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Are the causes of Eastern European and Western European right-wing populist movement synonymous or dichotomous with one another?


Are the Causes of Eastern European and Western European Right-Wing Populist Movements Synonymous or Dichotomous with one Another?



The anticipation of the European Parliament Elections held in 2014 opened a historical chapter in France. Berhard and Kriesi (2019) report that for once, a right-wing populist party, Front National, was projected to receive a plurality of the vote. Surveys revealed that 23% of interview respondents indicated that they would vote for Front National for the European Parliamentary Elections, whereas 34% of the respondents admitted to supporting the ideals held by the party. To add onto this fact, the very party, Front National, has secured a national victory, noting the best results having won fourteen townships. The rise of Front National was illustrative of a concept that had been explored by researchers, which was that Europe was growing more endeared to right-wing populism.

The rise in European populism did not begin with the Front National’s victory in France. Neither was this an indication of the position that right-wing populism was taking over Europe. The steady rise of European right-wing populism began almost three decades ago when the first significant electoral gains by right-wing political parties were made (Stavrakakis, Katsambekis, Nikisianis, Kioupkiolis and Siomos, 2017). The wave however quickly spread over Europe, with states like Switzerland, Belgium, Denmark and Austria having right-wing populist parties as the most popular parties in Switzerland. This success was sweeping and could therefore not be dismissed as mere happenstance. Evidently, there is a mass change in voting behaviour all over Europe, but the causes of this transformation are yet to be identified.

For ages, right-wing populism in Europe to a back seat and this was easily explained by the supposition that well-functioning economies prevented support for right-wing populism. According to Shehaj, Shin, and Inglehart (2019), left-wing populism prevails when the trust in the government is strong, and until it decreases, right-wing populism would always stay quashed. While this concept was mostly theoretical, the voting behaviour of the masses began showing a reflection of the environment. That said, support for right-wing politics would rise when the economy was stumbling whereas once the economy stabilised, left-wing populist politics takes the day. At the same time, voting behaviour seems to contradict these suppositions with countries like Germany, where the economy remains flourishing robust, and face a rise in support for right-wing populist parties such as “Alternative fur Deutschland” (Kleene, 2016). These trends can be seen spreading across many countries in Europe that are not in economic jeopardy. It thus follows the supposition that populism may have many more causes than just the mere allegory that it is influenced by the economic conditions of a country.

The rise of political parties with right-wing ideologies is not only indicated in the increase in the numbers of votes that these parties gain but also their ability to command such enormous support and popularity, despite the limited number of seats. This trend also speaks to the influence they command in their respective nations. Akkerman, de Lange and Rooduijn (2016) reveal that one shortcoming that they face is that despite the enormous support that they command, these parties more often than not tend to focus on individual problems facing societies as opposed to a collective agenda for development. Regardless, these singular agendas are largely sensationalised, and thus define the reason as to why the parties command such a vast following.

An investigation into the causes of right-wing populism is paramount for the reason that Mudde (2015) suggests that populism undermines the basic tenets of liberal democracies. This situation is after taking into consideration the recent events in some European countries such as Poland, Hungary, and Venezuela. The author reasons that populism is entrenched under the central ideology of the power of the ordinary people and creating an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ scenario, which goes against the basic understanding of liberal democracies. If indeed populism threatens liberal democracies as suggested, it would, therefore, be reasonable to investigate why this is so and also look at whether these causes are homogenous through societies in Europe or identify any denigrating causes.

Statement of Research Problem

As stated in the introduction, it appears that right-wing populism has been on a steady rise all over Europe and considering that this has been in countries from both the Western and Eastern parts of Europe, this rise cannot be defined as an anomaly (Akkerman, de Lange, and Rooduijn, 2016). It is indicative of a shift in voting behaviour. Voting behaviour is usually an indication of the beliefs, thoughts, and hopes of the electorate and when the voting trend changes, it, therefore, suffices to conclude that the very ideologies held by the voters have changed as well. Traditional theories surrounding the preference of right-wing populism do not suffice to explain the steady rise seeing that both countries in economic despair and those flourishing economically have experienced a shift to the left (Akkerman, de Lange, and Rooduijn, 2016). Therefore, this development presents a gap, as well as an opportunity to understand what these causes are precisely, and whether or not they are synonymous in both hemispheres of Europe.

Aim of the Study

This study aims at investigating in-depth the factors that contribute to Eastern European and Western European Right-Wing Movements and to establish whether these causes are synonymous to one another.

Objectives of the Study

  1. Identify the meaning of populism in modern Europe.
  2. Identify countries in Europe where the right-wing populist movement has taken root
  3. Explore the causes of the rise in right-wing populism in Western Europe and Eastern Europe.
  4. Develop an informed conclusion as to whether these causes are dichotomous or synonymous to one another.

Research Questions

  1. How is the concept of populism defined in modern Europe?
  2. In which countries have the right-wing populist movements taken root in Europe?
  3. What are the causes of the rise in right-wing populism in Western Europe and Eastern Europe?
  4. Are the causes of right-wing populism in Europe dichotomous or synonymous with each other?

Significance of the Study

The findings of this study will be of use to both international Relations and Political Science students looking to explore right-wing populist movements in Europe. Aside from the students, this study will also benefit researchers in the field by contributing to the existing body of knowledge on populism and the rise of right-wing populism in Europe.

Definition of Terms

Right-Wing Populism

Considering that populists often adopt other beliefs and ideologies, it follows that right-wing populism is defined based on the standpoint and ideologies adopted. Right-wing populism entails the adoption of ideologies and perspectives of the right, and these include nationalism, authoritarianism, and ethnocentrism (Wodak, KhosraviNik and Mral, 2013). In some extreme cases, these ideologies are combined with features such as xenophobia, racism, and in some instances, they exist in opposition to multiculturalism. More often than not, right-wing populists develop intolerance towards members of society that are not natives of the said society and typically, these are migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and foreign workers (Wodak, KhosraviNik and Mral, 2013). The intolerance rhetoric is usually defended using nationalism and protectionist agendas, and the basic argument lies in the statement that foreigners have compromised the quality of life in the country. However, at times, left-wing and right-wing populists can adopt similar ideologies (Wodak, KhosraviNik and Mral, 2013). This study employs the right-wing ideologies of nationalism and nativism.

Structure of the Thesis

Chapter one of this thesis is the introduction chapter. In this chapter, the researcher begins by providing a background of the study that leads to the research problem. The researcher then details the objectives of the study, the research question, and the significance of the study. Chapter two is the literature review that begins by outlining the theoretical underpinnings of populism. The chapter also explores scholastic concepts of populist comprehension and an introduction to right-wing and left-wing populism. Finally, the chapter also briefly reviews how right-wing populism has risen in Western Europe. The concepts in the literature review are used in the development of the hypotheses guiding the study. Chapter three contains the methodology of the study. This study will be undertaken as a comparative case study of the causes of the rise in populism. Chapter four of the thesis will consist of the analysis of the cases, which will be followed by an assessment of the hypotheses based on the literature review and the findings of the case study. Chapter five outlines the results of the investigation. Finally, Chapter six will outline the discussion, conclusion, as well as the recommendations of the study.





