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Right-wing populism

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Right-wing populism, also called national populism and right-wing nationalism,[1][2] is a political ideology which combines right-wing politics and populist rhetoric and themes. The rhetoric often consists of anti-elitist sentiments, opposition to the perceived Establishment, and speaking to the "common people". Both right-wing populism and left-wing populism object to the perceived control of liberal democracies by elites; however, populism of the left also objects to the power of large corporations and their allies, while populism of the right normally supports strong controls on immigration.[3][4]

In Europe, the term right-wing populism is used to describe groups, politicians and political parties that are generally known for their opposition to immigration,[5] especially from the Islamic world,[6] and for Euroscepticism.[7] Right-wing populism in the Western world is generally associated with ideologies such as anti-environmentalism,[8] neo-nationalism,[9][10] anti-globalization,[11] nativism,[12][13] and protectionism.[14] European right-wing populists also typically support expanding the welfare state, but barring undocumented immigrants from receiving government benefits; this concept has been referred to as "welfare chauvinism".[15][16][17]

From the 1990s, right-wing populist parties became established in the legislatures of various democracies. Although extreme right-wing movements in the United States (where they are normally referred to as the "radical right") have been studied separately, some writers consider them to be a part of the right-wing populist phenomenon.[18] Right-wing populism in the United States is also closely linked to paleoconservatism.[19]

Since the Great Recession,[20][21][22] European right-wing populist movements such as the National Rally (formerly the National Front) in France, the League in Italy, the Party for Freedom and the Forum for Democracy in the Netherlands, the Finns Party, the Sweden Democrats, Danish People's Party, the Freedom Party of Austria, the UK Independence Party and the Brexit Party began to grow in popularity,[23][24] in large part due to increasing opposition to immigration from the Middle East and Africa, rising Euroscepticism and discontent with the economic policies of the European Union.[25] U.S. President Donald Trump won the 2016 United States presidential election after running on a platform that included right-wing populist themes.[26]


Classification of right-wing populism into a single political family has proved difficult and it is not certain whether a meaningful category exists, or merely a cluster of categories since the parties differ in ideology, organization and leadership rhetoric. Unlike traditional parties, they also do not belong to international organizations of like-minded parties, and they do not use similar terms to describe themselves.[27]

Cas Mudde argues that two definitions can be given of the "populist radical right": a maximum and a minimum one, with the "maximum" group being a subgroup of the "minimum" group. The minimum definition describes what Michael Freeden has called the "core concept"[a] of the right-wing populist ideology, that is the concept shared by all parties generally included in the family. Looking at the primary literature, Mudde concludes that the core concept of right-populism "is undoubtedly the "nation". "This concept", he explains, "also certainly functions as a "coat-hanger" for most other ideological features. Consequently, the minimum definition of the party family should be based on the key concept, the nation". He however rejects the use of "nationalism" as a "core ideology" of right-wing populism on the ground that there are also purely "civic" or "liberal" forms of nationalism, preferring instead the term "nativism": a xenophobic form of nationalism asserting that "states should be inhabited exclusively by members of the native group ("the nation"), and that non-native elements (persons and ideas) are fundamentally threatening to the homogeneous nation-state". Mudde further argues that "while nativism could include racist arguments, it can also be non-racist (including and excluding on the basis of culture or even religion)", and that the term nativism does not reduce the parties to mere single-issue parties, such as the term "anti-immigrant" does. In the maximum definition, to nativism is added authoritarianism—an attitude, not necessary anti-democratic or automatic, to prefer "law and order" and the submission to authority[b]—and populism—a "thin-centered ideology that considers society to be ultimately separated into two homogeneous and antagonistic groups, "the pure people" versus "the corrupt elite", and which argues that politics should be an expression of the "general will" of the people", if needed before human rights or constitutional guarantees.[c][28] Cas Mudde and Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser reiterated in 2017 that within European right-wing populism there is a "marriage of convenience" of populism based on an "ethnic and chauvinistic definition of the people", authoritarianism, and nativism. This results in right-wing populism having a "xenophobic nature."[29]

Roger Eatwell, Emeritus Professor of Comparative Politics at the University of Bath, writes that "whilst populism and fascism differ notably ideologically, in practice the latter has borrowed aspects of populist discourse and style, and populism can degenerate into leader-oriented authoritarian and exclusionary politics."[30] For populism to transition into fascism or proto-fascism, it requires a "nihilistic culture and an intractable crisis."[31]

[P]opulism is like fascism in being a response to liberal and socialist explanations of the political. And also like fascism, populism does not recognize a legitimate political place for an opposition that it regards as acting against the desires of the people and that it also accuses of being tyrannical, conspiratorial, and antidemocratic. ... The opponents are turned into public enemies, but only rhetorically. If populism moves from rhetorical emnity to practices of enemy identification and persecution, we could be talking about its transformation into fascism or another form of dictatorial repression. This has happened in the past ... and without question it could happen in the future. This morphing of populism back into fascism is always a possibility, but it is very uncommon, and when it does happen, and populism becomes fully antidemocratic, it is no longer populism.[32]

