Illiberal Communication and Election InterventionDuring the Refugee Crisis in Germany
58 Pages Posted: 21 Jul 2019 Last revised: 23 Feb 2021
Date Written: July 15, 2019
Populist discourse - which tends to benefit anti-systemic parties - has been on the rise in the world’s democratic states. While much of it is home-grown, some is produced by external actors. Powerful non-democratic states have both the means and the incentive to spread it to democratic states. We clarify the incentives illiberal states have to produce such communication, and delineate how this type of political communication fuses traditional state-to-state propaganda with election interventions in democracies. We draw on the case of Kremlin- sponsored communication on the issue of refugees in Germany to illustrate the mechanisms though which the discourse operates in target countries. We create a corpus of over a million news stories to identify the prevalence of propaganda and its timing relative to Germany’s elections. We discuss the broader implications for the use of directed political communication as a form of election intervention.
Keywords: election intervention, propaganda, soft power, far-right, natural language processing
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