In this chapter, the researcher undertakes a literature review of the subject. This section will first and foremost evaluate the theoretical underpinnings of populism, an evaluation into understanding the cause of right-wing populism across different societies. The findings of the literature review will eventually be applied in the creation of the hypotheses of the study.


The concept of populism has changed established politics over the last few years. Despite the popularity of the idea, a universal definition of the concept is yet to be adopted, and thus, it remains challenging to define. This issue is mostly because the term populist has been used to describe different political actors with varying beliefs and ideologies (Bornschier, 2010). Inglehart and Norris (2016) add that the usage of the term has also not been aligned to the support bases or levels of funding that these actors enjoy, and as such, populism is basically a vague concept that does not distinguish where an actor falls in the political spectrum.

Oliver and Rahn (2016) outline a brief example of the fluidity of populism by drawing from the 2016 elections in the United States where both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump were considered populists, yet they had significantly different political ideologies. Based on the reasons mentioned above, the most apt definition of populism can only be drawn from its nature. Populism is therefore defined as a thin-centred ideology, whose features are adopted from other thick-centred doctrines. Mudde (2004) expounds on this definition by stating that populism is a thin-centred ideology, where society is divided into two groups that are homogenous and antagonistic. These groups are ‘the people’ and ‘the elite.’ Mudde goes further to state that populism maintains that politics ought to be a reflection of people’s general will.

While Mudde’s definition would be considered holistic in terms of covering the essence of populism, it fails to highlight that when defining populism, it is essential to pay attention to the contextual background because populist movements often take the features from the environment in which populism is adapted. Akkerman, Mudde, and Zaslove (2014) expand on this factor by stating that populist movements directly promote democracy, and they often rely on charismatic leaders. This clarification highlights the first limitation of Mudde’s definition because it does not recognize the role that a charismatic leader would play in terms of promoting a populist movement. The purpose of a leader in populist movement is emphasized by Mudde and Kaltwasser (2017), who posit that the leader of a populist movement is the quintessential form of mobilization and as such, the more charismatic a leader is, the more the campaign will benefit. This viewpoint could be reflected in the ability of the leader to communicate the ‘us versus them’ ideology successfully, which was promoted by Laclau (2005). Mudde’s definition and other similar arguments are, however, not universal seeing as other scholars argue differently. For instance, Moffit (2016) presents the case that populism is not a thin-centred ideology; rather, it is a political strategy. These arguments seem to introduce the concept of populism as a political strategy rather than a movement.

The definition adopted for this study is, nonetheless, short of adequately contextualising populism and explaining the conditions necessary for populism to succeed. The first concept it fails to recognize is the role of grievance and crisis in the formation of populist movements. The basis of the supposition that grievance has a role to play in the rise of populist movement is offered by Cox (1997) who avers that changes in political systems do not occur spontaneously and are triggered by unlikable changes in societal fabric. Panizza (2005) offers a similar theory that de-alignment and unsettlement due to the lapses in existing social and political institutions to confine and regulate political subjects in a stable order are the triggers of changes in political systems. According to Van Kessel (2014), Mudde’s definition ignores the role that crises, grievance, and dissatisfaction by the electorate play in promoting populist movements.

When discussing populism, certain key concepts have been proven to play a critical role in the discussion. Balfour et al. (2016) present the first concept as that the populist debate is hinged mainly on the people. In the populist movement, people are often termed as the backbone of society. According to Bonikowski (2016), they are sovereign, virtuous, pure, and homogenous. Furthermore, people are the silent majority, and that they should determine the good of society. Nevertheless, Spruyt, Kreppens, and Van Droogenbroeck (2016) posit that the people are not homogenous and that even within the concept of ‘the people’ there are three different distinctions. The first is the ordinary people, which is class constructed. The second is the sovereign, which takes the people to mean the definitive source of power, and the third is the nation, which takes the people to suggest a national community. Within the populism movement, the main narrative peddles is giving the government back to the people or creating an ‘us versus them’ rhetoric where the people are pitted against a defined enemy. This enemy may vary from the political elite, the corrupt or even immigrants

Right-Wing Populism

Over time, there have been several different terms used to mean right-wing populism. Labels such as extreme right, far-right, and even radical right have been used interchangeably, and they all refer to the same thing (Wodak Khosravinik and Mral, 2013). Despite the difference in terminologies, organisations holding these ideologies have certain common denominators which are exclusionist, nativist, and ethnonationalist ideas of citizenship. Such nativist positions seem to communicate one message, which is that nations should be exclusively inhabited by native members of that state (Bets, 2016). Furthermore, the idea is that non-native members of society threaten the social and moral fabric of society. Some political organisations with right-wing ideations also promote anti-immigration policies, which have triggered the adoption of a new name ‘anti-immigration parties.’

The next concept worth noting about populism is the elite. Berbuir, Lewandowsky, and Siri (2015) define the elite as the ruling class, and, in most situations, they believe they have a monopoly on power and culture. Populists peddle the elite as being dangerous, vulgar, and dishonest. According to Oklopcic (2019), the most profound argument that the populists use to distinguish between the elite and the people is the morality argument with the prevalent supposition being that the elite is corrupt while the people are pure. This criticism is not restricted to the political elite, but it could spread to the economic elite, the media elite, and even the cultural elite. One recent example of these are the sentiments so commonly made by the US president, who keeps on terming the media as ‘Fake News.’ Trump has made this a rallying call, arguing that the media is misinforming the Americans and opposing the Americans’ general will, which has influenced a particular group of individuals (McDevitt and Ferrucci, 2018). Trump’s ‘fake media’ agenda is an example of how populists single out one group and make them look like the corrupt group pitting them in a struggle with the people.

The criteria identifying the elite is broad. Di Tella and Rotemberg (2018) present the first criteria as being based on power. Based on the basics of democracy, people give politicians power through elections, but the very same people could take away that power, and this is usually through voting them out. Political elites, therefore, have the duty to execute the people’s will and the people’s mandate. Nevertheless, populists do not believe that this is the case. According to Moffit and Tormey (2014), populists argue that elitism is usually artificially created to undermine the people and ensure that the elite stay in power. This claim is a classic post-class world argument. With right-wing populists, the battle between the elite and the people is that over economic power. Right-wing populists maintain that the elite work so as to protect certain special interests above the people’s will and generally, there is the use of aggression and anger when making these sentiments (Greven, 2016). While hated, the elite are the key reason as to why populism rises. When the elite neglects or seems to disregard the people’s general will, the populists take up the mantle as the people’s voice and the guardians of sovereignty. Populists promote the agenda that the elite has taken away the people’s rights and do not represent the people’s needs. Thus, people need to be empowered, and political representatives should represent them.