In summary, Erik Berggren and Andres Neergard wrote in 2015 that "[m]ost researchers agree [...] that xenophobia, anti-immigration sentiments, nativism, ethno-nationalism are, in different ways, central elements in the ideologies, politics, and practices of right-wing populism and Extreme Right Wing Parties."[33] Similarly, historian Rick Shenkman describes the ideology presented by right-wing populism as "a deadly mix of xenophobia, racism, and authoritarianism."[34] Tamir Bar-On also concluded in 2018 that the literature generally places "nativism" or "ethnic nationalism" as the core concept of the ideology, which "implicitly posits a politically dominant group, while minorities are conceived as threats to the nation". It is "generally, but not necessarily racist";[35] in the case of the Dutch PVV for instance, "a religious [minority, i.e. Muslims] instead of an ethnic minority constitutes the main 'enemy'".[36]

Scholars use terminology inconsistently, sometimes referring to right-wing populism as "radical right"[37] or other terms such as new nationalism.[38] Pippa Norris noted that "standard reference works use alternate typologies and diverse labels categorising parties as 'far' or 'extreme' right, 'new right', 'anti-immigrant' or 'neofascist', 'antiestablishment', 'national populist', 'protest', 'ethnic', 'authoritarian', 'antigovernment', 'antiparty', 'ultranationalist', 'neoliberal', 'right-libertarian' and so on".[39]

Motivations and methods

To Roger Eatwell and Matthew Goodwin, "national populists prioritize the culture and interests of the nation, and promise to give voice to a people who feel that they have been neglected, even held in contempt, by distant and often corrupt elites." They are part, Eatwell and Goodwin follow, of a "growing revolt against mainstream politics and liberal values. This challenge is in general not anti-democratic. Rather, national populists are opposed to certain aspects of liberal democracy as it has evolved in the West. [...] [Their] "direct" conception of democracy differs from the "liberal" one that has flourished across the West following the defeat of fascism and which has gradually become more elitist in character." Furthermore, national populists question what they call the "erosion of the nation state", "hyper ethnic change" and the "capacity to rapidly absorb [high] rates of immigration", the "highly unequal societies" of the West's current economic settlement, and are suspicious of "cosmopolitan and globalizing agendas".[2]

Jean-Yves Camus and Nicolas Lebourg see "national populism" as an attempt to combine socio-economical values of the left and political values of the right, and the support for a referendary republic that would bypass traditional political divisions and institutions. As they aim at a unity of the political (the demos), ethnic (the ethnos) and social (the working class) interpretations of the "people", national populists claim to defend the "average citizen" and "common sense", against the "betrayal of inevitably corrupt elites".[40] As Front National ideologue François Duprat put in the 1970s, inspired by the Latin American right of that time, right-populism aims to constitute a "national, social, and popular" ideology. If populism itself is shared by both left and right parties, their premises are indeed different in that right-wing populists perceive society as in a state of decadence, from which "only the healthy common people can free the nation by forming one national class from the different social classes and casting aside the corrupt elites".[41]

Methodologically, by co-opting concepts from the left – such as multiculturalism and ethnopluralism, which is espoused by the left as a means of preserving minority ethnic cultures within a pluralistic society – and then jettisoning their non-hierarchical essence, right-wing populists are able to, in the words of sociologist Jens Rydgren, "mobilize on xenophobic and racist public opinions without being stigmatized as racists."[42]



European right-wing populism can be traced back to the period 1870–1900 in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War, with the nascence of two different trends in Germany and France: the Völkisch movement and Boulangism.[43] Völkischen represented a romantic nationalist, racialist, and from the 1900s antisemitic tendency in German society, as they idealized a bio-mystical "original nation", that still could be found in their views in the rural regions, a form of "primitive democracy freely subjected to their natural elites".[44][43] In France, the anti-parliamentarian Ligue des Patriotes, led by Boulanger, Déroulède and Barrès, called for a "plebiscitary republic", with the president elected by universal suffrage, and the popular will expressed not through elected representatives (the "corrupted elites"), but rather via "legislative plebiscites", another name for referendums.[43] It also evolved to antisemitism after the Dreyfus affair (1894).[45]

Modern national populism—what Pierro Ignazi called "post-industrial parties"[46]—emerged in the 1970s, in a dynamic sustained by voters' rejection of the welfare state and of the tax system, both deemed "confiscatory"; the rise of xenophobia against the backdrop of immigration which, because originating from outside Europe, was considered to be of a new kind; and finally, the end of the prosperity that had reigned since the post–World War II era, symbolized by the oil crisis of 1973. Two precursor parties consequently appeared in the early 1970s: the Progress Party, ancestor of the Danish People's Party; and the Anders Lange's Party in Norway.[40]

A new wave of right-wing populism arose in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. "Neo-populists" are nationalist and Islamophobic politicians who aspire "to be the champions of freedoms for minorities (gays, Jews, women) against the Arab-Muslim masses"; a trend first embodied by the Dutch Pim Fortuyn List, and later followed by Geert Wilders' Party for Freedom and Marine Le Pen's National Rally. According to Jean-Yves Camus and Nicolas Lebourg, those parties are however not a real syncretism of the left and right, as both their ideology and voter base are interclassist.[d] Furthermore, neo-populist parties went from a critique of the welfare state to that of multiculturalism, and their priority demand remains the reduction of immigration.[47] Political scientist Gaël Brustier defines that new populist trend as a "national security hedonism", that is the alliance between liberal individualism and national security concerns.[further explanation needed][48]

