration of the rise of populism and personalist parties across Europe and as a background upon which to apply the transaction cost framework.

Emilia Zankina is an Assistant Professor at the American University in Bulgaria where she teaches political science and public policy. She holds a Ph.D. from the University in Pittsburgh and a certificate in Advanced Russian and East European Studies. Her recent research spans three areas – populism, civil service reform, and gender and politics.