Another anti-elitist rhetoric is said to arise when it seems that the political elite appears to favour the rights of immigrants, refugees, foreign workers or prioritising companies over those of natives and native companies (Hogan and Haltinner, 2015). While this is an anti-immigrant positioning, some populists have taken the war to the political elite that seems to put in place laws and policies, which allow for the infiltration of immigrants into the country. For this reason, while the dissatisfaction is generally against the immigrants, it is channelled towards the elite.

The third concept associated with populism is the general will. Based on the ideational method of populism, populists use this concept to agitate for a political system, which supports the people’s general will. According to Kaltwasser (2012), populists work to reinforce the idea that general will exists, but thanks to the immorality of the elite, the general will is regularly flouted and denied from the citizens. One common feature among populists is the fact that they often support mechanisms that allow people to exercise their general will, and this is by promoting movements for direct democracy (Rooduijn, 2014). As such, a regular occurrence in states where the populist movement has taken root is a call for plebiscites and referenda. Populists also tend to support institutional mechanisms likely to help in cultivating more personal relationships between populist leaders and their constituents. For that reason, another common feature seen in populist areas is the use of rallies and meetings where the populist leader has the opportunity to interact one on one with their followers, and this works to their benefit as it endears them to their followers. However, in the new media era, this tactic has changed, and most populists prefer one on one social engagement with the people (Gerbaudo, 2014). This approach is all in an effort to maintain close relationships with their followers.


The thin-centeredness of populism is another critical concept needed to understand populism. Based on this concept, it is established that rarely does populism occur spontaneously. Instead, it usually adopts the aspects and characters of other ideologies. According to Lahdesmaki (2015), the most prevalently mimicked doctrines are nativism, socialism, liberalism, leftist, and radical right ideologies. The thin-centeredness of populism has over time defined it so as to point out its limited structure and that it is not only adaptational but borrows largely from features of other ideologies. Gaarsted and Agustin (2017) postulate that unlike other thick-centered concepts, there are no normative sets of ideas by which society should be understood and organized. As such, populists often have to rely on other ideologies to come up with sound logical arguments that will win them support for their political agenda because, on its own, populism does not provide comprehensive answers to any ideological questions the society may have.

Aside from reliance on other ideologies, populism is also based on current issues concerning the general public. For this reason, many populist actors seem to present solutions to problems plaguing society, which also contributes to the fluid nature of populism, seeing as different societies have varying issues that need highlighting. This factor also explains the reason why populism has gained traction over recent years, and it is because populists can adapt to any political climate by taking up different positions based on the people’s will and the existing political environment. Other scholars, however, see this factor as a disadvantage other than an advantage with Taggart (2002) voicing the opinion that populism is an ideology with an empty heart because it lacks any substantial or tangible values. Taggart (2002) goes further to posit that populism lacks the same core as thick-centred ideologies do and it is only functional because it attaches itself to thick-centred doctrines for it to fill the emptiness within it. The argument presented by Taggart (2002), therefore presents populism as a mere tool for the differentiation of political ideology rather than an ideology itself.

Scholarly Approaches towards Populism

Scholastic approaches towards conceptualising populism have often taken three different approaches. These are populism as a discursive style, as a political strategy and finally, as an ideology. The most common approach of the three and perhaps the most popular one is that populism is a thin-centred ideology. However, the next paragraphs will discuss the three approaches conclusively to set a basis for the formulation of the hypotheses.

Discursive Nature of Populism

Populism as a discursive style was initially adopted by Laclau (2005) who postulated that the symbolism brought about by the ‘us versus them’ distinction is the core of populist discourse. Laclau (2005) in his argument supports the statements brought forth by Taggart (2002) on the emptiness of populism as Laclau opined the ‘us versus them’ rhetoric is an example of the empty signifiers which would be adapted to take various shapes depending on the social or political context. Through an identification process, social groups will, therefore, be divided into two, one being the people and the other being the oppressive group. The understanding that populism is a discursive style is also adopted by de la Torre (2007) who argues that populism is a political style underpinned by Machinean rhetoric where the struggle between the people and the oligarchs is constructed. de la Torre (2007) further explains that this struggle is presented as an ethical and moral confrontation between good and evil, with the people seeking redemption and pushing for the downfall of the oligarchs. de la Torre (2007) insists that it is hard to come up with a proper definition of populism from the strategies, actions, and words of leaders. The best way to define this concept is through understanding cultures, discourses of followers, and autonomous expectations as well. Most importantly, it is essential to pay attention to the interaction between leaders and followers to decipher the appeal of populism.

Populism as a Political Strategy

Another scholarly dimension used in understanding populism is by modelling it as a political strategy. When using this approach, there are three variants that are the points of focus, and they include political organisation, policy choices, and forms of mobilisation. When defining populism as a kind of political organization, the identity of the political leaders has often been important. Most populist parties are characterised by having a charismatic leader. Some scholars have gone further to state that leadership is a critical analytical factor when trying to understand populism and identify its successes and failures (Pappas, 2012). Barr (2009) takes a different note on this by stating that charismatic leadership is not necessarily a constitutive element of populism since there have been specific populist personas that have been successful without necessarily being charismatic, an example being Alberto Fujimori or Peru. Weyland (2001) defines populism based on this type of leadership, but he veers away from charisma and opts to use the term ‘personalistic.’ According to Weyland (2001), populism is a political tactic where personalistic leaders look for government power from the backing of many unorganised followers. This stance is also adopted by Roberts, who refers to populism as top-down mobilisation of people by personalistic leaders that have sought to challenge the elites.

Populism as an Ideology

As stated earlier, this is the most influential perspective of populism, and it is suggested by Mudde (2004). Stanley (2008) has also supported this perspective of populism and further promotes the thin-centredness concept. According to Stanley (2008), populism lacks a programmatic centre of gravity but is open in terms of cohabitation with more comprehensive ideologies. He further suggests four major interrelated concepts at the core of populism. The first concept highlights two homogenous units, which are the people and the elite. The second concept outlines an antagonistic association between the people and the elite. The third concept reveals that the idea of popular sovereignty is promoted and finally, there is a positive valorisation of the people and denigration of the elite. The notion of populism as an ideology is also embraced by Kriesi and Pappas (2015) who introduce a new concept regarding the thinness of populism as a product of vagueness and plasticity of its core concepts as it allows for the combination of many thick ideologies such as nationalism or socialism.