By country

Piero Ignazi divided right-wing populist parties, which he called "extreme right parties", into two categories: he placed traditional right-wing parties that had developed out of the historical right and post-industrial parties that had developed independently. He placed the British National Party, the National Democratic Party of Germany, the German People's Union and the former Dutch Centre Party in the first category, whose prototype would be the disbanded Italian Social Movement; whereas he placed the French National Front, the German Republicans, the Dutch Centre Democrats, the former Belgian Vlaams Blok (which would include certain aspects of traditional extreme right parties), the Danish Progress Party, the Norwegian Progress Party and the Freedom Party of Austria in the second category.[46][49]

Right-wing populist parties in the English-speaking world include the UK Independence Party and Australia's One Nation.[50] The U.S. Republican Party and Conservative Party of Canada include right-wing populist factions.



Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro with U.S. President Donald Trump in March 2019
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro with U.S. President Donald Trump in March 2019

In Brazil, right-wing populism began to rise roughly around the time Dilma Rousseff won the 2014 presidential election.[51] In the Brazilian general election of 2014, Levy Fidelix, from the Brazilian Labour Renewal Party[52] presented himself with a conservative speech and, according to him, the only right-wing candidate. He spoke for traditional family values and opposed abortion, legalization of marijuana, same-sex marriage and proposed homosexual individuals to be treated far away from the good citizens' and workers' families.[53] In the first round of the general election, Fidelix received 446,878 votes, representing 0.43% of the popular vote.[54] Fidelix ranked 7th out of 11 candidates. In the second round, Fidelix supported candidate Aécio Neves.[55]

In addition, according to the political analyst of the Inter-Union Department of Parliamentary Advice Antônio Augusto de Queiroz the National Congress elected in 2014 may be considered the most conservative since the "re-democratization" movement, noting an increase in the number of parliamentarians linked to more conservative segments, such as ruralists, the military, the police and the religious right. The subsequent economic crisis of 2015 and investigations of corruption scandals led to a right-wing movement that sought to rescue fiscally and socially conservative ideas from in opposition to the left-wing policies of the Workers' Party. At the same time, young  market liberals and right-libertarians such as those that make up the Free Brazil Movement emerged among many others. For Manheim (1952), within a single real generation there may be several generations which he called "differentiated and antagonistic". For him, it is not the common birth date that marks a generation, though it matters, but rather the historical moment in which they live in common. In the case, the historical moment was the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff. They can be called the "post-Dilma generation".[56]

Centrist interim President Michel Temer took office following the impeachment of President Rousseff. Temer held 3% approval ratings in October 2017,[57] facing a corruption scandal after accusations for obstructing justice and racketeering were placed against him.[58] He managed to avoid trial thanks to the support of the right-wing parties in the Brazilian Congress.[57][58] On the other hand, President of the Senate Renan Calheiros, who was acknowledged as one of the key figures behind Rousseff's destitution and member of the Centrist Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, was himself removed from office after facing embezzlement charges.[59]

In March 2016, after entering the Social Christian Party, far-right congressman Jair Bolsonaro decided to run for President of the Republic. In 2017, he tried to become the presidential nominee of Patriota, but, eventually, Bolsonaro entered the Social Liberal Party[60] and, supported by the Brazilian Labour Renewal Party, he won the 2018 presidential election followed by left-wing former Mayor of São Paulo Fernando Haddad of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's Workers' Party.[61][62][63] Lula was banned to run after being convicted on criminal corruption charges and being imprisoned.[64][65][66] Bolsonaro has been accused of racist,[67] xenophobic,[68] misogynistic[69] and homophobic rhetoric. His campaing was centered on oppostion to crime, political corruption, LGBT identity and support for tax cuts, militarism, Catholicism and Evangelicalism.[70][71]


Canada has a history of right-wing populist protest parties and politicians, most notably in Western Canada due to Western alienation. The highly successful Social Credit Party of Canada consistently won seats in British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, but fell into obscurity by the 1970s. The Reform Party of Canada led by Preston Manning was another very successful right-wing populist formed as a result of the policies of the centre-right Progressive Conservative Party of Canada which alienated many Blue Tories. The two parties ultimately merged into the Conservative Party of Canada.

In recent years, right-wing populist elements have existed within the Conservative Party of Canada and mainstream provincial parties, and have most notably been espoused by Ontario MP Kellie Leitch; businessman Kevin O'Leary; Quebec Premier François Legault; the former Mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford; and his brother, Ontario Premier Doug Ford.[72][73][74][75]

In August 2018, Conservative MP Maxime Bernier left the party, and the following month he founded the People's Party of Canada, which has been described as a "right of centre, populist" movement.[76]

Costa Rica

In the most recent political campaign, both Evangelical Christian candidate Fabricio Alvarado[77][78] and right-wing anti-establishment candidate Juan Diego Castro[79][80] were described as examples of right-wing populists.

