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European Comparative Politics and Populism


In the year 2017, the Cambridge dictionary revealed that populism was the most searched word, and for this reason, it became the word of the year. The media’s level of attention to populism in the political phenomenon was surprising. There have been many changes that have taken place in Western democracies in the past. Before getting into details, it is vital to know some of the countries in Europe. There are forty-four countries, and most of them are superpowers. Some of the countries in Europe include Russia, The United Kingdom. France, Spain, Belgium and the even Netherlands. Politics is a broad sector that controls many aspects, especially the economy. Many factors influence politics, and for this reason, therefore, the UN Charter was created (Bernhard & Kriesi, 2019). Countries have also entered into conventions as a way of protecting their interests. This has brought a huge debate on whether international law is law or international politics. The sanctions are rare; nobody forms the laws to be followed; the laws are binding the principle of pact servant, which means that they are only bound by good faith. Politics and populism go together, and they influence each other.

As mentioned earlier, there have been changes in the democracies, which has led to the rise of extremists in its practice. Some commentators support it while others do not. An excellent example of such a case is the Brexit referendum passed in 2016 by the United Kingdom the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States; there have also been mass movements. One of the well-known movements is the gilets Jaunes that happened in France; there has also been the rejection of globalization and free trade by a large portion of the population in European countries, there has been increased hostility for refugees an excellent example to mention is that of Syria into Turkey, the elites are no longer trusted, and this has resulted into the rise of nationalism and the rejection for what is known as the European Union (Kneuer, 2019). All these phenomena that have been mentioned have been labelled to what is known as populism. There is, however, a close connection between the named activities and nativism or politics.

With the election of Donald Trump as the President of the United States and the Brexit referendum, the search for populism has been very popular. Between 2000 to 2015, only ninety-five papers and books journal articles were published. As of 2016, the number has increased from ninety-five to two hundred and sixty-six; in 2017, the number further increased to four hundred and eighty-eight. In 2018 they moved to six hundred and fifteen. To confirm how serious this matter is, most of the conferences and international Political science Associations have been dominated by presentations on populism.

The work that many political science analysts have done has raised various questions. One good example of such is how has the meaning and identity of politics are being practised by right radical parties that are populist, especially in Europe. Other questions are that how does the identity of politics and populism affect the various political processes, how does it affect the platform of various parties, the Share of votes, and the cleavages of politics. How do these changes influence the attitude of those who vote? Another critical question that can be asked is how can someone explain precisely the emergence of populism and are there economic, cultural, or other factors that can be linked to it.

The paper has vividly tried to answer the above questions by providing a clear literature review. It has defined what politics is, and this has been done in the context of rising populism, especially in Europe. It has also explained the emergence of populist parties and their shares of votes. The paper has also examined how populism has affected the various political dimensions and competition. Furthermore, the paper has analyzed the changes that have occurred between the voters and those made on the political platforms. This has been done to understand the supply and demand of populist politics. The paper has been summarized by analyzing what has been discussed, what we do not know and some questions that have not been answered.

What Does Identity Politics Mean in Europe and the Relation Between It and Populism?

Populism is closely related to some concepts such as nativism and identity politics. From a critical point of view, what the dictionary describes as identity politics is different from what it is. The correct meaning focuses on the personal notation of identity, which characterizes the exact thing that defines an individual. It implies that people are the same across time. According to (Berezin, 2019), he defines it is a set of persons that have been marked by labels and are distinguished by various rules used in deciding who is a member from the attributes and the characteristic features.

It should be noted that they are not given by nature but rather socially constructed, and this means that they can vary depending on the time or space and even history. Among the many outstanding factors, the possible application of identity social construct can be defined as social constructs or national identity. Ethnic identities can further be described as subset categories in which a person’s membership is determined. The property that is constrained to change is, on many occasions, related to inheritance rather than the exact attributes that define the group or identity.

