1st Edition

Populist Parties and Democratic Resilience A Cross-National Analysis of Populist Parties’ Impact on Democratic Pluralism in Europe

Edited By Ben Crum, Alvaro Oleart Copyright 2023
    234 Pages 6 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    234 Pages 6 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Populist Parties and Democratic Resilience focuses on populist parties as the main agents of populism and examines when these parties turn anti-democratic and when they remain loyal to the democratic system.

    Following the Brexit referendum, the election of Donald Trump, and the rise of populist parties around the globe, many observers suggested that democracy was in serious trouble. Nevertheless, while some democratic systems have been seized by populists, most of them have proven resilient. In this volume, the authors identify the conditions under which populist parties become inimical to political and societal pluralism. They offer in-depth analyses of the trajectory of populist parties in eleven European Union countries (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland, Romania, and Spain). The book shows that, reflecting the diversity of national contexts, there are multiple pathways whereby populist parties’ power can remain contained and subject to democratic checks and balances. Moreover, populist parties can — at times voluntarily, at other times by force of external conditions — come to adhere to the democratic rules of the game. On this basis, the volume outlines different ways in which European democracies can successfully accommodate populist parties through strategies that carefully navigate between the extremes of uncritical acceptance and outright ostracization.

    Drawing on the literature on democratic theory and comparative politics, this book directly contributes to the public debate on the state of democracy in Europe. It will be of interest to researchers of comparative politics, European politics, party politics, democracy, and populism.

    1. Introduction: Populist Parties, Pluralism and Democratic Systems in Europe

    Ben Crum, Alvaro Oleart and Patrick Overeem

    2. Varieties of populism in East-Central Europe: From democratic challenge to illiberal project

    Paul Blokker

    3. Explaining democratic backsliding in Poland: The interplay of party-specific and contextual factors

    Aleksandra Maatsch

    4. Anti-pluralist reactions to an anti-pluralist party: The ‘Alternative for Germany’ and the German party system

    Oliver Treib, Constantin Schäfer and Bernd Schlipphak

    5. Making a wor(l)d of difference? The National Front’s anti-pluralist stands and their evolution over time

    Camille Kelbel, Julien Navarro and Marie Neihouser

    6. Protector of the people or enemy of democracy? Vlaams Belang’s anti-pluralist discourse and institutional barriers in the Flemish political system

    Jens Meijen, Kolja Raube and Jan Wouters

    7. Party system hospitality, internal strife, and radicalization: The evolution of the Partij voor de Vrijheid and the Forum voor Democratie in the Netherlands

    Ben Crum

    8. Taming populist anti-pluralism? The effect of changing centre-right strategies on the Austrian Freedom Party

    Eric Miklin and Lucy Kinski

    9. The Five Star Movement and its challenge to the pluralistic foundations of Italian democracy

    Giovanni Piccirilli

    10. The conditioning of Podemos by mainstream PSOE between 2014 and 2020: From transformative populism to centre-left coalition partner

    Alvaro Oleart

    11. Conclusion: How to channel populism in Europe democratically

    Alvaro Oleart and Ben Crum


    Ben Crum is Professor of Political Science at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

    Alvaro Oleart is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Department of Political Science and the Institute for European Studies of the Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium.

    ‘Anti-pluralism is often assumed to be a defining characteristic of populism, yet this relationship has only seldom been put to the test of rigorous empirical study. Populist Parties and Democratic Resilience makes an important contribution to this debate with a systematic investigation of the varying, anti-pluralist tendencies of populist parties in 11 European countries, and of the conditions under which these parties can be socialised into democratic life. This will be essential reading for students of populist parties and, beyond, those of us concerned with the contemporary trajectory of European democracies.’

    Lise Herman, University of Exeter

    ‘This fascinating and timely volume shows that most populist parties have at best an ambiguous relationship with liberal democracy’s most fundamental characteristic: societal and political pluralism. It also convincingly demonstrates that the stronger pluralism is promoted by non-populist parties, by being neither too accommodating or too ostracizing towards populist parties, and entrenched in our institutions, the more resilient our liberal democracies will be to the populist challenge. Importantly, the volume practices what it preaches, showcasing pluralism of methods and approaches in the country studies, and encouraging scholars to promote pluralism when discussing contemporary challenges to democracy, both in academia and in the public debate. The wide selection of European cases, as well as the insightfulness and accessibility of the analyses, make it of importance to scholars and students alike.’

    Sarah de Lange, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands