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Anti-Islamic PEGIDA Mobilization and its Relationship to Party Politics

Extremism
National Identity
Political Parties
Social Movements
Immigration
Political Activism
Manès Weisskircher
TU Dresden
Manès Weisskircher
TU Dresden
Lars Erik Berntzen
European University Institute

Abstract

Recently, social movement scholars have increasingly underlined the proximity of social movements and political parties – as emphasized in various conceptual approaches, such as ‘movement-parties’, ‘players and arenas’ and ‘strategic action fields’. Simultaneously, scholars of the far-right have emphasized the importance of ‘subcultural milieus’ for understanding far-right mobilization. This article aims to bridge both types of literature by analysing the importance of ‘party politics’ for PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the Occident) mobilization in Europe. We find three different dimensions: First, in the German region of Saxony, where PEGIDA originated, a number of activists tried to enter the arena of party politics, but overwhelmingly failed to do so in subnational elections. The competition by the new far-right AfD party was just too strong. Second, empirical patterns showing how far-right mobilization is particularly weak when far-right parties are strong are only partly confirmed in the case of PEGIDA: indeed, PEGIDA mobilization was much weaker outside of Germany, in countries where far-right parties are established players. However, also in Saxony, the AfD had entered regional parliament already before the PEGIDA mobilization effort. In addition, the strength of far-right parties cannot explain important differences in PEGIDA mobilization beyond Germany. Third, beyond Saxony – in the rest of Germany as well as in other Northern and Central European countries – PEGIDA was often associated with ‘subcultural milieus’ that included individuals from minor and sometimes major political parties, whose support sometimes was essential for organizing small-scale street activism. Ultimately, the article assesses the relevance of party politics for understanding the biggest anti-Islamic social movement effort in contemporary Europe.