From the American Politics perspective, identity politics has, in most cases been used to describe the political activism activities by those groups that are described as minorities in their fight against discrimination during the political processes. Outside the United States, this term has been used to describe the separatist movement in Canada and Spain, and in Africa, it is the violent nationalistic conflicts. The identity politics seen in Europe is primarily exclusionary politics based on the promise to protect the minority from the harmful or discriminatory practices that are being done to the victims. This has been encouraged by increased immigration and integration amongst the Europeans and those from different parts of the United States. From this description or looking at the current situation, there are many changes in the political arena. Class politics has been significantly affected. For clarification purposes, it should be noted that class politics majorly dealt with conflicts that arose from issues concerning the economy, redistribution of government resources, and government size.

In one of the articles, (Kneuer, 2019) argues that populism can be described as a form of identity politics. This does not mean that all versions of identity politics is populist or instead instigated by populist moves. Populists believe that only a tiny percentage of the people are the people as it has been described all along. In making his comments convincing, he has given an example of remarks made by Nigel Fragrance after he had voted for the Brexit constitution in the United Kingdom. He exclaimed that the win and vote were for people who were real. Viewing this from a critical point of view or analysis means that the forty-eight per cent of the people who did not vote for the referendum were not accurate. The concept of populism majorly entails the construction of a binary divide that is expected to exist between various groups that are the antagonist. They are seen to oppose what is pure, innocent, and hardworking, and they protect them from the elite group that, in many instances, are regarded as corrupt. In Europe, the populist is against the immigrant who does no work toward building the nation and acts as a parasite. According (Bernhard & Kriesi, 2019), they believe that populism is thin centred in that it can cooperate or be classified with other ideologies together, including nativism. They believe that populist radical parties are Eurosceptic parties and that they resort to nativism, which is a combination of nationalism and xenophobia. They argue that such people have certain feelings of hatred again the European Union and mass migration. They also discuss some aspects of multiculturism and threaten ethnic and national identity.

From the western European perspective, (Pirro, et al., 2018) observes that apart from corruption, the populist also talks of issues that deal with the people’s identity, including migration, aspect of nationality, and even regionalism. The politics that focus on identity have been evident in some countries such as Belgium and Italy, which some subnational identities have fused. By dealing with corruption and regionalism, they attack major issues that prevail in European politics. The issues that have been named influence the politics of any nation directly. There are, however, some notable differences that are seen to arise to some new type of populist that can be traced back to the days. It is not a current situation.

The Changing Political Cleavages in Europe and Populism

In this section, the paper discusses how power has grown in recent populist countries and its contributions to the traditional left and right cleavage. It has also discussed the influence that populism has brought, especially on the attitudes of those who vote. It has also discussed how the traditional parties have reacted to these changes seen in voters’ attitudes and, most importantly, the extent to which the traditionalist let populists exploit the changes in voters’ attitudes.

The Changes in The Share of votes in The Various Political Parties

Some bodies have been granted this task of observing the changes in the Share of votes, especially in those signs on the left and those on the extreme right. From their observations, it is evident that there has been a decline in the Share of votes, especially for the moderate parties, including the social democrats, Christian who are democrats and liberal parties. Alternatively, there has been an increased number of vote shares for radicals, especially those at the left. This has been the trend before and after 2017. The practices became evident in 2016 after the election of Donald Trump as the President of the United States.

In making it easy to understand this concept, (Hameleers, et al., 2018) has analyzed the Great Recession that has been seen on the populist parties across the countries in Europe. In discussing this, they have excluded countries such as Spain and Germany. However, it has included countries such as Ireland wherein as much as they have been a severe crisis, there was no populist party formed to address the same. In France, however, there was a party known as Front De Gauche that has not been considered in the analysis that has been presented by the two. In trying to make this concept light, they have provided a distinction between a party that is populist and that which is not. Despite the pitfalls that have been identified, the approach is helpful as it allows for the testing of both a political, economic crisis and how they are seen to affect populism. During the Great Recession, the share of votes of the populist parties was seen to have surged modestly as there were country differences. The great recession studies on immigration in the 2015 crisis revealed that this led to the rise of migration surge, leading to the rise of radical parties. In the same year, the left-wing populist lost most of their votes. It is correct to say that the crises positively affect the shares of votes.

The changes that have Been Evidenced in The Main Dimension of Political Competition.