The Distinction between Right-Wing and Left-Wing Populism

In order to accurately identify countries in which right-wing populism has infiltrated in Europe, it is essential to determine the difference between right-wing populism and left-wing populism. Taggart (2004) points out that populism is attached to different ideological values with no core values. These values range from left to right and may even be authoritarian or libertarian. Greven (2016) identifies right-wing populism as being based on a culturally homogenous people. This statement is supported by Bowler et al. (2017) who also add that right-wing populism endorses the idea of the sovereignty of the people even though they are under attack from the elites and the presence of other infiltrators in the society. While these are accurate definitions of the concept, other scholars have called out such definitions for being too politically correct. For instance, scholars have called for the universal admission that right-wing populism is a front for xenophobia and nativism because most of the time the interest of the people are juxtaposed against the interests of others, who are essentially immigrants.

While there has been an immense scholarly focus on right-wing populism, there are also certain researchers that have tried to explore left-wing populism. March (2007), while researching left-wing populism suggests that the dichotomy of the people versus the elite is a core aspect of populism. This suggestion brings out one similarity between the two factions of the ideology. March, however, highlights that the divergence comes in the fact that the left emphasises egalitarianism and points out to economic inequality as being the foundation of political and social organization. Kriesie (2014) agrees with this statement but only in so far as admitting that the people are the core of populism. Otjes and Louwerse (2015) present a different angle towards understanding left-wing populism as they argue that the left is more concerned about socio-economic injustice and that the political elite exists to serve the business elite to the detriment of the people. The authors, however, raise the point that the main difference between left-wing and right-wing populism is the fact that the right believes that the inequalities between people are inherent. This perspective triggers the exclusionary nature of right-wing populism, whereas those on the left are of the idea that these inequalities can be overcome and hence take a socialist approach towards societal problems.

Right-Wing Populism in Europe

The Front National is a French political organization that has been under the leadership of Jean-Marie Le Pen. When talking about Front National, it is impossible to ignore the extremist messaging promoted by the party that has distinct anti-Semitic elements, which is a common factor in right-wing organisations in Europe (Lubbers and Scheepers, 2002). On the other hand, Schmitt-Beck (2017) identifies Alternative fur Deutschland as the German right-wing institution, and its messages contain strong anti-immigrant statements. Austria’s Freiheitliche Partei Osterreichs is another one of the oldest populist parties in Europe, and it is well known for its anti-immigrant and Islamophobic messaging (Risse, 2015).

These three establishments are only but a snapshot of the populist political groups commanding a following in Europe. The big question, however, is what triggers the rise in right-wing populism. So far, literature points towards a dichotomy of ‘us versus them”. While ‘us’ remains the people, there are two different versions of ‘them.’ The first is the elite who have continued to accumulate benefits while the people suffer, and the second highlights xenophobia as one of the triggers. Essentially, the fear of immigrants taking over the economy, threatening safety and security has pushed political organisations to take a position regarding the presence of these individuals.

Factors Contributing to the Rise in Right-Wing Populism in Europe

The rise of populism in Europe has been attributed to several factors, mostly geared towards nativism, anti-elitism, Euroscepticism, and dissatisfaction with the establishment or government order.


Scholarly and public opinions regarding the rise in right-wing populism have indicated the emergence of a new-found sense of nationalism. Kesic and Duyvendak (2018) posit that the need to protect the nation-state and its native citizens has taken root in a majority of European countries. The key trigger for nationalistic and nativist sentiments is the idea that globalisation has led to an influx of immigration which has essentially contributed to multiculturalism, cultural relativism and the concept of a European state. While an infusion of other cultures into a state may be considered a positive aspect, right-wing populists argue that because of the political elite, multiculturalism has led to the erosion of the national culture and its values and for that reason, it should be curbed. These sentiments were echoed in a speech made to the Netherlands in 2010 by Geert Wilders, a right-wing leader who posited that due to the cabinet’s support for mass immigration and Islamization, the Dutch cultural heritage has been severely undermined and hollowed out (Kesic and Duyvendak, 2018). According to Mudde (2012), the European continent is marked by intense opposition to an internal minority and perception of native elites as a threat to the nation. As a result, most right-wing political organisations push for a more stringent immigration policy, going so far as to oppose certain efforts to make migration into the EU such as the Global Compact for Migration. Hervik (2015) presents another salient feature of nativism in right-wing politics as the call to control the borders by improving border checks and this is especially rampant in the Schengen Area where member states are looking for alternatives where they can improve their cross-border inspections and limit unchecked border crossing as guaranteed in the Schengen Area.

While the protection of cultural heritage seems to be at the nucleus of the nativist campaign, Muis and Immerzeel (2017) present an alternative theory as to the rise in calls for nationalisation and the push for nativism. According to the authors, xenophobia is the real basis for these calls due to a variety of factors, the first of them being that an influx in immigration threatens to deny natives chances of getting employment and other benefits. It is for this reason that political organisations such as Front National and Alternative fur Deutschland have pledged to ensure that their governments will enact policies that guarantee that natives are given priority in employment, as well as the issuance of benefits such as social housing.

Another variation of nationalism or nativism is that borne out of Islamophobia. In the Netherlands, one of the core values espoused by right-wing organisations is the need to purge or reduce the number of Muslims within the nation. Wilders (2010) particularly highlights dissatisfaction with the way the government has allowed the Muslim community to establish itself in the country by facilitating the building of mosques, schools and even a Sharia-compliant judicial system for the Muslim community. Kallis (2015) presents a different theory that Islamophobia stems more from religious stereotyping than the need to preserve the homeland’s culture. Considering that Islam has wrongly been associated with terrorism, Islamophobia is said to be predicated upon the fear of terror attacks. This phenomenon is however not restricted to Europe only. The United States came under fire for instituting a travel ban on people from predominantly Muslim countries, a move that was ill-advised and based on the assumption that Muslim immigrants are the key contributors to terror (Spiegel and Rubenstein, 2017). The same could be said about the anti-Black and anti-Mexican sentiments relayed by the government that seem to paint individuals from these races as criminals.

To sum it up, nativism is a core concept of right-wing politics in the European continent and from the statements of several leaders such as Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders; it is based on the need to protect the country’s cultural identity and prevent the erosion brought about by multiculturalism.


