• Janos Christian Ørbæk Damm
Why have populist radical right parties (henceforth PRRPs) been successful in some Western European countries while they have at most been a minor nuisance in others? This Master’s thesis sets out to explore this discrepancy through a comparative case-analysis of four Western-European PRRPs; The Rassemblement National, the Danish Peoples Party, the UKIP and the Sweden Democrats.
Much of the academic literature on the fortunes of the PRRPs has been explored through the prism of so-called demand-side explanations, that is, the focus has been on understanding why a growing number of voters demand these kinds of parties in the first place. From this perspective, the literature has arrived at several explanations, typically within a macro-structural frame; the PRRP are the result of run-amok globalisation, of neoliberalism, of marginalisation, of the breakdown of class-allegiances and/or is an expression of the growing distrust towards politicians. This thesis, however, inscribes itself in another area of research. One which examines the fortunes of the PRRPs from the point of view of the political systems in which these parties develop and operate. In this, the thesis looks at the supply-side of things. While the demand-side explanations are certainly important for the understanding of the rise of the PRRPs, the supply-side perspective is better suited for explaining the variance in PRRP’s success that can be observed in countries that, from a macro-structural perspective, are very similar.
Among the various supply-side factors to influence the fortunes of PRRPs, the thesis examines three specific variables that can be configured in different ways from country to country as well as within the same country over time. The first one is the electoral system (majoritarian or proportional), the second one is the configuration of the political space (convergence or divergence, the positions of the PRRP vis-à-vis the major establishment parties) and the third one, which considers the reactions of the establishment parties towards the PRRP (adversarial, dismissive or accommodative), can be called the party-strategic context. These tree variables taken together can be called political opportunity structures or exogen political supply-side factors, and in selecting those the thesis thus delimits itself from looking at, for instance, the role of the media or that of the PRRPs themselves.
The analysis of these three different opportunity structures results in a lot of interesting conclusions and some which partly goes against the theoretically deduced expectations.
Firstly, concerning the role of the electoral system, the comparative case-analysis shows that the majoritarian system is not unconditionally, and contrary to the expectations, more inducive to the electoral success of a PRRP than a proportional system. While the case of UKIP supports the theory that a majoritarian election system can deter people to vote for a PRRP, the case of France, where Front National has experienced huge voter support, shows that this is not always the case. The case of the Sweden democrats, as well, shows that a proportional system, in itself, is not always all that is needed for a PRRP to succeed. The majoritarian system is, though, much more punishing towards PRRPs than the proportional system when it comes to translating votes into seats.
Secondly, concerning the role of the configuration of the political space, the analysis shows that convergence between the two major establishment parties, at least partly, do correlate with voter success for the PRRPs in question, especially convergence on the issues of European Integration. Moreover it shows that a general turn to the right on the position of multiculturalism might be inducive for the success of the PRRPs, but also that if this turn to the right is strong enough, it might catch many of the voters who would have otherwise voted for the PRRPs, thus resulting in the demise of the PRRP.
Thirdly, concerning the role of the party-strategic context, the analysis first and foremost shows that an adoptive strategy from the establishment parties - in correspondence with the findings of the analysis of the political space - can increase the voter support for these parties. Furthermore, the case of the Danish Peoples party in particular shows that a strategy of cooperation, contrary to the expectations, can result in increased success of the PRRPs, though this might also depend on the specific form of partly-in-partly-out cooperation that are only possible within the settings of a negative parliamentary system. Finally the analysis also shows that an adversarial strategy might correlate with different outcomes, depending on which kind of adversarial strategy is being pursued; A strategy of simply demonizing seems to correlate with increased electoral success for the PRRP, while the establishment of a cordon sanitaire – in combination with a majoritarian electoral system – seem effective in diminishing the political influence of the PRRPs.
Finally, the thesis also demonstrates that the three different exogen supply side factors interact with each other, shaping a combined and specific opportunity structure that profoundly affects the fortunes of the PRRPs.
Publication date29 Oct 2019
Number of pages69
ID: 313316149