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HuffPost: Understanding populism and the far right in the European elections

Politics and International Relations 7 November 2017


Dr Itay Lotem, Postdoctoral Fellow in French Language and Culture, has written a blog post for the HuffPost explaining the basic ideas behind populism and the far right as well as their relation to each other in the recent European elections.

One of the most important points to understand, according to Dr Lotem, is that not everything labelled populism is in fact that. “Indeed, populism seems to be the new Zeitgeist, and every election cycle brings news of the "rise of populism". And yet, it becomes hard to see the forest for the populists. The first thing to remember is that not every far-right party is populist, not every populist is a member of the far-right, and not every loud anti-establishment rant is textbook populism.”

Dr Lotem also explained that the rise of the far-right is not necessarily due to the success of the far-right parties as the failure of the Left plays a crucial role as well. He writes: “In every case, the success of the far-right was not the whole story. The results of the far-right are only one component in two other, possibly bigger stories. The first is the continued collapse of the traditional socio-democratic Left. All over the continent, parties that used to monopolise up to roughly half the electorate are now reduced to increased marginality. Simultaneously, where the election system makes it possible, voting becomes fragmented.”

Dr Lotem stresses however that trends seen during the recent European elections don’t necessarily continue in the long term. “Far-right parties have always been unstable coalitions of competing egos and agendas. While populism has provided these parties the respectability they desired and identity politics have enabled them to capture a diversity of disgruntled voters, they now struggle to establish themselves as more than just protest parties.”

Read the full blog post on the HuffPost website.

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