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Luke March and Charlotte Rommerskirchen Out of left field? Explaining the variable electoral success of European radical left parties
Party Politics
 January 2015 21: 40-53

 [Available at ]

First paragraph:

Although the collapse of communist regimes in 1989–1991 was regarded as heralding the death-knell for radical left parties (RLPs) (March and Mudde, 2005), the picture is far murkier today. A variety of RLPs have attained electoral visibility across Europe, often becoming direct challengers to the mainstream centre-left (e.g. Lavelle, 2008). There are four principal reasons why RLPs deserve attention. First, although most academic/policy attention has undoubtedly focused on populist/extreme/radical right parties (RRPs) as the key ‘anti-political establishment parties’ (APEs) (e.g. Abedi, 2004Backes and Moreau, 2012Mudde, 2007), electoral support for European RLPs and RRPs is approximately equivalent. For instance, in 2000–2011, the average support of parliamentary RLPs Europe-wide was 8.3 percent, that of RRPs 9.6 percent.1 In many countries, RLP support was stable or increasing even prior to the international financial-economic crisis. Second, RLP influence on European governments is increasing (e.g. Bale and Dunphy, 2011Olsen et al., 2010). Whereas prior to 1989 RLP government participation was very rare, in 1990–2012, 17 RLPs joined or gave legislative support to governments. In early 2012, RLPs were in national coalition in five European states (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Ukraine) and in single-party government in Cyprus. The governmental participation of parties that at best propose significant revisions to neo-liberal economic policies and at worst lack executive experience and have problematic pasts associated with populism and/or extremism poses increasing policy challenges for national and European elites.


Tables and Figures:

Table 1. EU membership opposition and globalization anxiety (partial correlations).
Table 2. Determinants of electoral success for RLP's.

Last Paragraph:

Finally, our work has more general implications for studying party politics. First, since many of the demand-side preconditions for RLP success are omnipresent in European countries, this suggests that, exactly like RRPs, RLPs should be regarded not as marginal aberrancies of contemporary democracy, but rather as actors who express in radical form mainstream concerns (such as globalization anxiety and economic insecurity) and are therefore integral to today’s politics. As such, the key question is not why such parties have survived the fall of the USSR, but why so few have since exploited fertile ground (cf. Mudde, 2010). Second, we have adapted a conceptual framework previously used almost exclusively for RRPs to the study of RLPs and produced a number of eminently testable variables. Neither the framework nor many of the variables are specific to the radical right, radical left or indeed niche parties. There is no reason why such a framework cannot be adapted to augment the scant comparative analysis of why other party families, individually or collectively, succeed or fail.



Last updated Febuary 2015