The political parties that have emerged in Europe due to populism have been associated with the changes in the information of coalitions and the various patterns amongst voters and those who are inside parliaments and have been elected. The immigration and globalization of Europe have been described as Rokkanian Cleavage. The cleavage has a focal point in defence of national, social and political ways of life external to actors who are seen to penetrate the state by exerting rules and exchanging goods.

The political transformations in Austria, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom have played a great role in explaining this concept. This analysis can be verified by comparing the political campaigns held during the1990 and 2000. There were majorly party families, social democrats or liberals during these old times. The social democrats were progressive issues that were cultural. Those who classified themselves as liberals were economically and culturally open. Those who classified themselves as conservatives were culturally closed and open economically. With this division, the greens became conspicuous and played a significant role. The three families created before decided to be open to a certain amount of degree. The greens were somehow economically closed; however, they could still favour cultural diversity. This influence ran through many countries, with the exception of Germany. The named political moves can be associated with an increase of votes and shares for parties that are populist.

The traditional economic left-right dimension has been replaced by what is referred to as the cultural left-right conflict that has been described as GALTAN. Most of the changes in the political space and the primary key themes used in structuring party competition in European countries in the South, for example, Portugal. The countries are seen to be having an economic and political crisis of which both domestic and European components are part. This can be inferred from national election campaigns between 2011 and 2015. The new dimension of politics used had a parallel reflection on conflicts that were being talked of in the European Union. The conflict was revealed because caused by the difference in ideologies between the old and the parties that were formed. The conflicts later extended to the structure, which led to the common phrase of old politics. The divides are seen to be aligned to one another, with the exception of Italy.

There is a significant difference between what is happening in Northern Europe and that in southern Europe. In Northern Europe, the conflicts are characterized by the European Union’s challenges, the threat related to national sovereignty a view of the populist and, most importantly, the mass immigration of people into the countries, which is seen as a threat to the national identity. In northern Europe, especially the political divide experienced, known as the cosmopolitan- Parochial divide. It has caused the attitude of the voters to be shifted towards the policies that support austerity.

The European parliament has played a significant role in politics. The populist on the left and right wings strongly oppose the European Union. This is a symbol of globalization. In 2019 the populist members of parliament were believed to have mobilized the voters, and this was aimed at obtaining anti-European Union majority votes, which is a significant way that affected the operations of the European Union. The traditional right-left cleavage influences the politics that are in the union. The attitude of opposing the European integration was less salient.

Changes In the Attitude of Voters

Then it comes to the distinction between politics and populism. In as much as the populist has tried to fight against corruption, immigration and operation of the European, what have all these actions done to the attitude of those who vote as they are the most important aspects? Various commentators have tried addressing the issue in place. Some of the like (Pirro et al., 2018)give an example of the Afd. He suggests that the emergence of Afd does not correspond to any change in the attitude of voters. The opinion surveys in different countries have provided this information. Politics has been losing salient among voters; they feel like their grievances are still not heard if they vote. The politicians are always focused on their self-interests and not the people.

Education has also played a significant role in ensuring that people know exactly who they are and want. Voters have started chasing leaders based on their policies or the changes they want to bring to the people. From a keen analysis of both the aggregate level and data from the surveys, there is strong support of the positions that have been provided in the paragraphs above. Basing the argument on the survey, in 2013, the citizens of France greatly split along the left-right dimensions.

The political parties and how they are reacting to the changes in the Attitudes of voters

From the changes in voters’ attitudes, the political parties can react in two significant ways, including adjusting the programs in place, or they may decide and ignore the attitudes. There are risks of taking any of the choices they are provided with, especially when the political party is still new. On many occasions, the politicians chose to ignore the attitudes which sometimes affect them strongly. One notable difference is the formation of many populists’ political parties. This has been seen in Sweden, where the revolutionary-democratic party was formed, and the government branded it as a party that supports and over presents the losers from the liberation and the crisis of finance.

The Emergence of Populism

The introduction of this aspect into the sphere has been contributed by the some economic some cultural aspects or sometimes a combination of both, a good example being immigration. It is said that with immigration, the original nationalities may lose their nationality. As mentioned early on, some of them do not work are and therefore regard spa as parasites. The other reasons have been described in the subsequent paragraphs below.

