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Mainstreaming Populism

January 17, 2022 @ 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm

Speaker: Laura Jacobs (Université Libre de Bruxelles) and Miku Matsunaga (University of Tokyo)

The direct effects of populist parties’ government participation have been in the centre of scholars attention. Much less attention has been devoted to indirect effects through the diffusion of ideas and populists’ effect on the party system. The two papers in the session scrutinise the mainstreaming of populism. Why do mainstream parties sometimes form governments with populists, despite alternative options? And, how do they position themselves in the policy space after facing stiff electoral competition from populists?

Laura Jacobs (Université Libre de Bruxelles) Ruling with populist parties: when and why do mainstream parties prefer to rule with populist parties

For long, populist parties have —despite their rising electoral success—been excluded from government. Still, recently several mainstream parties have shifted their strategy and have formed a government with populist parties from the radical left and right. Parties usually decide in favor of or against a government coalition based on a careful trade-off between projected policy implementation, power in office, and vote maximization, i.e., the ‘policy, office, votes’ triad. So far, however, it remains unclear to what extent mainstream parties are willing to rule with populist parties and which are the underlying reasons that guide their coalition preferences.Adopting the ‘policy, office, and votes’ triad, I systematically examine mainstream parties’ Twitter claims on ruling with populist parties in Austria, Belgium (Flanders, Wallonia), Germany and the Netherlands (2006-2021, N = 1,919). In their political communication on Twitter, mainstream parties mainly advocate for excluding populist parties from government. For exclusion, policy-based (mostly referring to the populist parties’ extremist nature, mostly of right-wing populist parties) motives trump motives on office-seeking and vote maximization, while for inclusion mostly office-seeking motives are invoked. Party and context characteristics matter. This study offers insight in parties’ patterns of political communication on coalition formation.

Miku Matsunaga (University of Tokyo) Going on the offensive in defence policy: Do established parties reinforce their own issues in response to the electoral success of radical right populist parties?

We study how the electoral success of radical right populist parties (RRPPs) affects attitudes and salience of national defence policy. As a consequence of the radical right success, mainstream parties in Western democracies have adopted an accommodation strategy. However, we know little about how this party competition affects salience and party position of the national defence domain. We argue that RRPPs’ entrance to the parliament would increase the salience and importance of international security resulting in shifts in mainstream parties’ defence policy. Looking at 27 European countries between 1990 and 2019, we tested for the argument by making use of regression discontinuity design (RDD). We found firm evidence in support of our argument — parties increase defence salience in the face of the electoral breakthrough of RRPPs. Our findings provide novel academic and policy implications to understand (military) political consequences of radical right success and issue competition.



January 17, 2022
12:30 pm - 1:30 pm