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Understanding right-wing populism and what to do about it

Halikiopoulou, D. and Vlandas, T. (2022) Understanding right-wing populism and what to do about it. IPPR Progessive Review, 29 (2). pp. 138-146. ISSN 2573-2331

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1111/newe.12309


Since the early 2010s, right-wing populist parties (RWPPs) have been on the rise across Europe. In much of Western Europe, RWPPs such as the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ), the French Rassemblement National (RN), and the Italian Lega have gradually permeated mainstream ground, increasing their support beyond their secure voter base and becoming progressively embedded in the system either as coalition partners or as credible opposition parties. In Southern Europe, RWPPs are increasingly successful in countries such as Spain, Portugal, and Cyprus that had formerly resisted the RWPP tide. In Central and Eastern Europe, previously mainstream parties including Fidesz in Hungary and Law and Justice (PiS) in Poland have radicalised in government, increasingly adopting populist, illiberal, and authoritarian policy positions. Finally, in the Nordic countries, parties such as the Danish People's Party (DF), the Finns Party (PS), and the Sweden Democrats (SD) have also increased their electoral support, exerting substantial policy influence. These developments have in most cases taken place at the expense of the mainstream: while the average electoral score of RWPPs has been steadily increasing over time, support for both the mainstream left and right has declined. This right-wing populist momentum sweeping Europe has three features. First, the successful electoral performance of parties pledging to restore national sovereignty and implement policies that consistently prioritise natives over immigrants. Many RWPPs have improved their electoral performance over time, although there remain important cross-national variations. Second, the increasing entrenchment of these parties in their respective political systems through access to office. A substantial number of RWPPs have either recently governed or served as formal cooperation partners in right-wing minority governments. Examples abound: the Italian Lega, the Austrian FPÖ, the Polish PiS, the Hungarian Fidesz and the Danish DF. The so-called cordon sanitaire – the policy of marginalising extreme parties – has been breaking down even in countries where it had traditionally been effective. Third, RWPPs’ increasing ability to influence the policy agenda of other parties. RWPPs such as the RN and the SD have successfully competed in their domestic electoral systems, permeating mainstream ground and influencing the agendas of other parties. As a result, mainstream parties on the right and, in some instances, on the left have often adopted accommodative strategies – mainly regarding immigration.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Politics, Economics and International Relations > Politics and International Relations
ID Code:107199


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