Right-wing populism 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 system and speaking for the "common people". In Europe, right-wing populism is an expression used to describe groups, politicians, and political parties generally known for their opposition to immigration, mostly from the Islamic world and, in most cases, euroscepticism. Right-wing populism in the Western world is generally, but not exclusively, associated with ideologies such as New Nationalism, anti-globalization, nativism, protectionism, and opposition to immigration.
Traditional right-wing views such as opposition to an increasing support for the welfare state and a "more lavish, but also more restrictive, domestic social spending" scheme is also described under right-wing populism and is sometimes called "welfare chauvinism".
From the 1990s right-wing populist parties became established in the legislatures of various democracies, including Australia, Canada, France, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Estonia, Romania, Brazil and Chile, and they entered coalition governments in Switzerland, Austria, Finland, Greece, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, the Netherlands, Italy, and Israel, and majority governments in India, Turkey, Hungary and Poland. Although extreme right-wing movements in the United States have been studied separately, where they are normally called "radical right" (and, in particular, the alt-right), some writers consider them to be a part of the same phenomenon. Right-wing populism in the United States is also closely linked to paleoconservatism. Right-wing populism is distinct from conservatism, but several right-wing populist parties have their roots in conservative political parties. Other populist parties have links to fascist movements founded during the interwar period when Italian, German, Hungarian, Spanish, and Japanese fascism rose to power.
Since the Great Recession, right wing populist movements such as the National Front in France, the Northern League in Italy, the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands, and the UK Independence Party began to grow in popularity, in large part because of increasing opposition to immigration from the Middle East and Africa, rising Euroscepticism and discontent with the economic policies of the European Union. President Donald Trump's 2016 political views have been summarized by pundits as right wing populist and nationalist.
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. Also, unlike traditional parties, they do not belong to international organizations of like-minded parties, and they do not use similar terms to describe themselves.
Scholars use terminology inconsistently, sometimes referring to right-wing populism as "radical right" or other terms such as New Nationalism. 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', or 'neoliberal', 'libertarian' and so on".
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; 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.
Right-wing populist parties in the English-speaking world include the UK Independence Party and Australia's One Nation, as well as the Wildrose Party in the Canadian province of Alberta. The U.S. Republican Party and Conservative Party of Canada include right-wing populist factions.
Other parties represented in the Australian Parliament with right-wing populist elements and rhetoric include the Australian Conservatives, led by Cory Bernardi, Senator for South Australia, the libertarian Liberal Democratic Party, led by David Leyonhjelm, Senator for New South Wales, and Katter's Australian Party, led by Queensland MP Bob Katter. Bernardi and Leyonhjelm form a voting bloc in the Australian Senate.
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 have most notably been espoused by Ontario MP Kellie Leitch, businessman Kevin O'Leary and the former Mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford.
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. In 2016, the Czech Republic warned that Russia tries to "divide and conquer" the EU by supporting rightwing populist politicians across the bloc.
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 EU in 1995.
Upon the 1999 federal election the Freedom Party 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 Freedom Party'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; 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.
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. However, in November of the same year, the party was ruled illegal under anti-racism law for, among other things, advocating schools segregated between citizens and immigrants.
In less than a week, the party was re-established under the name Vlaams Belang, with a near-identical ideology. It advocates for immigrants wishing to stay to adopt the Flemish culture and language. Despite some accusations of anti-Semitism from Belgium's Jewish population, the party has demonstrated a staunch pro-Israel stance as part of its opposition to Islam. With 18 of 124 seats, Vlaams Belang lead the opposition in the Flemish Parliament, and also have 11 of the 150 seats in the Belgian House of Representatives.
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. In the 1973 election it received almost 16% of the vote. In the years following 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). The Danish People's Party is the largest and most influential right wing populist party in Denmark today. It won 37 seats in the Danish general election, 2015 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. In 2015, The New Right was founded, but they have not yet participated in an election.
In France, the main right-wing populist party is the National Front. Since Marine Le Pen's election at the head of the party in 2011, the National Front has established itself as one of the main political parties in France and also as the strongest and most successful populist party of Europe as of 2015.
Since 2014, the most popular right-wing populist party in Germany has been Alternative for Germany. As of January 2017 right-wing populist parties have not entered the Bundestag, the national parliament of Germany, but Alternative for Germany candidates have been elected to more than hundred seats in German State Parliaments. 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; after 2000 however, the Republicans' support eroded in favour of the far-right German People's Union and the 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 movement appears as a conglomerate of numerous small parties, voters' associations and societies, distinguishing themselves by campaigns against Islamic extremism and Muslim immigrants. Its representatives claim a zero tolerance policy and the combat of corruption. With the denial of a multiethnic society (Überfremdung) and the evocation of an alleged islamization, the pro 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), 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). 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.
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. 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.
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. 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.
In Italy, the most prominent right-wing populist party is Lega Nord (LN), whose leaders reject the right-wing label, though not the "populist" one. LN 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; 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. 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. 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 EP election. LN was part of the national government in 1994, 2001–2006 and 2008–2011. Most recently, the party, which notably includes among its members the Presidents of Lombardy and Veneto, won 4.1% of the vote in the 2013 general election. In the 2014 European election, Lega Nord, under the leadership of Matteo Salvini, took 6.2% of votes.
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.
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 are heirs of the Italian Social Movement (a post-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%) and several others.
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 VVD and CDA. Fortuyn, who had strong views against immigration, particularly by Muslims, was assassinated in May 2002, two weeks before the election. 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 VVD and CDA 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 EU 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.
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.
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.
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. Due to lack of empirical and economic evidences presented by party leaders and members, party is considered populist both by right-wing and left-wing publicists
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, but it has also variously been identified as "extreme right" and "radical right-wing populist", 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.
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 Swiss People's Party. 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.
Media outlets such as the New York Times have called the UK Independence Party (UKIP), led by Nigel Farage, the largest right-wing populist party in the United Kingdom. UKIP campaigned for an exit from the European Union prior to the 2016 European membership referendum, and a points-based immigration system similar to that used in Australia.
The UK's governing Conservative Party has seen defections to UKIP over the European Union and immigration debates, as well as same-sex marriage. Former Mayor of London Boris Johnson has been described as expressing right-wing populist views during the successful Vote Leave campaign. Jacob Rees-Mogg, another potential party leadership contender, has been described as appealing to right-wing populism.
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. Historical right-wing populist figures in the United States have included Thomas E. Watson, Strom Thurmond, Joe McCarthy, Barry Goldwater, George Wallace, and Pat Buchanan.
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 a...new populist revolt that has emerged overwhelmingly from the right – manifesting itself as the Tea Party movement." In 2010, David Barstow wrote in The New York Times that "The Tea Party movement has become a platform for conservative populist discontent". 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.
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 right-wing populist parties or parties with right-wing populist factions
- Left-wing populism
- National conservatism
- New nationalism (21st century)
- Opposition to immigration
- Outline of Right-wing populism
- Radical right
- Right-wing authoritarianism
- Traditional conservatism
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