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The Rise of Populist Right Parties in the 2014 European Parliament Election and Implications for European Integration

  • Chih-Mei LuoEmail author
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Abstract

The eighth European Parliament (EP) election was held in May 2014 across 28 members of European Union (EU). It was widely regarded as the most important election to date for the following reasons. First, it was the first post-euro crisis election at the European level and thus was described as ‘an important test of faith in the European project’ (The Economist, 18 November 2013). The renewal, or retake, of the electorate’s mandate to further European integration would be demonstrated. Second, it was the first post-Lisbon Treaty election. Under the Lisbon Treaty, the newly elected European Parliament is endowed with new powers of legislation, the so-called co-decision powers with the European Commission. As Hix (2013: 1) describes, ‘the next European Parliament will have legislative powers to change the way the single market is regulated, …, to reform the Common Agricultural Policy, to ratify or reject an EU-US free trade agreement, and to scrutinise the implementation of the “fiscal compact” treaty’. Furthermore, the new Parliament will, for the first time, formally ‘elect’ the next Commission president. As the Lisbon Treaty stipulates, the European Council, which will propose a candidate for the Commission president, has to ‘take into account the elections to the European Parliament’ (Ibid.: 1–2). That is to say, the new Parliament co-decides not only the EU’s policies but also its chief executive officer (CEO).

1 Introduction

The eighth European Parliament (EP) election was held in May 2014 across 28 members of European Union (EU). It was widely regarded as the most important election to date for the following reasons. First, it was the first post-euro crisis election at the European level and thus was described as ‘an important test of faith in the European project’ (The Economist, 18 November 2013). The renewal, or retake, of the electorate’s mandate to further European integration would be demonstrated. Second, it was the first post-Lisbon Treaty election. Under the Lisbon Treaty, the newly elected European Parliament is endowed with new powers of legislation, the so-called co-decision powers with the European Commission. As Hix (2013: 1) describes, ‘the next European Parliament will have legislative powers to change the way the single market is regulated, …, to reform the Common Agricultural Policy, to ratify or reject an EU-US free trade agreement, and to scrutinise the implementation of the “fiscal compact” treaty’. Furthermore, the new Parliament will, for the first time, formally ‘elect’ the next Commission president. As the Lisbon Treaty stipulates, the European Council, which will propose a candidate for the Commission president, has to ‘take into account the elections to the European Parliament’ (Ibid.: 1–2).1 That is to say, the new Parliament co-decides not only the EU’s policies but also its chief executive officer (CEO).

The election outcome reveals that anti-EU, anti-immigration populist right parties (PRPs) fared considerably well in a number of EU members, especially in France and the UK where PRPs have become the largest party. All together, they have become the third largest political force in EU politics. The Economist comments such an election result as ‘The Eurosceptic Union’, and the rise of such parties presents an ‘anti-European question’ to the EU to answer. It points out a reality that the EU’s political fault line has been shifting from the conventional left versus right to pro-EU versus anti-EU (26 May 2014a & 18 November 2013). The then French prime minister, Manuel Valls, described this outcome as a ‘political earthquake’, while the then president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, viewed the rise of PRPs in EU politics as the big danger to European integration (BBC, 26 May 2014a; Mudde, 2013: 2).2

Some do not agree the 2014 EP election outcome as a PRP earthquake. For example, Mudde argues that, quantitatively speaking, only 10 of 28 EU members elected PRP members of European Parliament (MEPs), and such parties gained additional seats in six countries while losing seats in seven others (The Washington Post, 30 May 2014). Goodwin also argues that some PRPs, indeed, were more established after the 2014 EP election, but others remained on the margins (New Statesman, 2 January 2014).

