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Political Research Exchange

European Union Issues and Party Competition: How does the Popularity of Extreme Right Parties affect EU Positions of Mainstream Parties?

Comparative Politics
 
Elections
 
European Politics
 
Extremism
 
Political Competition
 
Political Parties
 
Populism
 
Euroscepticism
 
Presenter
Aline Burni Pereira Gomes
Université catholique de Louvain
Authors
Aline Burni Pereira Gomes
Université catholique de Louvain

Abstract
Different political parties, from the left or the right, hold an Eurosceptic position. But extreme right parties have so far benefited the most from Eurosceptic attitudes among the electorate. They have multiplied and surprisingly grown in popularity in many countries. They have recently run the second round in presidential elections in Austria and France. And they can be key actors in government formation in some political systems, turning into partners in some governing coalitions. Studies show that issues directly or indirectly related to the EU are central to explain voting for extreme right parties. This goes from critics to the functioning, design and the elites of the EU, to the way this supranational institution deals with immigration, or threatens national sovereignty. Furthermore, scholars argue that a new cultural cleavage has gained prominence on electoral competition. One of the main components of this cleavage concerns a general idea of cultural openness/defense of cosmopolitanism, opposed to closeness/strong nationalism. As nationalism is the main feature of the extreme right’s ideology, issues related to the EU are inevitably present in their political discourse. However, a clear common position towards the EU hasn’t been identified yet. Some extreme right parties oppose to specific elements of the EU, while others are completely against the whole integration process. Using the CMP and expert surveys, this paper will focus on two objectives. First, it will develop an analysis of extreme right parties’ positions regarding the EU. Is Euroscepticism a defining feature of this party family? Are there different levels of Euroscepticism among parties in this group? Secondly, I will address the question of whether the salience of EU issues has increased in electoral competition. Could this dynamic be explained by the electoral performance of extreme right parties, which pushes mainstream parties towards more radical positions on EU issues?
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