Two Populisms for two different Crises? The Cases of Podemos and Alternative für Deutschland

Comparative Politics
Party Manifestos
Political Parties
Juan Roch González
Freie Universität Berlin
Juan Roch González
Freie Universität Berlin

Podemos in Spain and Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) in Germany are two political parties depicted as antagonists and, at the same time, as part of one same phenomenon in the European political landscape. Indeed commentators and political scientists tend to analyse both parties under the conceptual insights provided by the study of populist phenomena (for the case of AfD see Berbuir, Lewandowsky and Siri, 2015 or Franzmann, 2016; Gomez Reino and Llamazares, 2015 and Kioupkiolis, 2016 focus on the populist appeal of Podemos).
Nevertheless, the origin and formation of these parties and their public policies, for instance regarding the so-called refugee crisis, are clearly divergent. The pending question is whether these parties can, in fact, share the same populist rubric and, if so, whether their differences can be seen as indicators of sub-modalities within the concept of populism. The exploration of such questions requires a conceptual underpinning of the populism phenomenon – defined here as a specific type of political discourse – and a further analysis, empirically informed, of its discursive nuances. The primary aim of this paper is therefore to empirically substantiate the commonalities or differences of these political parties in their discursive deployment and to examine their fit into the populist discourse. It provides discourse-based new data and reflects on prior empirical research covering right-wing and left-wing populist discourses and their differences (See Stavrakakis and Katsambekis, 2014 or March, 2015).

The data collected in this study are electoral manifestos and press releases of the parties corresponding to the period 2013 – 2016. Its systematic description and comparison is undertaken through Quantitative Text Analysis (QTA) conducted with the software R (R Studio: . A thick description of the political and social contexts in Spain and Germany serves to embed the central discourse categories of each party in a broader analytical frame. This study equally contributes, in theoretical terms, to the evaluation of the consistency of the concept of populism and its ability to encompass the discursive deployment of diverse political parties.

The results of the QTA and the systematic comparison of the discourse categories indicate significant divergence regarding European Union and social policy issues, whereas the anti-establishment appeal is salient in the discourses of both parties - although in different manners -. In each case, the contextual analysis identifies a social movement as the precursor of the discursive character of either party: respectively, the M-15 movement in Spain and Pegida in Germany. It is further revealed that either social movement possesses a distinct composition as well as a distinct type of affiliation with the respective party. Future research aiming at a comprehensive explanation of the emergence of these parties and their discursive formations shall take into account the various causal mechanisms operating in either the Spanish or German polity.
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