ECPR General Conference
University of Glasgow, Glasgow
3 - 6 September 2014

Forget About the People? The Impact of Populist Parties on Democratic Reform

Kristof Jacobs
Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen
Kristof Jacobs
Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen

Populist parties routinely have a democratic reform agenda to reclaim democracy from the elites and return it to the people. The Austrian Freedom Party for instance, considered it to be its most noble task to reform the Austrian democracy to a ‘Third Republic’ (FPÖ, 1997). But do populists practice what they preach? This paper will combine two case studies (Austria, 2000-2002; The Netherlands, 2010-2012) with a QCA analysis of West European democracies since 1990 (15 governments including populist parties). Based on these analyses, it seems that populists prioritize other ideological components, most notably nativism, over their populism. In fact, having populists in a government is actually a sufficient condition not to have democratic reforms in the direction of the populist ideal democracy. Once in office, it seems populists forget about the people.
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"In all forms of Government the people is the true Legislator" - Edmund Burke

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