After the Brexit vote, Euroscepticism moved from a movement in the fringes to taking centre stage in European politics. Meijers (2017) posits that parties have over time gained more public support, and this has severely threatened the legitimacy of European Integration. However, the concept had been conceived much earlier than the Brexit vote. During the 2014 European Parliament Elections, analysists and journalists all over Europe reported that there was an influx of Anti-EU sentiments that were triggered by right-wing populists who were purportedly the ambassadors of the electorate’s discontent with the establishment (Szczerbiak and Taggart, 2017). Despite the popularity of the concept, it is still yet to be fully understood, and this is because of the complex nature of the idea. A basic definition of the concept as given by Van Elsas and Van Der Brug (2015) is that Euroscepticism is the opposition towards increasing the powers of the European Union. A less concise definition is that Euroscepticism is a political doctrine from the European continent that advocates for disengagement with the European Union (Leruth, Startin and Usherwood, 2017). Political groups whose manifestos include Eurosceptic sentiments, are usually populist and support the streamlining or total dismantling of the bureaucratic structure of the European Union.

While Euroscepticism seems like a recent phenomenon, the truth is that it was conceived alongside the European integration process, but due to political interests, it followed different paths in various European states. Since the emergence of Euroscepticism, there have been two types of Eurosceptic sentiments which Taggart and Szczerbiak (2002) label as hard or soft Euroscepticism. According to Crines and Heppell (2017), hard Euroscepticism is the type most associated with populism and is defined as “a principled opposition to the project of European integration based on ceding or transfer of power to the European Union.”

While Euroscepticism was initially just a theoretical concept fronted by populist movements, the Brexit vote presented it as a viable political option for many countries, and it signified one factor, that the electorate had the power to make a decision as to whether they wish to stay within the Union or not. Vasilpoulou (2016) posits that Brexit then fuelled the agitation by populist parties in other nations and brought forth causes as to why European States should not be part of the Union. Taking an example from Britain, Brexit was inspired by three main reasons which were economics, sovereignty and political elitism (Hobolt, 2016). British Eurosceptic populists argued that the European Union was economically dysfunctional because it had failed miserably in terms of addressing economic issues that had developed since the Great Recession. One example that was cited was the prevalent 20% rate of unemployment in Southern Europe (Somai and Bierdermann, 2016). The issue was, however, more prominent than Southern Europe seeing as the whole of Europe was experiencing economic stagnation and as such, Britain’s stay in the Union would only contribute to it following the Union’s steps and ultimately stagnating as well.

Regarding sovereignty, British Eurosceptics argued that the European Union no longer served a purpose and it was only efficient in ceding control away from individual nations. According to Murkens (2016), there was a growing fear of losing control and mistrust in the European Union that made Brexit a more viable opinion. In addition to that, Eurosceptics argued that the Union took away control when it came to individual states controlling their immigration policies. According to Ling (2016) the pro-Brexit argument presented was that as a multinational organization, the European Union did not understand the value of nationalism and that while it attempted to support nationality as a cultural right, it deprived member states of their ability to protect their own national cultures and values by making them vulnerable to immigration.

The final cause was political elitism. The Brexit vote was a vote against the British elite and communicated that the voters thought that the elite, consisting of politicians, intellectuals and business leaders had overexploited their opportunity to control the system and therefore did not deserve the right to keep control (Iakhnis, Rathbun, Reifler and Scotto, 2018). In addition to that, the electorate was of the opinion that the elite did not respect their values and put their own interests ahead of nationalism and the people’s interests. The three reasons outlined above may have been drawn from the Brexit vote. Nonetheless, they are more reflective of the general populist ideologies regarding European Union. That said, these are legitimate reasons to trigger Euroscepticism and would, therefore, prompt the rise in populist movements.

These are the underlying factors for the selection of the hypotheses outlined below.


  1. The rise in right-wing populism is triggered by a desire to protect a state’s cultural identity.
  2. The increase in right-wing populism is indicative of the people’s dissatisfaction with the existing governmental order.
  3. Economic strife has a positive impact on the rise in populism.
  4. The electorate of a given society has a bearing on the philosophy carried by right-wing populist political organisations.
  5. The causes of the rise right-wing populism in Eastern Europe are synonymous to those of Western Europe.






This section presents the methodology of the paper. First and foremost, the researcher outlines the case selection strategy, data selection, as well as the research method. The researcher then describes the research criteria, reliability, and validity of the study.

Research Technique

For this study, the researcher chose to undertake a comparative case study. Patten and Newhart (2017) postulate that a comparative case study is a research technique that involves the study of two or more differing cases at the same time and it is ideal with regards to exploring social phenomena between two or more cases. In this study, there are two main cases, which are Eastern Europe and Western Europe. In order to have more definitive information, the researcher decided to identify three countries from both sides that will provide a more accurate picture of the nature and causes of the rise of populism in those areas. For Eastern Europe, the researcher selected Slovakia, Czech Republic, and Poland. The countries chosen for Eastern Europe are Austria, Denmark, and France. The reason for selecting these countries is because they have recorded a significant increase in the support for right-wing populist political groups and they would thus present information regarding the rise of populism much better including the ability to make cross-references of any synonymous factors. Furthermore, all six countries are democracies, affording each individual the right to vote, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and the right to assembly, which are vital factors with regards to the populist movement.

The study will explore populism from liberal democracies. It is essential to outline this context because as stated in the literature review, populism is highly contextual, and the phenomenon that triggers populism is primarily influenced by the context within it. Mudde and Kalteasser (2017) adopt this method as well because they argue that populism is much better understood and closely linked to liberal democracy than it is to other types of democracies. It would also not be possible to analyse populism if the case studies did not allow for one of the critical concepts of populism, which is the will of the people. For that reason, the countries chosen for the study should protect and promote the people’s right to vote. Six countries were selected since they can enable a smooth collection of information. The researcher looked for states that have free press and the internet because these two make data collection much more straightforward. In addition to that, free press is also devoid of any propaganda and would thus run freely without government bias allowing for the collection of accurate data and easier comparison.

Data Selection

The data used in this study will be drawn from secondary data on right-wing populism, media outputs, voter statistics, surveys, and government statistics. The research will heavily rely on qualitative data gathered by other researchers. The upside of using secondary data is that the researcher gets to exploit high-quality data collected by scholars and government institutions for statistical purposes, which might be valuable for investigation or deductive tests. Besides that, the usage of readily available and analysed secondary data is not as tedious and time-consuming as gathering new information on the same subject, and the outcome may not be different. Data drawn from regional and governmental bodies such as the European Social Survey and the World Bank are usually conducted over a prolonged period, and therefore, by relying on the data, the researcher benefited from the ability to identify trends and changes in behaviour including shifting opinions. Most importantly, Dickovick and Eastwood (2016) advocate for the use of a comparative case study because it provides an opportunity for the theory construction, therefore enabling the researcher to investigate the problem from different angles.

