- "The Populist approach is less ideal than idealistic."
- ―Ransolm Casterfo
The Populists were one of two powerful, yet unofficial, political factions that had formed in the Galactic Senate of the New Republic over the two decades following the founding of the regime. They believed that individual member planets should retain their full sovereignty, while the opposing political faction, the Centrists, favored a stronger galactic government and a larger military. Senator Leia Organa, former hero of the Alliance to Restore the Republic and veteran of the Galactic Civil War, was a well known Populist.
At some point, the tension between the two factions threatened to cripple the Senate. The Centrists then called for the election of a "First Senator," a charismatic individual who would bring order to the divided assembly. Organa and the other Populists, however, were wary of the price that they might have to pay for such order. Organa soon became the Populist candidate for First Senator. However, due to the untimely revelation that she was Darth Vader's daughter, the Princess was shunned out of office. In need of a new Populist candidate, Senator Tai-Lin Garr was nominated, who, in keeping with Populist values, desired to seize the position in order to render it irrelevant. Before the election was held, however, Garr was assassinated by Arliz Hadrassian, leader of the Amaxine warriors, leading to an official period of mourning and a delay in the election.
Overall, the Populists had more of a libertarian ideology, due a general emphasis on greater individual freedoms, both social and economical. More nationalistic than they were imperialistic, populists believed that almost all individual member worlds should retain sovereignty in the New Republic. They were divided into separate far-left and far-right branches. The far-left branch wanted to open voting on major decisions to the general public rather than only allow the Senate to vote on such decisions. Princess Leia Organa was not optimistic about their goal, thinking that it would only result in trillions of citizens refusing to agree rather than thousands of senators refusing to agree. By contrast, the far-right branch of the Populists wanted to dissolve the Senate so that each world would once again become a totally sovereign entity. The only thing that these two factions had in common was their shared opposition to the Centrists and their willingness to support Organa's candidacy for the position of First Senator. According to the Centrist Senator Ransolm Casterfo's analysis, the Populists depended on a charismatic leader to hold the faction together. Most Populist senators with the exception of Organa were perceived as being "soft" on law and order. Unlike their Centrist counterparts, Populists tended to be suspicious of any notion of a strong central government due to its negative association with the Old Empire.
The Populists emerged as a political faction in the New Republic's Galactic Senate at some point following the Galactic Concordance, which concluded the Galactic Civil War. About six years before the destruction of the Hosnian system, the Populists had an adversarial relationship with the Centrists, who valued law and order and advocated a stronger central government. Disagreements between the two factions created gridlock in the Galactic Senate and undermined confidence in the New Republic. Many Populists loathed their Centrist opponents to the extent that it was considered rare for a Populist Senator like Leia Organa to work with a Centrist like Senator Casterfo.
Following Organa and Casterfo's joint senatorial mission to investigate Rinnrivin Di's cartel on Bastatha, the Populist Senator Anib Ney of Sullust accused Casterfo of endangering Organa's life. During the same session, the Populists unsuccessfully tried to oppose a motion by the Centrist Lady Carise Sindian to create a new office called "First Senator," who would wield considerable economic and military power over the New Republic. While many of the senators were not swayed by Lady Carise's arguments, Casterfo managed to win over the independent senators by stressing the gridlock in the Senate. In response, the Populists were forced to change tactics and proposed Senator Organa as their candidate for First Senator in an attempt to prevent the Centrists from occupying that position.
Later, Organa managed to order an evacuation of the Senate complex before a bomb destroyed half of the conference building. Following the so-called "Napkin Bombing," both the Populist and Centrist factions and their media accused each other of staging the bombing to gain political capital. Due to his friendship with Organa, Casterfo realized that the Populists would not have endangered the life of their First Senator candidate. In truth, the bombing had been engineered by Arliz Hadrassian, a former TIE fighter pilot and leader of the Amaxine warriors, who wanted to derail Organa and Casterfo's investigation into Rinnrivin's cartel and her Amaxine warriors. Undaunted, Leia and Casterfo continued their investigation and discovered that a mysterious entity was funding both Di's cartel and the Amaxine warriors.
Prior to Organa's investigation of the Amaxine base on Sibensko, Lady Carise obtained information about her true parentage as the daughter of Darth Vader, who was reviled by many in the New Republic. During the Senate hearing into Organa's candidacy for First Senator, she manipulated Casterfo into revealing this information to the assembled senators. As a result, Organa's credibility was undermined and she lost the support of many allies in the Populist faction. The only two Populist senators to defend her were her close friends, Tai-Lin Garr and Varish Vicly. Due to the political fallout, Organa was compelled to withdraw her candidacy. As a result, Senator Garr took Organa's place as the Populist candidate for First Senator.
Following Organa's Mission to Sibensko, Hadrassian, under the orders of Lady Carise, assassinated Tai-Lin Garr while he was addressing a crowd of supporters on Hosnian Prime. Several Populists including Organa and Vicly attended his memorial service. Lady Carise then planted information framing Casterfo as Hadrassian's supporter and financier. While many Populists believed that Casterfo was guilty, Organa realized that he was innocent and that Lady Carise had framed him in order to eliminate Populists and dissident Centrists. In retaliation, Organa convinced the Elder Houses to strip Lady Carise of all her royal titles, rendering her a commoner. Disillusioned with the infighting between the Populist and Centrist factions in the Senate and the perceived complacency of both factions, Organa resigned as Senator and founded the Resistance, an organization dedicated to defending the New Republic.
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