The rise of Inequality and Globalization

Some studies have highlighted the effects of globalization on employment rates amongst people, especially the blue-collar workers in the import industries that are competing. This exposure has caused many people to consider China as an option. It is argued that the advanced economic conditions have significantly increased import competition from China, leading to continued political polarization, especially in the United States. The imports have also affected a lot of political activities in Europe. A good example is a rise in support of nationalistic and radical parties, which has brought about the change in the right of the electorate. International evidence has been surveyed on how it has affected globalization and also the rise of parties that are populist. Arguments have arisen that Latin America is a bit different since the populist is, on many occasions, a left-wing phenomenon. In Europe most commonly practised populism is the one on the right-wing. The populist on the right-wing has played a significant role in exploiting the economic shocks and much anxiety in pushing programs such as the nationalist programs and those for antimigration.

The support of the Brexit referendum introduced in 2016 was high in places that were greatly hit by the globalization of economics. The Chinese imports have been identified as the driver to the divergence in the performance that is taking place in the United Kingdom. This means that immigration did not play a significant role. Moving beyond this referendum, it was shown that the import shock of the Chinese led to increased support for the parties that classify themselves as nationalist. The trade shocks have seen the support of the incumbent politicians in office—the support increases among the skilled workers and when there is also an increase in intensive exports. However, if there is a decrease in the skilled intensive imports, the support is likely to decrease. The inequality that arises leads to the pollicization of economic interests, which are beneficial in the electoral process on the left and adverse effects on the right. Therefore, the parties in the right-wing, in trying to capture the voters’ attention, have tried to focus on values that are characterized by identity. There have been estimations that those who support the populist parties have lost from globalization. There is a possibility that the populist votes are more in areas where there are many cases of inequality. They are likely to be more votes if the inequality is accompanied by financial development.

The economic explanations behind all these Aspects

Populism, on most occasions, has been linked to the crisis. The crisis is a precondition for it happening, and there is a perpetuated perception of the crisis. The election of Donald Trump and the Brexit referendum explains it better. They are linked to the economic crisis and too much anxiety. From that election, it is right to conclude that the unfavourable economic conditions led to the election of the extremists. This aspect has been called the individual and the aggregate of the economic well being of a person, especially in politics or radical voting. Individuals’ hardship is likely to influence radical right and left voting. Such pressures lead to what is known as relative deprivation.

The recent causative agent of the increase of this aspect of populism in politics has been the increasing rate of unemployment, especially during the Great Recession, and this was obtained from regional voting outcomes. The unemployment resulted in negative attitudes towards the immigrants whom the locals view as parasites, and from an analytical perspective, this is an economic factor. When Donald Trump was campaigning for the presidency, one of his slogans was to make America great. In doing this, he promised to build a great wall between the United States and Mexico, the significant immigrants. Immigration into the country during Trump’s time was difficult, and this concept explains it much better.

The Role of Culture

Human beings are social beings, and throughout their interactions, some cultures are built to allow a smooth flow of activities. Once the culture has become intact and the people feel like they are part of the bigger society, they will always need to detach. This concept has been explained by the case of Ireland and Iceland (Hameleers et al., 2018). This is another factor that has led to the rise of populism which has consequently affected the political parties and their ideologies. Due to the difference in culture, there is a call for autonomy, and thus political parties are formed to support these populist parties. Different parts of Europe have different opinions when it comes to this concept. The East view it based on cosmopolitan values where the European Union is seen as a threat to the identity of nationals. As much as some economic factors pushed for the Brexit referendum, some cultural reasons played a significant role. With the introduction of social media, there has also been another important factor that has played a significant role in the spread of populism. Most of these parties are aimed at attracting people’s emotions, and with the help of fake news, this has been possible.

As much as there has been a rise in populism in Politics, especially in Europe, there has been one question that has not been answered correctly. The question is, how do the populists handle power? Are they likely to soften up or remain the same? It should be noted that if politics is linked to culture, there is a possibility that the populist might change the democratic and political systems in a way that favours them. They will try to be part of the bigger coalition as much as possible. This aspect of populism and politics is interesting and should study broadly.


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