Comparative case studies have also proven to be efficient when discussing this subject matter. Gaarsted (2017) in his research investigating the rise in right-wing populism in Denmark and the United States of America, posited that a comparative case study was the most ideal research method because it allowed for proper comparison between the two samples in order to identify their similarities and differences. This approach was also applied by Malone (2014), who sought to examine the rise of right-wing populism in Western Europe. According to Malone (2014), this technique presented an opportunity to examine cases from different phenomena and come up with a logical conclusion. Based on the success that this technique has shown in previous studies, the researcher determined that it would be the ideal technique for this study.

Despite all the advantages, secondary data also has a set of shortcomings worth mentioning. First and foremost, most of this data is new to researchers, and for that reason, it comes with a level of complexity. Considering that researchers using secondary data did not collect the data themselves, they may take a while to understand the data. In order to remedy this problem, the researcher endeavoured to be familiar with the research technique by thoroughly evaluating the methodology and the tools of research. The second limitation lies in the fact that the researcher may subject themselves to poor data quality. Thus, to address this limitation, the researcher in this study was cautious in terms of looking at the data, in addition to ensuring no data was taken for granted.

Data Collection

Data used in this study was collected from existing scholarly, governmental, and non-governmental reports. In order to obtain this data, the researcher explored the material through search engines. A google scholar search was done with the key phrases ‘populism in Europe ‘rise of populism in Europe’, ‘populism in Eastern Europe,’ ‘populism in Western Europe’ and finally, ‘causes of the rise of populism in Eastern Europe.’ To narrow down the publications, the researcher limited the search to articles published within the last ten years to ensure that the information gathered was not only accurate but also the most recent. The researcher then explored the following databases to access more literature. The following databases were explored; JournalSeek, JSTOR: Journal Storage, Mendeley, Openedition, and Project Muse.

The researcher used a data collection template that facilitated the collection of information from various sites. This data collection tool outlined. The main points that the researcher sought to establish and would be used to conduct the data analysis.

Inclusion and Exclusion Criteria

Comparative Case studies heavily rely on literature, and for that reason, it is essential to have an inclusion and exclusion criteria in order to admit the most relevant studies. This study had two specific parameters, which were the date of publication and the geographic location of the study. After selecting the admitted publications, the researcher filtered them by date, accepting only those that had been published later than 2008. The researcher then selected the studies and publications that had tackled any of the six countries admitted for the study. On the other hand, the exclusion criteria were as follows; first, any study published before 2008 was not chosen, and secondly, any research that did not focus on any of the six nations was avoided.

Research Structure

Comparative Case Study

As stated at the beginning of the chapter, the research design applied was a comparative case study. The thesis aims to compare Eastern and Western Europe so as to identify the causes of the rise in populism and whether the causes were dichotomous or synonymous to one another. According to Pham, Pradhan, Bui, Prakash, and Dholakia (2016), conducting a case study entails going through the study of a single unit with the aim of understanding a large group of similar units. The standard case study is undertaken by conducting a comprehensive and thorough investigation of fewer cases to understand the larger group from which the case is drawn. Case studies are aimed towards analysing specific issues within the parameters or borders of an entity, and they usually revolve around a particular case in question.

The researcher began by conducting a separate analysis of the different countries to establish commonalities based on region. This review was done by analysing the ideals held by right-wing political organisations alongside the values and beliefs espoused by the supporters of these establishments, which would determine the reasoning behind their support for right-wing populism. It is after establishing the regional patterns that the researcher conducted a comparative study of the two regions to assess differences and similarities, including the identification of variations between the two regions. The objective of the investigation will be to prove the existence of a connection or lack thereof between the two regions that would provide the basis for explaining the causes of the rise of populism.

This study relies on qualitative data analysis because the researcher endeavours to objectively highlight patterns through the categorisation of data into concepts that had been set in the research questions, as well as the hypothesis of the study. Furthermore, qualitative data analysis goes in line with the deductive research approach that the researcher decided to take.

Deductive Reasoning

Deductive reasoning entails building from existing theories and then conducting tests to establish if the claims could be verified. When conducting deducting reasoning, a researcher has to first and foremost study the theory in order to form a hypothesis, and then through data analysis, test the hypothesis. Deductive reasoning follows comparative analysis because the data that is obtained from the study is systematically examined to deduce the causes of the rise of populism and finally prove or disprove the hypotheses (Klemmensen, Andersen and Hansen, 2012). The researcher argues that the best way in which to identify the causes behind the rise of populism is first to conduct a focused analysis of the theories established by the literature review and then use the deductive method to test the hypotheses and identify the causes behind the rise.






In this chapter, an analysis of the sample will be presented. This review will be done by first conducting a breakdown of each country selected in order to establish the regional patters. The researchers will then analyse each region. Each analysis will be held in two phases. The first will be a contextual analysis where a review of the right-wing organisations in the country will be carried out, which will be followed by a commentary based on the hypotheses. The results of each analysis will then be compared and contrasted.

Western Europe

Case Study 1: Denmark

Contextual Background

The dominant right-wing populist group in Denmark is known as Dansk Folkeparti herein referred to as DF. The name of the party, when translated to English, refers to the Danish People’s Party. According to Meret and Slim (2013), it is considered a breakout party, seeing as it was founded after a section of the Danish Progress Party, another populist party in Denmark, broke off. Despite only being formed in 1995, DF was immensely successful in its first election in 1998, having attained 7.4% of the vote, a fete which was to be replicated in the 2001 elections (Reuters, 2014). DF is currently the most popular party in Demark and has proven to be a formidable opponent, especially in the European Parliament Elections.

The Organisation’s Goals

DF’s party motto is “to protect our country, its people and the Danish cultural heritage.” Upon its foundation, one of the rallying calls made by the party is the superiority of the Danish cultural heritage and the need to protect and preserve it. Ivarsflaten and Gudbrandsen (2012) posit that one of the ways in which DF’s leaders suggested that this could be done was through ensuring that the country was protected from any infiltration that would dilute its cultural heritage. The party has openly admitted that Denmark is not and has never been an immigrant country and it should therefore not be forced to turn into a multi-ethnic society. Another call made by the party is the agitation to exit the European Union seeing as it does not allow Denmark to exercise its sovereignty (Meret and Siim, 2013). DF has gone to greater lengths to reflect its nativist and xenophobic sentiments, and one of the ways in which it has done so is by agitating for calls to preserve the national health system, improve funding for welfare programs and advance education, but only as long as these enhanced services are enjoyed by nativists.

Values and Beliefs of DF Voters

According to Afonso and Rennwald (2018), supporters of the Danish People’s Party have unapologetically stood behind the party’s philosophy. First, they are in staunch opposition to immigration and the absorption of foreigners into the Danish society. The Danish Election Survey carried out between the periods of 1994 and 2007 points out contrasting opinions between the party’s supporters and supporters of all other parties when it comes to the immigration topic. According to the survey, participants that admitted to being DF’s followers were of the opinion that immigrants were a threat to national culture and were firmly against welfare rights for immigrants and public spending on immigration.