United States

Early antecedents of right-wing populism which existed in the USA during the 1800s include the Anti-Masonic and Know-Nothing Parties. The Populist Party (which existed in the 1890s) was a primarily left-wing populist movement.[citation needed]

Moore (1996) argues that "populist opposition to the growing power of political, economic, and cultural elites" helped shape "conservative and right-wing movements" since the 1920s.[81] Historical right-wing populist figures in both major parties in the United States have included Thomas E. Watson, Strom Thurmond, Joe McCarthy, Barry Goldwater, George Wallace and Pat Buchanan.[82]

The Tea Party movement has been characterized as "a right-wing anti-systemic populist movement" by Rasmussen and Schoen (2010). They add: "Today our country is in the midst of populist revolt that has emerged overwhelmingly from the right – manifesting itself as the Tea Party movement".[83] In 2010, David Barstow wrote in The New York Times: "The Tea Party movement has become a platform for conservative populist discontent".[84] Some political figures closely associated with the Tea Party, such as U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and former U.S. Representative Ron Paul, have been described as appealing to right-wing populism.[85][86][87] In the U.S. House of Representatives, the Freedom Caucus, which is associated with the Tea Party movement, has been described as right-wing populist.[88]

Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, noted for its anti-establishment, anti-immigration and anti-free trade rhetoric, was characterized as that of a right-wing populist.[89][90] The ideology of Trump's former Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon, has also been described as such.[91] According to a 2018 study, there is a strong correlation between the ratio of U.S. jobs that were lost to automation and the states—such as Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin—that voted for Barack Obama in 2012 and for Trump in 2016.[92]

Asia-Pacific countries


The main right-wing populist party in Australia is One Nation, led by Pauline Hanson, Senator for Queensland.[93] One Nation typically supports the governing Coalition.[94]

Other parties formerly represented in the Australian Parliament with right-wing populist elements and rhetoric include the Australian Conservatives, led by Cory Bernardi, Senator for South Australia,[95] the libertarian Liberal Democratic Party, led by David Leyonhjelm, Senator for New South Wales,[96] and Katter's Australian Party, led by Queensland MP Bob Katter.[97] The Liberal Democratic Party and the Australian Conservatives previously formed a voting bloc in the Australian Senate.[98]

Some figures within the Liberal Party of Australia, which is part of the Coalition, have been described as right-wing populists, including former Prime Minister Tony Abbott[99] and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.[100]


In India, right-wing populism came into the picture in the late 1980s by current ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the political party having close relation to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Right-wing populism has been fostered by RSS which stands against persecution of Hindus by various invading forces over the centuries and have also been attributed to the concept of Hindutva. It vows to protect the ancient religion and culture of Hinduism and have strong views against destruction of its ancient heritage, in India. BJP became a significant force in the state legislative assemblies and in the parliament in the 1990s by raising the issue of Ram Mandir (temple) establishment by demolishing the existing Babri Masjid (constructed by demolishing a Hindu temple) in Ayodhya, in the state of Uttar Pradesh. BJP and other conservative right wing organization such as Vishva Hindu Parishad, Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha etc. argues that the Masjid was built by Babur, the Muslim, Turco-Mongol founder of the Mughal Empire in India in 1526, by demolishing a temple, dedicated to Lord Ram. This issue is known as the Ayodhya Dispute for which the final judgement was declared by the Supreme Court of India on 9 November 2019. The Supreme Court of India ordered the disputed land (2.77 acres) to be handed over to a trust (to be created by Government of India) to build the Ram Janmabhoomi (revered as the birthplace of Hindu deity, Ram) temple. The court also ordered the government to give an alternate 5 acres (almost double that of the Ram Janmabhumi) of land in another place to the Sunni Waqf Board for the purpose of building a mosque.

In recently concluded 2019 Indian general election, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by BJP have swept across the elections with unprecedented majority of 353 seats by gaining popularity across India and reducing the United Progressive Alliance led by Indian National Congress to only 91 seats.


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi are both right-wing nationalists and populists.

In a speech to LDP lawmakers in Tokyo on March 8, 2019, Steve Bannon said that “Prime Minister Abe is a great hero to the grassroots, the populist, and the nationalist movement throughout the world.”[101]


The recent wave of right-wing populism is in Pakistan in the form of Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf (PTI).[102] Its leader Imran Khan has furiously attacked traditional politicians and made people believe that only he has the solutions.[102] British journalist Ben Judah, in an interview, compared Imran Khan with Donald Trump on his populist rhetoric.[103]

South Korea

Hong Jun-pyo, former leader of LKP
Hong Jun-pyo, former leader of LKP

Conservatism in South Korea has traditionally been more inclined toward elitism than populism. However, since the 2016 South Korean political scandal, Korean conservative forces have changed their political lines to populism as the distrust of the elite spread among the Korean public.[104]

Hong Joon-pyo and Lee Un-ju of the United Future Party are leading right-wing populists advocating anti-homosexuality, anti-immigration, social conservatism and discrimination against foreign workers.[105][106]

European countries

European national parliaments with representatives from right-wing populist parties in May 2019: Right-wing populists represented in the parliament Right-wing populists providing external support for government Right-wing populists involved in the government Right-wing populists appoint prime minister/president
European national parliaments with representatives from right-wing populist parties in May 2019:
 Right-wing populists represented in the parliament
 Right-wing populists providing external support for government
 Right-wing populists involved in the government
 Right-wing populists appoint prime minister/president

Senior European Union diplomats cite growing anxiety in Europe about Russian financial support for far-right and populist movements and told the Financial Times that the intelligence agencies of "several" countries had stepped up scrutiny of possible links with Moscow.[107] In 2016, the Czech Republic warned that Russia tries to "divide and conquer" the European Union by supporting right-wing populist politicians across the bloc.[108] However, as there in the United States of America, there seems to be an underlying problem that isn't massively discussed in the media. That underlying problem is that of Housing. A 2019 study shows an immense correlation between the price of housing and voting for populist parties.[109] In that study, it was revealed that the French citizens that saw the price of their houses stagnate or drop, were much more likely to vote for Marine Le Pen in the 2017 French presidential election. Whereas those that the price of their house rise, were much more likely to vote for Emmanuel Macron. The same pattern emerged in the 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, in which those that saw the price of their house rise, voted to Remain. Whereas those that saw it flatline or drop, voted to Leave.


The Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) established in 1955 by a former Nazi functionary claims to represent a "Third Camp" (Drittes Lager), beside the Socialist Party and the social Catholic Austrian People's Party. It succeeded the Federation of Independents founded after World War II, adopting the pre-war heritage of German nationalism. Though it did not gain much popularity for decades, it exercised considerable balance of power by supporting several federal governments, be it right-wing or left-wing, e.g. the Socialist Kreisky cabinet of 1970 (see Kreisky–Peter–Wiesenthal affair).

From 1980, the Freedom Party adopted a more liberal stance. Upon the 1983 federal election, it entered a coalition government with the Socialist Party, whereby party chairman Norbert Steger served as Vice-Chancellor. The liberal interlude however ended, when Jörg Haider was elected chairman in 1986. By his down-to-earth manners and patriotic attitude, Haider re-integrated the party's nationalist base voters. Nevertheless, he was also able to obtain votes from large sections of population disenchanted with politics by publicly denouncing corruption and nepotism of the Austrian Proporz system. The electoral success was boosted by Austria's accession to the European Union in 1995.

Upon the 1999 federal election, the Freedom Party (FPÖ) with 26.9% of the votes cast became the second strongest party in the National Council parliament. Having entered a coalition government with the People's Party, Haider had to face the disability of several FPÖ ministers, but also the impossibility of agitation against members of his own cabinet. In 2005, he finally countered the FPÖ's loss of reputation by the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) relaunch in order to carry on his government. The remaining FPÖ members elected Heinz-Christian Strache chairman, but since the 2006 federal election both right-wing parties have run separately. After Haider was killed in a car accident in 2008, the BZÖ has lost a measurable amount of support.

The FPÖ regained much of its support in subsequent elections. Its candidate Norbert Hofer made it into the runoff in the 2016 presidential election, though he narrowly lost the election. After the 2017 legislative elections, the FPÖ formed a government coalition with the Austrian People's Party, but lost seats in 2019.


Flag used by the now-defunct Vlaams Blok
Flag used by the now-defunct Vlaams Blok

Vlaams Blok, established in 1978, operated on a platform of law and order, anti-immigration (with particular focus on Islamic immigration) and secession of the Flanders region of the country. The secession was originally planned to end in the annexation of Flanders by the culturally and linguistically similar Netherlands until the plan was abandoned due to the multiculturalism in that country. In the elections to the Flemish Parliament in June 2004, the party received 24.2% of the vote, within less than 2% of being the largest party.[110] However, in November of the same year, the party was ruled illegal under the country's anti-racism law for, among other things, advocating segregated schools for citizens and immigrants.[111]

In less than a week, the party was re-established under the name Vlaams Belang, with a near-identical ideology. It advocates the adoption of the Flemish culture and language by immigrants who wish to stay in the country.[112] Despite some accusations of antisemitism from Belgium's Jewish population, the party has demonstrated a staunch pro-Israel stance as part of its opposition to Islam.[113] With 23 of 124 seats, Vlaams Belang leads the opposition in the Flemish Parliament[114] and it also holds 11 out of the 150 seats in the Belgian House of Representatives.[115]

Mischaël Modrikamen, an associate of Steve Bannon, was chairman of the Parti Populaire (PP), which contested elections in Wallonia.[61]

As of the 2019 federal, regional and European elections Vlaams Belang (VB) has surged from 248,843 votes in 2014 to 783,977 votes on the 26 May 2019.[116]


The ELAM (National People's Front) (Εθνικό Λαϊκό Μέτωπο) was formed in 2008 on the platform of maintaining Cypriot identity, opposition to further European integration, immigration and the status quo that remains due to Turkey's invasion of a third of the island (and the international community's lack of intention to solve the issue).


In the early 1970s, the home of the strongest right-wing-populist party in Europe was in Denmark, the Progress Party.[117] In the 1973 election, it received almost 16% of the vote.[118] In the following years, its support dwindled away, but was replaced by the Danish People's Party in the 1990s, which has gone on to be an important support party for the governing Liberal-Conservative coalition in the 2000s (decade).[119] The Danish People's Party is the largest and most influential right-wing populist party in Denmark today. It won 37 seats in the 2015 Danish general election[120] and became the second largest party in Denmark. The Danish People's Party advocates immigration reductions, particularly from non-Western countries, favor cultural assimilation of first generation migrants into Danish society and are opposed to Denmark becoming a multicultural society.

Additionally, the Danish People's Party's stated goals are to enforce a strict rule of law, to maintain a strong welfare system for those in need, to promote economic growth by strengthening education and encouraging people to work and in favor of protecting the environment.[121] In 2015, The New Right was founded,[122] but they have not yet participated in an election.


