Populist parties in Western Europe. An analysis of the three core elements of populism

Author(s) : Belen Fernandez-Garcia

Source : https://www.unav.es/fcom/communication-society/es/articulo.php?art_id=693


« Recent elections in Europe have shown that the presence of political actors portraying the antagonism between the people and the elite is not only rising, but also becoming a widespread phenomenon, even in countries in which populism is deemed to have failed (e.g. Spain). In Southern Europe and Ireland, the threat to the political establishment comes mostly from the radical left (Podemos, Syryza, Sinn Féin, People Before Profit, Left Bloc and Unitary Democratic Coalition) and other ideologically ambiguous parties (Five Star Movement). In Northern and Central Europe this threat comes from the far right (National Front, United Kingdom Independence Party, Sweden Democrats, Freedom Party of Austria, Alternative for Deutschland, etc.). Despite the ideological differences, these parties coincide in identifying a conflict between the “pure people” and the corrupt elite, determining themselves as the only true representatives of the interests of the people. This antagonism mentioned has been labelled as populism. However, there is some confusion in the academy around characterising elements of populism and those related to the host ideologies of populist parties. Consequently, we can observe a very contested and vague use of this term. The main reason behind this confusion is that populism has taken very different shapes: from the agrarian revolt of the end of 19th century in the United States to the social movement of Los Indignados (The Outraged) in Spain; from personalist leaders on the left such as Hugo Chávez to well organised political parties such as the National Front. Populism has taken the shape of social movements, political parties and political leaders with electoral vehicles; and has appeared from the radical left to the radical right, and others that were beyond the classical ideological spectrum of left and right (Juan Domingo Perón). »


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