Another substantial factor regarding DF’s supporters is the fact that it has significantly benefitted from an increase in support from the working class, going so far as being termed the definite working-class party of Denmark. Mondon (2015) postulates that the fluidity of populism and its thin-centredness emanates in regard to the stance that the middle class has on the economic dimension. Despite being a right-wing party, because of the large number of working-class supporters, the party takes a pro-spending position. This approach is as opposed to other right-wing parties which are usually supporters of anti-spending so as to reduce the tax burden on the electorate. This trend goes to speak to the fact that the electorate has a pivotal role to play in determining the manifesto of a right-wing political organisation.

Case Study 2: France

The Front National (FN) has been on the forefront of right-wing politics in France since rising into national prominence in 1986. It was the first right-wing populist party to attain a massive following by amassing 9.8% of the vote (Wodak, KhosraviNik and Mral, 2013). However, this success was short-lived, seeing as in the next elections, the party performed dismally, attaining only one seat in the National Assembly. Nonetheless, due to certain shifts in the country, Front National has consistently improved in its standing, receiving over 10% of the national vote regularly (Wodak et al., 2013). While this does not translate into representation in the National Assembly, the Front National has been successful in local elections such as the mayoral polls. All in all, the Front National, by acquiring a significant percentage of the votes, goes to show that the right-wing political organisation commands a considerable following that may yet grow to win it a presidential election.

The first ideology espoused by the Front National and one that the party as unapologetically espoused is the desire to control immigration, mainly by reducing immigration and targeting African immigrants (Davis, 2012). In addition to a reduction of the immigrants, during election campaigns, the Front National has often presented in its manifesto, the promise to give privilege to the rights of French Citizens, over those of foreigners and immigrants. Based on the writings of Simmons (2018), this nativist stance is said to emanate from the need to protect the country’s cultural heritage and economy. This process is done by enduring that first and foremost, there is no cultural infiltration that would seek to dilute the French culture and secondly, that French natives are not overly taxed so as to provide for the needs of immigrants, foreigners, and refugees. With regards to the immigration debate, Front National’s manifesto has seven main commitments, and these are; to reduce legal immigration to France from over 200,000 per year to 10,000 people annually and to ban the right to automatic immigration to join a spouse or family member residing in France (Davis and Deole, 2017). Other commitments are to leave the European Schengen Area, which promotes free cross-border movement; reinstate cross-border checks, increase the requirements for French Citizenship, and make an insistence that all applicants should show commitment to France and the French Language. The last obligations include giving priority to French citizens over foreigners when it comes to welfare, jobs, and housing; and finally, the abolition of dual citizenship for non-Europeans. These commitments prove that top on the Front National’s agenda is the reduction of immigration to France.

Euroscepticism is another strong foundation upon which Front National has based its manifesto on, agitating for the reinstatement of its national sovereignty (Treib, 2014). The party has proposed to re-negotiate European Union treaties so as to ensure that the country has the power to make its own decisions without constraints from the Union and also gain full control of its frontiers. Most importantly to the Front National, France’s municipal laws should take primacy over European legislation which would enable the country’s justice system to implement the nation’s values over those of the larger European Union. Euroscepticism has deep right-wing foundations seeing that European Union critics cite that the Union undermines national sovereignty and the state. Additionally, the Eurosceptics argue that the EU establishment is elitist, undermines democracy, as well as transparency and is marked by apathy. The kind of Euroscepticism fronted by Front National is hard Euroscepticism because it is characterised by four major roots (Treib, 2014).

Values and Beliefs of FN Voters

Considering that regardless of the political traction it has, Front National still lags in terms of parliamentary representation. Reynie (2016) argues that Front National supporters are not exactly the solid voter block that other populist establishments have enjoyed. Instead, they are more of protest voters seeing that when they have the opportunity to vote during a run-off, they vote for the opposing party, rather than Front National. This trend goes to indicate that while the electorate seems dissatisfied with the existing order, they are not yet ready for a shift to the right-wing and for that reason, initial votes to Front National are considered a warning shot to the establishment.

Another characteristic of the Front National voters is that the party appeals to working class voters. Based on research conducted on the French electorate by Stockemer and Amengay (2015), it was revealed that the working class is more supportive of the right-wing and this could account for the agitation against the elites and the establishment. Furthermore, the working class electorate is more supportive of the right-wing populists because they share the same anti-immigration and anti-Islam sentiments, seeing that they are opposed to multiculturalism. According to Ivaldi (2015), Front Nationals supporters when interrogated regarding their opinions towards multiculturalism, they reveal that they are opposed to the construction of mosques and minarets because they do not welcome cultural interference.

One similarity between FN and DF supporters is the fact that due to their position on the welfare state, they managed to swing their right-wing organisations towards supporting the welfare state. Initially, the Front National was opposed to the welfare state, accusing the unemployed of leaching on the welfare state and being social parasites (Betz, 2018). Key on the party’s agenda was phasing out the welfare state in order to channel resources used to more pressing budget matters. Nevertheless, to gain support from the lower class of voters and more buy-in from the working class, Front National had to shift position to promoting the welfare agenda and adapt to the wishes of the working class. According to Ivaldi (2015), this strategy paid off seeing as it led to the thriving of Front National. The shift to electorate demands raises the question as to whether populism is indeed an agenda, or it is a political tactic. Secondly, it goes towards pointing out the role of the electorate in determining the populist agenda.

Another characteristic of the FN’s voter base is the fact that it also shares a distrust of the European Union with its political organisation. During the most recent presidential elections, polls revealed that a majority of FN’s voters supported France’s membership to the European Union and believed that decisions, laws, and policies made by the European Union hurt France (Ivaldi, 2016). Euroscepticism is, therefore, one of the factors driving the populist agenda in France and it has a considerable impact on swaying right-wing votes. According to Bastow (2018), this factor explains the reason why ranking high among FN’s agenda is “Frexit” where French exits the European Union and re-establishes its sovereignty.

FN voters are also aligned towards the need to protect France’s culture because they have been open regarding their attitudes towards immigration and Islam in general. The voter base has expressed that Islam is not congruent with the French culture and values (Betz, 2016). In addition to that, the electorate believes that there are too many immigrants in France, and this is primarily because of the automatic citizenship given to citizens of former colonies of France and the European Union (Kaya, Robert, and Tecmen, 2019). Kaya et al. (2019) aver that these anti-immigration sentiments were so strong that they influenced former French Prime Minister Nicholas Sarkozy to shift and endorse support for these sentiments so as to appease the supporters of Front National. This development goes to prove that while the supporters of Front National have not succeeded in getting the party significant representation in the National Assembly, they still command enough power to sway leaders towards their cause and influence the political agenda without necessarily having Front National leaders at the helm of power.