In Finland the main right-wing party is the Finns Party. Together with National Coalition and Centre-Party, it formed the government coalition after the 2015 parliamentary election. In 2017 the governmental branch broke off to form the Blue Reform, which took the coalition position from the Finns Party. Blue Reform is currently in government coalition and the Finns Party in opposition and are the fastest growing party in Finland.[123] In 2018 a Finnish member of the parliament Paavo Väyrynen formed the Seven Star Movement. The party is anti-immigration but is in center in economic politics.


France's National Front (NF) – renamed in 2018 as the "National Rally" – has been cited the "prototypical populist radical right-wing party".[29]

The party was founded in 1972 by Jean-Marie Le Pen as the unification of a number of French nationalist movements of the time, it was developed by him into a well-organized party.[29] After struggline for a decade, the party reached its first peak in 1984. By 2002, Le Pen received more votes than the Socialist candidate in the first round of voting for the French presidency, becoming the first time a NF candidate had qualified for a high-level run-off election.

Since Le Pen's daughter, Marine Le Pen, took over as the head of the party in 2011, the National Front has established itself as one of the main political parties in France. Marine Le Pen's policy of "de-demonizing", or normalizing the party resulted in her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, being first suspended and then ejected from the party in 2015.

Marine Le Pen finished second in the 2017 election and lost in the second round of voting versus Emmanuel Macron which was held on 7 May 2017. However, polls published in 2018 showed that a majority of the French population consider the party to be a threat to democracy.[124]


The 2018 Hungarian parliamentary election result was a victory for the FideszKDNP alliance, preserving its two-thirds majority, with Viktor Orbán remaining Prime Minister. Orbán and Fidesz campaigned primarily on the issues of immigration and foreign meddling, and the election was seen as a victory for right-wing populism in Europe.[citation needed]


The Alternative for Germany is a political party that was founded in 2013 and is now led by Jörg Meuthen and Alexander Gauland, being Germany's leading right-wing populist party
The Alternative for Germany is a political party that was founded in 2013 and is now led by Jörg Meuthen and Alexander Gauland, being Germany's leading right-wing populist party

Since 2013, the most popular right-wing populist party in Germany has been Alternative for Germany which managed to finish third in the 2017 German federal election, making it the first right-wing populist party to enter the Bundestag, Germany's national parliament. Before, right-wing populist parties had gained seats in German State Parliaments only. Left-wing populism is represented in the Bundestag by The Left party.

On a regional level, right-wing populist movements like Pro NRW and Citizens in Rage (Bürger in Wut, BIW) sporadically attract some support. In 1989, The Republicans (Die Republikaner) led by Franz Schönhuber entered the Abgeordnetenhaus of Berlin and achieved more than 7% of the German votes cast in the 1989 European election, with six seats in the European Parliament. The party also won seats in the Landtag of Baden-Württemberg twice in 1992 and 1996, but after 2000 the Republicans' support eroded in favour of the far-right German People's Union and the Neo-Nazi National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD), which in the 2009 federal election held 1.5% of the popular vote (winning up to 9% in regional Landtag parliamentary elections).

In 2005, a nationwide Pro Germany Citizens' Movement (pro Deutschland) was founded in Cologne. The Pro Germany movement appears as a conglomerate of numerous small parties, voters' associations and societies, distinguishing themselves by campaigns against extremism[125] and immigrants. Its representatives claim a zero tolerance policy and the combat of corruption. With the denial of a multiethnic society (Überfremdung) and the islamization, their politics extend to far-right positions. Other minor right-wing populist parties include the German Freedom Party founded in 2010, the former East German German Social Union (DSU) and the dissolved Party for a Rule of Law Offensive ("Schill party").


The most prominent right-wing populist party in Greece is the Independent Greeks (ANEL).[126][127] Despite being smaller than the more extreme Golden Dawn party, after the January 2015 legislative elections ANEL formed a governing coalition with the left-wing Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), thus making the party a governing party and giving it a place in the Cabinet of Alexis Tsipras.[128]

The Golden Dawn has grown significantly in Greece during the country's economic downturn, gaining 7% of the vote and 18 out of 300 seats in the Hellenic Parliament. The party's ideology includes annexation of territory in Albania and Turkey, including the Turkish cities of Istanbul and Izmir.[129] Controversial measures by the party included a poor people's kitchen in Athens which only supplied to Greek citizens and was shut down by the police.[130]

The Popular Orthodox Rally is not represented in the Greek legislature, but supplied 2 of the country's 22 MEPS until 2014. It supports anti-globalisation and lower taxes for small businesses as well as opposition to Turkish accession to the European Union and the Republic of Macedonia's use of the name Macedonia as well as immigration only for Europeans.[131] Its participation in government has been one of the reasons why it became unpopular with its voters who turned to Golden Dawn in Greece's 2012 elections.[132]


