Series: The New Populism

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Exclusive research shows how populists tripled their vote over the past two decades

20 November 2018 | Staff | The Guardian

Populist parties have more than tripled their support in Europe in the last 20 years, securing enough votes to put their leaders into government posts in 11 countries and challenging the established political order across the continent.

The steady growth in support for European populist parties, particularly on the right, is revealed in a groundbreaking analysis of their performance in national elections in 31 European countries over two decades, conducted by the Guardian in conjunction with more than 30 leading political scientists.

The data shows that populism has been consistently on the rise since at least 1998. Two decades ago, populist parties were largely a marginal force, accounting for just 7% of votes across the continent; in the most recent national elections, one in four votes cast was for a populist party.

“Not so long ago populism was a phenomenon of the political fringes,” said Matthijs Rooduijn, a political sociologist at the University of Amsterdam, who led the research project.

“Today it has become increasingly mainstream: some of the most significant recent political developments like the Brexit referendum and the election of Donald Trump cannot be understood without taking into account the rise of populism.

“The breeding ground for populism has become increasingly fertile, and populist parties are ever more capable of reaping the rewards.”

Supporters of populism say it champions the ordinary person against vested interests and hence is a vital force in any democracy. But critics say that populists in power often subvert democratic norms, whether by undermining the media and judiciary or by trampling minority rights.

The findings of the study come six months before European parliamentary elections that some are predicting could return more rightwing populists than ever to the 751-seat chamber.

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It reveals the different fortunes of rightwing populists such Hungary’s Viktor Orbán and Italy’s Matteo Salvini, who have had the most success in recent years, and leftwing populist parties, which rapidly expanded in the aftermath of the financial crisis but failed to secure a seat in government anywhere other than Greece.

In order to track the success of populist parties in Europe, Rooduijn and the Guardian worked with political scholars to examine hundreds of political parties and decide whether or not they were populist at different stages over the past 20 years.

National election results since 1998 were then mapped on to the party definitions to show trends over time.

Original Link: The New Populism

 

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