Case Study 3: Austria

The Freiheitliche Partei Osterreichs (FPO), the Austrian Freedom Party, has for three decades established its position as one of the most successful parties in Austria. Despite being in existence for longer, the FPO first rose to prominence in 1990 after attaining 16% of the Parliament votes in the elections (Luther and Pulzer, 2018). The party has grown in popularity and now has 20.5% of the vote share in Parliament. However, its success was not always this overwhelming. Founded in 1965, the party was based on a neoliberal platform, which advocated for a reduction of government interference in the economy and an increase of personal liberty and opposition of the welfare state (Rooduijn, 2018). When campaigning on these principles, the party remained a minor party whose vote share never exceeded 8% in the Parliament. The neoliberal platform was not working for the party, and it only gained traction after a law that allowed minor parties better participation in Parliament was passed.

A new dawn for the FPO came in 1986 after the election of a new charismatic and shrewd party leader. The first strategy employed by the party was understanding the needs of the electorate and playing towards these needs to gain support (Backes, 2018). The first need identified was the fact that the voters felt marginalised following the rise in immigration. Immigrants were taking up jobs and social benefits that would otherwise have been dedicated to Austrians. The party leader, therefore, made anti-immigration the focal point of the party’s agenda. This declaration greatly paid off since in the next elections, the party received more votes, surpassing the 10% ceiling. FPO seeing this opportunity, began pushing the agenda more aggressively and made immigration its major political issue (Meyer and Rosenberger, 2015). The proposals presented by the party were that immigration laws should be made stricter and before moving to Austria, all potential immigrants should show that they have a job and accommodation in their home countries to ensure that they would return home. Another proposal was that citizenship granting procedures would be made harder in order to ensure that one is a citizen for ten years before they can acquire citizenship, and this is so as to ensure that they would learn and assimilate to the Austrian culture.

Aside from anti-immigration, the FPO also adopted anti-establishment and anti-elitist sentiments. Based on these fronts, the party promised to make the government more centred on the people as opposed to making the government cater to the needs of the elites. Fallend and Heinisch (2016) postulate that to add to that, there was an alleviation of the tax burden in order to allow the citizens to have more disposable income. Thanks to these promises, FPO was among the first right-wing parties to grow as a mainstream party and eventually become a leading party in government (Schcmuck, Matthes and Boomgaarden, 2016). Nonetheless, the main drawback was that maintaining right-wing agendas while in government proved difficult. First, maintaining an anti-establishment stance proved impossible seeing as the party became the establishment. Secondly, the party was criticised widely for its inability to deliver on certain promises such as the reduction of taxes and abolition of the welfare state. Eventually, the party’s support declined, only to resurface after a change in party leadership.

Despite its first downfall, FPO made significant strides in line with influencing policy in Austria. The first was its anti-immigration policy known as ‘Austria First’ which was directed towards petitioning the government to adopt significant restrictions to the immigration policies and entrench them to the constitution. While the petition garnered fewer than required signatures, it forced mainstream parties to acknowledge the existence of the issue, and this resulted in the coalition government of the day taking anti-immigration measures. When in power, the FPO also passed a comprehensive set of immigration laws that imposed strict entry and re-entry laws, high settlement and residence requirements, as well as more stringent citizenship requirements. Even after leaving power, the party has managed to maintain the relevance of the anti-immigration issues at the forefront of government debate and maintained its position as a mainstream party.

Values and Beliefs of FPO Voters

Supporters of FPO shared one significant characteristic with those of Front National and DF. They were a predominantly working class, ranging from blue to white collar. Aside from the demographics, FPO supporters were found to have anti-elitist and anti-establishment feelings and according to them, the FPO presented a way in which they could communicate their dissatisfaction. In Austria, a vote for the FPO was considered a vote against elite power, and slowly but surely, the FPO took a position as the ‘janitor’ of Austrian politics (Manoschek, 2017). This voting pattern deviated from populist norms seeing as the electorate seemed uninterested in voting based on policy, instead of passing a message. However, when it comes to the anti-immigration rhetoric, FPO supporters were unapologetically against immigration and this is for the sole reason that immigrants posed a threat to the homogenous Austrian culture (Meyer and Rosenberger, 2015).

The nationalism or nativism espoused by FPO supporters stems from the Austrian concept of Heimat, which calls for Austrians to love their heritage and homeland. While the idea was adopted for its positive connotation on culture and homeland, populists and politicians have over time used it to rally support for racist and xenophobic sentiments calling for the protection of Heimat against interference from intrusion by immigrants and foreigners (Meyer and Rosenberger, 2015). This approach raises the point that like France and Denmark, the anti-immigrant rhetoric is prima facie predicated upon the cultural implications of foreigners as opposed to actual xenophobia while in the real sense, there are hints of racist and xenophobic ideals.

The strong cultural identity and attachment to the homeland, as highlighted in the previous paragraph does not merely rest with anti-immigration. Austrians have also used their cultural identity to oppose any institution that may threaten the independence and sovereignty of their motherland which, therefore, brings to light the Eurosceptic aspect of right-wing populism in Austria (Vasilopoulou, 2016). Nevertheless, Euroscepticism in Austria did not begin recently, seeing as the Austrian people held negative views regarding the institution during the onset of the European Union. Austrians have always been opposed to the idea of bowing to a foreign and more superior power, and this is exacerbated by the fact that they perceive the European Union as being unresponsive and uninterested in their needs, interests, and traditions. In addition to that, the EU is seen as catering to the elites and the establishment rather than the people, and for that reason, it does not cater to the need of the ordinary people of Austria and thus, does not serve any purpose. The factors above are congruent with the highlights of the literature review on the causes of the rise of right-wing populism in Europe.

Summary on Western Europe

In Western Europe, one of the rising issues is the fact that right-wing populism is indeed thin-centred and is based more on the ideals of the electorate rather than those of the leaders of political organisations. The analysis of the three states reveals that ranking high among the calls for the electorate is a perseveration of cultural heritage and this has contributed towards the anti-immigration rhetoric similar in all the three states analysed. Besides that, in pursuit of sovereignty and also in order to preserve cultural homogeny, right-wing populist groups and their electorates held Eurosceptic views. Finally, in all the three states, right-wing political organizations and their supporters also showed signs of anti-elitism and anti-establishment, which contributed to the rise of right-wing populism. The question, therefore, is whether these three identified causes are synonymous as to those of Eastern Europe.

Eastern Europe

Case Study 4: Poland

During the last general election of Poland, the liberal incumbent party Platforma Obywatelska (PO), lost to the right-wing conservative party known as Prawo I Sprawiedliwosc (PIS). This change saw that for the first time, a right-wing populist party take the helm of leadership in Poland.




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