In Italy, the most prominent right-wing populist party is Lega, formerly Lega Nord (Northern League),[133] whose leaders reject the right-wing label,[134][135][136] though not the "populist" one.[137] The League is a federalist, regionalist and sometimes secessionist party, founded in 1991 as a federation of several regional parties of Northern and Central Italy, most of which had arisen and expanded during the 1980s. LN's program advocates the transformation of Italy into a federal state, fiscal federalism and greater regional autonomy, especially for the Northern regions. At times, the party has advocated for the secession of the North, which it calls Padania. The party generally takes an anti-Southern Italian stance as members are known for opposing Southern Italian emigration to Northern Italian cities, stereotyping Southern Italians as welfare abusers and detrimental to Italian society and attributing Italy's economic troubles and the disparity of the North-South divide in the Italian economy to supposed inherent negative characteristics of the Southern Italians, such as laziness, lack of education or criminality.[138][139][140][141] Certain LN members have been known to publicly deploy the offensive slur "terrone", a common pejorative term for Southern Italians that is evocative of negative Southern Italian stereotypes.[138][139][142] As a federalist, regionalist, populist party of the North, LN is also highly critical of the centralized power and political importance of Rome, sometimes adopting to a lesser extent an anti-Roman stance in addition to an anti-Southern stance.

With the rise of immigration into Italy since the late 1990s, LN has increasingly turned its attention to criticizing mass immigration to Italy. The LN, which also opposes illegal immigration, is critical of Islam and proposes Italy's exit from the Eurozone, is considered a Eurosceptic movement and as such it joined the Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) group in the European Parliament after the 2009 European Parliament election. LN was or is part of the national government in 1994, 2001–2006, 2008–2011 and 2018–2019. Most recently, the party, which notably includes among its members the Presidents of Lombardy and Veneto, won 17.4% of the vote in the 2018 general election, becoming the third-largest party in Italy (largest within the centre-right coalition). In the 2014 European election, under the leadership of Matteo Salvini it took 6.2% of votes. Under Salvini, the party has to some extent embraced Italian nationalism and emphasised Euroscepticism, opposition to immigration and other "populist" policies, while forming an alliance with right-wing populist parties in Europe.[143][144][145]

Silvio Berlusconi, leader of Forza Italia and Prime Minister of Italy from 1994–1995, 2001–2006 and 2008–2011, has sometimes been described as a right-wing populist, although his party is not typically described as such.[146][147]

A number of national conservative, nationalist and arguably right-wing populist parties are strong especially in Lazio, the region around Rome and Southern Italy. Most of them originated as a result of the Italian Social Movement (a neo-fascist party, whose best result was 8.7% of the vote in the 1972 general election) and its successor National Alliance (which reached 15.7% of the vote in 1996 general election). They include the Brothers of Italy (2.0% in 2013), The Right (0.6%), New Force (0.3%), CasaPound (0.1%), Tricolour Flame (0.1%), Social Idea Movement (0.01%) and Progetto Nazionale (0.01%).

Additionally, in the German-speaking South Tyrol the local second-largest party, Die Freiheitlichen, is often described as a right-wing populist party.


In the Netherlands, right-wing populism was represented in the 150-seat House of Representatives in 1982, when the Centre Party won a single seat. During the 1990s, a splinter party, the Centre Democrats, was slightly more successful, although its significance was still marginal. Not before 2002 did a right-wing populist party break through in the Netherlands, when the Pim Fortuyn List won 26 seats and subsequently formed a coalition with the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) and People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD). Fortuyn, who had strong views against immigration, particularly by Muslims, was assassinated in May 2002, two weeks before the election.[148] The coalition had broken up by 2003, and the party went into steep decline until it was dissolved.

Since 2006, the Party for Freedom (PVV) has been represented in the House of Representatives. Following the 2010 general election, it has been in a pact with the right-wing minority government of CDA and VVD after it won 24 seats in the House of Representatives. The party is Eurosceptic and plays a leading role in the changing stance of the Dutch government towards European integration as they came second in the 2009 European Parliament election, winning 4 out of 25 seats. The party's main programme revolves around strong criticism of Islam, restrictions on migration from new European Union countries and Islamic countries, pushing for cultural assimilation of migrants into Dutch society, opposing the accession of Turkey to the European Union, advocating for the Netherlands to withdraw from the European Union and advocating for a return to the guilder through ending Dutch usage of the euro.[149]

The PVV withdrew its support for the First Rutte cabinet in 2012 after refusing to support austerity measures. This triggered the 2012 general election in which the PVV was reduced to 15 seats and excluded from the new government.

In the 2017 Dutch general election, Wilders' PVV gained an extra five seats to become the second largest party in the Dutch House of Representatives, bringing their total to 20 seats.[150]

From 2017 onwards, the Forum for Democracy has emerged as another right-wing populist force in the Netherlands.[151][152]


The largest right-wing populist party in Poland is Law and Justice, which currently holds both the presidency and a governing majority in the Sejm. It combines social conservatism and criticism of immigration with strong support for NATO and an interventionist economic policy.[153]

Polish Congress of the New Right, headed by Michał Marusik, aggressively promotes fiscally conservative concepts like radical tax reductions preceded by abolishment of social security, universal public healthcare, state-sponsored education and abolishment of Communist Polish 1944 agricultural reform as a way to dynamical economic and welfare growth.[154][155] The party is considered populist both by right-wing and left-wing publicists.[156][157]


Santiago Abascal, leader of VOX, during the party conference in October 2018.
Santiago Abascal, leader of VOX, during the party conference in October 2018.

