Study: Populism Beating Out Liberalism in Europe

Despite the EU's efforts, nationalism is becoming a permanent feature of European politics

by Edmund Kozak | Updated 31 Jul 2017 at 6:49 AM

A new study has revealed the incredible extent to which populism has established itself as a central feature of European politics.

The so-called Authoritarian Populism Index 2017, published by Swedish think tank TIMRBO and the European Policy Information Center, shows that populism is now more popular than liberalism in Europe.

“As the data show, Authoritarian-Populism has overtaken Liberalism and has now established itself as the third ideological force in European politics, behind Conservatism … and Social Democracy,” the report states.

Courtesy of the European Policy Information Center

“On average, around a fifth of the European electorate now vote for a left- or right-wing populist party,” the report states. “In other words, 55.8 million people voted for these parties during European countries’ latest general elections.”

Interestingly, the report makes it clear that while left-wing populism has been gaining ground in the past decade, right-wing populism is far more popular and has been steadily growing in popularity over the course of 30 years.

“The vote share of the so-called ‘radical Left’ declined sharply between 1980 and the late 2000s, moving from a record high of 9.9 percent in 1981 to a record low of 3.7 percent in 2010,” according to the report. “However, over the last seven years, left-wing populist parties have made a definitive comeback, and their average vote share reached 6.3 percent in 2017.”

“By contrast, right-wing populist parties have seen their vote share constantly increasing between 1980 and today,” the report states. “Their vote share moved upwards, from a record low of 1 percent in 1982 to an historical high of 12.3 percent in 2016. In 2017, their vote share has stabilized at 12.1 percent.”

Image courtesy of the European Policy Information Center

Indeed, the report identifies “nine European countries (including seven EU member states) [that] have populist parties in government”: Bulgaria, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Norway, Poland, and Slovakia. Seven of them — all, save Greece and Slovakia — have right-wing populist parties.

“In the 33 countries included in this index, there are a total of 7,843 seats in national parliaments,” the report states. “At the time of writing, parties that have been classified as authoritarian-populist hold 1,342 of these … 17.5 percent of all seats within European national parliaments.”

The report states that “right-wing nationalist-authoritarian parties report their highest vote shares in countries such as Hungary (65.2 percent), Poland (46.4 percent), Switzerland (30.8 percent), Austria (24 percent), and Denmark (21.1 percent).” It also notes that the “recent rise of left- and right-wing populist parties [has] also led to a decline in more centrist and mainstream ideologies.” Total support for populist parties has risen 7.5 percent since 1997.

Courtesy of the European Policy Information Center

Following the U.K.’s shock Brexit vote, the dual defeats of Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom in the Netherlands and Marine Le Pen’s Front National in France were heralded by the European elite and their allies in the mainstream media as evidence of populism’s waning popularity.

But the TIMRBO/European Policy Information Center study makes it clear that while right-wing populists especially may have suffered some recent electoral defeats, the war for the political soul of Europe is by no means over.

“In the 1980s, authoritarian parties were rarely part of governments, and from 1985 to 1988 they were never in power. This picture has now changed dramatically,” the report concludes. “In fact, anti-establishment parties are today holding power in a quarter of EU member states,” it says.

"The number of left- and right-wing parties in government is also likely to increase in the near future, as countries such as Austria and Italy will soon head to the polls," the report continues.

"As the 2017 TIMBRO Authoritarian Populist Index suggests, left- and right-wing anti-establishment parties are here to stay. Whether or not their authoritarian and illiberal ideas will spread, too, remains an open question."

(photo credit, homepage image: Hans Braxmeier, Pixabay; photo credit, article image: David Mark, Pixabay)

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  2. e-u
  3. eu
  4. european-union
  5. nationalism
  6. populism
  7. right-wing-populism
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