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The (In)evitable Success of Radical Right Parties: Explaining Variance Across Contexts

Comparative Politics
Elections
European Politics
Populism
Social Movements
Electoral Behaviour
Party Systems
P384
Léonie de Jonge
Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
Luca Manucci
Universidade de Lisboa Instituto de Ciências Sociais
Annika Werner
Australian National University

Abstract

The populist radical right is by far the best-studied party family within contemporary political science and tangential research fields. The arguably disproportionate attention that this party family has received tends to obscure the fact that populist radical right parties (PRRPs) have not been equally successful in all European countries. Indeed, there is great variation in the electoral performances of such parties across the continent; while they have formed part of (or provided parliamentary support for) national governments in some countries, including Austria, Hungary, Italy, Poland and the Netherlands, they have been virtually non-existent or unsuccessful in rallying broad popular support in countries such as Portugal, Ireland and Luxembourg. Besides these national variations, there are also important regional differences in the electoral trajectories of PRRPs. For instance, the German Alternative für Deutschland is performing better in the eastern part of Germany than in the West. In Belgium, PRRPs have been tremendously successful in the Flanders (i.e. the northern, Dutch-speaking part), but failed to break through electorally in Wallonia (i.e. the southern, French-speaking region). In theory, no country is ‘immune’ to the rise of PRRPs. Yet, the development of PRRPs in Europe has been a story of failure as well as success. This raises questions about the variation in the electoral fortunes of these parties. Specifically, why have PRRPs succeeded in garnering broad electoral support in some countries and regions but failed to do so in others? Existing scholarly attempts to explain variation in the demand for and supply of PRRPs have generated contradictory findings. For instance, some studies indicate that the success of PRRPs can be linked to high levels of immigration, while others (using different variables and datasets) find no such correlation. These seemingly contradictory findings can partly be explained by the use of different methodologies, datasets and/or definitions of electoral success. Above all, however, they must be attributed to the fact that conventional demand- and supply- side explanations fail to sufficiently take into account the context in which parties operate. It seems perfectly plausible that immigration figures alone cannot account for the electoral success of PRRPs. Instead, they may only be conducive to success under certain conditions. For instance, concerns over immigration can become politically salient when the media stir up public anxieties about the erosion of national identities, and/or when mainstream parties contribute to the politicisation of identity-related topics whilst simultaneously failing to address some of the underlying issues that result from rising immigrant flows. Therefore, it makes sense to take a closer look at the conditions under which issues become salient. This panel, therefore, discusses which factors can help explain the variation in the success and failure of PRRPs. What role do historical legacies and collective memories play? What explains urban and rural variations in the way in which these parties operate? And how do these parties seek to appeal to different electorates within a given polity?

Title Details
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