In Spain, the appearance of right-wing populism began to gain strength after the December 2018 election for the Parliament of Andalusia, in which the right-wing populist party VOX managed to obtain 12 seats,[158] and agreed to support a coalition government of the parties of the right People's Party and Citizens, even though the Socialist Party won the elections.[159] VOX, that has been frequently described as far-right, both by the left parties and by Spanish or international press,[160][161] promotes characteristic policies of the populist right,[162] such as the expulsion of all illegal immigrants from the country -even of legal immigrants who commit crimes-, a generalized criminal tightening, combined with traditional claims of right-wing conservatives, such as the centralization of the State and the suppression of the Autonomous Communities, and has harshly criticized the laws against gender violence, approved by the socialist government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, but later maintained by the PP executive of Mariano Rajoy, accusing the people and institutions that defend them of applying "gender totalitarianism".[163]

Party official Javier Ortega Smith is being investigated for alleged hate speech after Spanish prosecutors admitted a complaint by an Islamic association in connection with a rally that talked about “the Islamist invasion”.[164] The party election manifesto that was finally published merged classic far-right-inspired policies with right-wing liberalism in tax and social security matters.

After months of political uncertainty and protests against the party in Andalusia[165] and other regions,[166] in the 2019 Spanish general election VOX managed to obtain 24 deputies in the Congress of Deputies, with 10.26% of the vote, falling short from expectations[167] after an intense electoral campaign in which VOX gathered big crowds of people at their events. Although the People's Party and Citizens leaders, Pablo Casado and Albert Rivera, had admitted repeatedly during the campaign that they would again agree with VOX in order to reach the government,[168] the sum of all their seats finally left them far from any possibility, giving the government to the socialist Pedro Sánchez.[169]


The Sweden Democrats are the third largest party in Sweden with 17.53% of popular votes in the parliamentary election of 2018.


In Switzerland, the right-wing populist Swiss People's Party (SVP) reached an all-time high in the 2015 elections. The party is mainly considered to be national conservative,[170][171] but it has also variously been identified as "extreme right"[172] and "radical right-wing populist",[173] reflecting a spectrum of ideologies present among its members. In its far-right wing, it includes members such as Ulrich Schlüer, Pascal Junod, who heads a New Right study group and has been linked to Holocaust denial and neo-Nazism.[174][175]

In Switzerland, radical right populist parties held close to 10% of the popular vote in 1971, were reduced to below 2% by 1979 and again grew to more than 10% in 1991. Since 1991, these parties (the Swiss Democrats and the Swiss Freedom Party) have been absorbed by the SVP. During the 1990s, the SVP grew from being the fourth largest party to being the largest and gained a second seat the Swiss Federal Council in 2003, with prominent politician and businessman Christoph Blocher. In 2015, the SVP received 29.4% of the vote, the highest vote ever recorded for a single party throughout Swiss parliamentary history.[176][177][178][179]


Justice and Development Party (AKP), and its leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been in power since 2002.

United Kingdom

Media outlets such as The New York Times have called the UK Independence Party (UKIP), then led by Nigel Farage, the largest right-wing populist party in the United Kingdom.[180] UKIP campaigned for an exit from the European Union prior to the 2016 European membership referendum[181] and a points-based immigration system similar to that used in Australia.[182][183][184]

Nigel Farage, British MEP, former leader of the UK Independence Party, and current leader of the Brexit Party
Nigel Farage, British MEP, former leader of the UK Independence Party, and current leader of the Brexit Party

The United Kingdom's governing Conservative Party has seen defections to UKIP over the European Union and immigration debates as well as LGBT rights.[185]

In the Conservative Party, party leader and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been described as expressing right-wing populist views during the successful Vote Leave campaign.[186] Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Leader of the House of Commons, has also been described as a right-wing populist.[187]

In Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) is the main right-wing populist force.[188]

Right-wing populist political parties

Current right-wing populist parties or parties with right-wing populist factions

Represented in national legislatures

Not represented in national legislatures

Former or disbanded right-wing populist parties

See also



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Informational notes

  1. ^ Freeden has developed in 1996 the idea that every ideology has "core" and "peripheral" concepts. Building on his work, Terance Ball (1999) has given the following definition: "A core concept is one that is both central to, and constitutive of, a particular ideology and therefore of the ideological community to which it gives inspiration and identity. For example, the concept of 'class' (and of course 'class struggle') is a key or core concept in Marxism, as 'gender' is in feminism, and 'liberty' (or 'individual liberty') is in liberalism, and so on through the list of leading ideologies."
  2. ^ Mudde: authoritarianism "is the belief in a strictly ordered society, in which infringements of authority are to be punished severely. In this interpretation, [it] includes law and order and “punitive conventional moralism.” It does not necessarily mean an anti-democratic attitude, but neither does it preclude one. In addition, the authoritarian’s submission to authority, established or not, is “not absolute, automatic, nor blind”. In other words, while authoritarians will be more inclined to accept (established) authority than non-authoritarians, they can and will rebel under certain circumstances."
  3. ^ "Maximal" right-wing populists here give a preference for the état légal—which gives primacy to the law as expressed by the general will via election or referendum; against the Rechtsstaat—which limits the power of the democratic state (the majority) to protect the rights of minorities.
  4. ^ Neo-populists, contrary to the Marxist worldview, do not oppose the "working class" to the "bourgeoisie" and capitalists, but rather the "people" to the "elites" and immigrants.


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Further reading

External links

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