Why are populist parties so successful in Europe?

Populist parties, especially far-right ones, have become increasingly successful in Europe over the past three decades, and almost a third of Europeans now vote for them. This is proven by recent studies carried out in 31 European countries by university experts in the field of political science. The imposition of anti-establishment visions, in addition to the weakening of traditional parties, often coincides with the loss of constitutional guarantees and democratic instruments necessary to guarantee not only stability but also the separation of powers and, in particular, respect for the rights of minorities. A bleak picture emerges from academics’ analysis; It seems that the limits of compromise between political formations that increasingly welcome authoritarian and discriminatory visions in their programs are still unclear. The same parties that were considered “centre” and “moderate” now increasingly tend to cater to populist demands, while extremist parties, on their part, tend to proliferate and chase away voters, challenging those who are more “tough and pure” in slogans and often avoiding you. vote for each other. We also look at the results of this study in detail, taking into account the European elections that may redefine the traditional government structure led by popular and socialists.

Anti-system progress

A PopuList analysis by more than 100 political scientists in 31 countries found that a record was reached in national elections last year: 32% of European voters voted for anti-establishment parties. This is a huge jump from the 20% recorded in the early 2000s and the 12% in the early 1990s. The list includes a total of 234 anti-system parties in the old continent, 165 of which are classified as “populist”. There are 61 parties on the far left and 112 parties on the far right. Most, if not all, of these also fall into the category of “populist” parties. Nearly half of anti-establishment voters support far-right parties, and that figure is rising. “Traditional parties are losing votes; anti-establishment parties are gaining ground. This is important because a lot of research now shows that when populists gain or influence power, the quality of liberal democracy declines,” he told the British newspaper. Guard Political scientist Matthijs Rooduijn from the University of Amsterdam led the research. The imposition of far-right ideas has reached such an extent that even some European parties that were initially considered centrist have been reclassified as right-wing and far-right, as in the case of Dutch Mark Rutte’s People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD).

Populism: how to recognize it?

According to academics, the common feature of populist formations is that they divide society into two homogeneous and opposing groups: “pure people” and “corrupt elite”. Another feature is the belief that politics should be the result of the “will of the people”. For supporters of this vision, their focus is on the “common person” who is involved in the interests of elites and benefits from a well-established system that works in their favor. Critics say populists in power often subvert democratic norms, weaken the judiciary and media, or restrict minority rights. The “harms” resulting from their policies often go beyond their authority. According to Rooduijn, the populist idea that there should be no “filter” bodies between people and institutions tends to neutralize a number of “vital forces and balances” for healthy democracies, such as having a free press, independent courts, and the protection of minorities.

continent on the right

In today’s European picture, the Hungarian leader Viktor Orbán, who is the architect of numerous authoritarian and illiberal laws, as the European Union points out, collaborates with the Law and Justice Party in Poland, and Giorgia Meloni, who can transform Fratelli d’Italia from what it was before. It seems to be. A party that is on the margins of the main right-wing force in Italy and has been the leader of the governing coalition for a year. Even in the region of Scandinavian countries, traditionally closer to moderate left forces, far-right parties have come to power. Polls show that in Austria the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) is leading, while in Germany the AfD has doubled its support to 22%, at least in terms of voting intention. In France, Marine Le Pen left the socialists and republicans behind and became the main alternative in the French presidential race. In Italy, PopuList includes many parties classified as populist and far-right, whether or not they are represented in Parliament, including Fratelli d’Italia and the League, while Forza Italia is described as populism. border line. The 5 Star Movement is defined as populist due to its “flashy and anti-establishment rhetoric”, while the Liberi e Uguali formation is defined as populist due to its “flashy and anti-establishment rhetoric”. border line far left.

Identity factors and insecurities

Analysts tried to decipher the factors that push voters to these political formations. Immigration is a recurring theme, but not the only one. There is often a search for identity (at the cultural, regional, nationalist level) that permeates numerous formations. But anti-system parties capitalize on insecurities depending on which one dominates the moment. During the pandemic, many people have joined the wave of protests against vaccines and lockdowns to reach consensus; The description of immigrants as enemies is a great classic; There are also those who are looking for another type due to inflation and the increasing cost of living. your enemies like banks, finance or the evergreen George Soros.

Consent and tolerance

One of the most striking aspects concerns the type of voters. Daphne Halikiopoulou, a political scientist at the University of York, says those voting for the far right now “include people who have never done it and people you wouldn’t expect to do it: older women, urban voters, the educated middle class.” “They’re ready to replace democracy with something by saying, ‘I know this leader is authoritarian, but at least he’ll bring economic stability,'” the study’s co-author said. However, it is also necessary to pay attention to the nature of these “non-ideological” voters. Support for anti-establishment parties, especially far-right parties, has not increased much, according to Cas Mudde, a professor of international relations at the University of Georgia. “What has increased is the electorate that has tolerated them.” the Guardian. “Those who did not vote for Le Pen in the first round of the French presidential election but will vote in the second round. This group has really grown.” The prejudice and “cordon sanitaire” that only a few years ago prevented certain positions from being legitimized within the democratic framework are no longer there. Since some statements and proposals (such as racist, xenophobic, conspiracy theories) have now been cleared, it is possible to form and manage coalitions with the parties that support them.

Responsibility of traditional parties

In this context, scientists also discussed the role of traditional parties, which inevitably contribute to the success of populist formations with their attitudes and policies that are far from the problems of a large segment of citizens. “There is a progressive break with society’s demands. There is a perception that these (traditional) parties have essentially become organizations that seek office, are insensitive to people’s concerns and often feel blamed for their problems,” he said. Andrea Pirro is a political scientist at the University of Bologna. “Anti-establishment parties are presenting themselves as the answer, and voters are increasingly willing to give untested alternatives a chance,” the expert emphasized. The success of alternative parties also leads to an increase in competition between them. While many formations tend to split, those with similar ideas are increasing. The new ones are stepping up with even more extreme polemical expressions and slogans to stand out. Consider last year’s French elections, when Eric Zemmour found Le Pen too weak and founded a party supported by voters already integrated into the ruling system. He won a perfect 7.7 percent of the vote in the first round with his Reconquête formation and has now vowed to turn the European elections into a giant referendum on immigration.

election predictions

The research does not reveal clear predictions about the next European elections. While some among academics accept the victory of far-right groups as assured, others believe that they may have reached the limit of their success and that “moderate” parties can win their supporters by turning to more extreme positions. voter. An indicator in this sense is, for example, the decline of the Spanish far-right party Vox. A victory was expected in the last elections in July, but Santiago Abascal’s sovereigntist formation had lost consensus compared to previous performances; This suggests that a portion of the population is not willing to move to the right and is actually afraid of extremist statements. certain leaders. However, according to Professor Mudde, the growth of populism, especially the right, has no clear boundaries, and a changing society may gradually lose the antibodies that have been able to counter the authoritarian and illiberal tendencies of the last seventy years. now spreading across the old continent.

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Source: Today IT

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