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Right-Wing Populists as a New Elite? A Comparison Between Italy, Austria and Switzerland.

Elites
Parliaments
Political Parties
Populism
Representation
Manuel Anselmi
Sapienza University of Rome
Oscar Mazzoleni
Université de Lausanne
Andrea Pilotti
Université de Lausanne
Manuel Anselmi
Università degli Studi di Perugia
Oscar Mazzoleni
Université de Lausanne
Andrea Pilotti
Université de Lausanne

Abstract

Despite controversies about definitions and approaches, it is widely recognized in political science that populist parties arise in contrast to the establishment, and, at the same time, once successful, they enter establishment. Regarding the consequences of this path, a significant amount of research has been done concerning how right-wing populist agenda and policy-making demarcate or rather integrate into mainstream (Heinisch 2003; Akkermann et al. 2018; Biard, Bernhard, Betz 2019). However, only a few analyses are available about representatives of populist parties in order to know to what extent they are distinctive from the mainstream parties in respect their social and cultural background. Thus, this paper addresses to what extent and by which sociological characteristics successful populist parties draws an alternative or counter elite. In order to answer to this question, we will deal with some hypotheses about the recent populist insurgency in Western democracies, in particular the relevance of educational cleavage (Norris and Inglehart 2019; Piketty 2020). Morover, inspired by diachronic and comparative perspectives allowed by current scholarship on political elites and MPs (Best & Cotta 2000; Cotta & Best 2007; Best & Vogel 2018; Gaxie 2007), we will focus on the evolution of three Western European parliaments, where so-called right-wing populist parties enduring since some decades, that is Italy, Austria and Switzerland. The analysis is based on an original data base on MP’s characteristics since the 1980s, before and during the emergence of the main right-wing parties (Lega, SVP, FPÖ) in the selected countries.