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In Search of New Enemies? Romanian Party Politics and Islamophobia

Europe (Central and Eastern)
Islam
Migration
Political Parties
Populism
Sorina Soare
Dipartimento di Scienze Politiche e Sociali, Università di Firenze
Sorina Soare
Dipartimento di Scienze Politiche e Sociali, Università di Firenze
Claudiu Tufis
University of Bucharest

Abstract

Since the 1990s, there has been an explosion of electorally successful radical right populist parties, leaders and movements in Central and Eastern Europe. Following the 2015 Migration crisis, this constellation of parliamentary parties (endorsed by movements, websites and social networks, traditional media, intellectuals, and think-tanks, all of them supporting their nationalistic, authoritarian and populist agendas) has started to emphasize the religious divide and to present themselves as the safeguards of the “Judeo-Christian tradition and society”. This paper specifically focuses on the relationship between Islamophobia and party politics in an apparently abnormal post-communist country, Romania. Starting with the 2016 legislative elections no populist radical right party managed to obtain representation. There is, however, increased evidence that across the political spectrum mainstream parties have adopted nativist, illiberal, and populist messages. Moreover, recent developments indicate that religion and Islamophobia have become sources of debates. As in Western societies, different political representatives emphasize the reemerging clash of civilizations between Islam and European traditions, their discourses portraying Muslims as a threat to the security, tradition, and/or culture of the community. On this ground, this paper asks: How do parliamentary parties relate to religion and Islam?  Furthermore, how and to what extent have religious issues and Islam, in particular, been integrated in the political discourse and representation? The core of the paper is the empirical analysis of internal and external party documents to determine to what extent a new repertoire of Manichean mobilization is taking roots.