“You can’t corrupt eight million voters”: corruption as a topic in Miloš Zeman’s populist strategy

Vladimír Naxera, Petr Krčál

Abstract


This paper can be seen as a contribution to the debate on political populism. More specifically, we focus on the relation between populist strategies and the perception of corruption. The issue of corruption and the fight against it is a part of various political strategies, programs, and rhetoric. In some cases, however, it lingers only on a rhetorical level, and the issue of corruption is used by politicians merely as a tool for gaining political points or to harm political opponents, whom they label “corruptionists”. The goal of this paper is to provide an interpretation of the ways in which Czech President Miloš Zeman constructs the issues that are related to the topic of corruption and to interpret how such content figures into the theoretical framework of populism. Methodologically speaking, the text is established as a CAQDAS dataset created by all of Zeman’s speeches, interviews, statements, etc., which were processed using MAXQDA11+ software. This paper shows that the dominant treatment of the topic of corruption by the president is primarily linked to the creation and assignment of delegitimising labels (“corruptionist”) to his opponents or the legitimisation of his allies and himself (as “corruption fighter”), which is the quintessence of populist strategies.


Keywords


Miloš Zeman; corruption; populism; (de)legitimisation; presidential speeches

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