It is true that some PRPs performed badly, for example, they did not perform well as expected in Italy, the Netherlands, and Finland. However, it cannot be ignored that such parties have greatly raised in number. As Financial Times points out, the number and breadth of their gains in the 2014 EP election were unexpected (26 May 2014a). Moreover, beyond these actual voters, ‘there is a greater pool of potential supporters who are also receptive to’ PRPs’ appeals (Goodwin, 2011: 4). Secondly, as some critics argue, the point is not how many seats they can acquire in the European Parliament, but rather how much pressure they put on to their national governments. National governments, especially in France and the UK, encounter an acute dilemma of how to respond to policy issues that these parties have great appeals to voters, for example, in immigration and EU-related issues (European Policy Centre, 2014: 3; Gunduz, 2010: 43–4; Fligstein et al., 2012: 116; Howard, 2010: 735; Gunduz, 2010: 43–4; The Economist, 26 May 2014a, 4 January 2014b, 18 November 2013).3 Thirdly, some election experts explain the 2014 EP election result that minority parties tend to perform better in European elections because the electorate feel freer to vote with their heart. If that is the case, then the 2014 EP election result vividly reflects the true feelings of the electorate towards the EU and European integration. Provided that scenario, the sharp rise of PRPs in France and the UK in the 2014 EP election is more worrying than some would comprehend.4 It is not only because France and the UK are the EU’s second and third largest members, respectively, and their domestic politics interact with their EU polices closely, but also because Franco-German axis is the locomotive of European integration, and the likelihood of the UK’s departure from the EU in a referendum is increasing as a result. The developments of Euroscepticism in major EU members thus produce political instability to European integration.

This chapter aims to answer three related questions: first, why can PRPs rise in the 2014 EP election, where tolerance and multiculturalism are the core values of European integration? Second, what kind of messages delivered from their rise in the EU politics to European integration? Third, can European integration, which encountered serious setbacks by anti-European populism in the 2014 EP election, still be a role model for regional integration?

The rest of the chapter is arranged as follows. The first section will review the theoretical accounts of the rise of PRPs. It will follow the discussions of identifying causes of the 2014 EP election results from the competing interpretations in the second section. With causes being identified, the third section will clarify what the election result implies for European integration and whether or not EU policy-makers read them rightly. The conclusion summarizes the findings of this chapter with comments on whether or not the EU can still be a role model of regional integration.

Before entering into the discussions, some definition issues have to be clarified first. To define what populist right parties are is both academically and practically difficult.5 Academically, there lacks a consensus on terminology, as PRPs appear similar in some respects, but different in others. For example, some PRPs are rooted in fascist and anti-democratic grounds, others demand more democracy and the protection of individual rights; some support the free market, others call for more intervention in the economy and nationalization (Arzheimer, 2009: 259; Goodwin, 2011: 12). Practically, they vary significantly on issues according to their local preferences, traditions, and political circumstances. For example, PRPs in France and in the Netherlands hold different views on issues of Israel: gay marriage and Islam. The former, National Front (FN), is anti-Semitic, anti-gay marriage, but not anti-Islam as a religion in principle, while the latter, Freedom Party (PVV), is supportive of Israel, gay marriage, but against Islam. Some PRPs, for example, Belgium’s Vlaams Belang and Italy’s Northern League, support regional autonomy within the EU, while others, the UK’s UKIP and Finland’s Finns Party, reject EU membership entirely (The Economist, 4 January 2014b; Mudde, The Washington Post, 30 May 2014).

Despite these differences and different criteria to divide PRPs, these parties do share core features: that is, they are all populist, nationalistic, anti-EU, and anti-immigration (Mudde, 2013: 3; The Economist, 4 January 2014b). One cross-country study even points out that ‘the appeal on immigration is the only issue that unites all successful populist right parties’ (Ivarsflaten, 2010: 3), and this striking feature leads to some analysts even defining such parties simply as ‘anti-immigrant/immigration parties’ (Van der Brug and Fennema, 2007: 474). This chapter, however, defines PRPs based on their sharing commonalities, which refers to those parties that are populist (as they are anti-establishment) and right (as they emphasize on ethno-nationalism) with anti-immigration, anti-EU attitudes (for their cultural identity ideology) (Rydgren, 2007: 242–6).

2 Theoretical Accounts for Explaining the Rise of PRPs

PRPs emerged in three distinct waves in the post-war years. The first wave began right after the end of the war and was composed of openly fascist and neo-Nazi parties that remained committed to political ideas that flourished in the interwar years. These parties were either banned or received only marginal support. The second wave rose in the 1970s and was mainly anti-tax populist movements. Again, they only attracted to only a handful of support. The third wave developed from the mid-1980s, following a new phase of immigration of 30 million people moving into Europe, and has been seen more sustainable than previous two waves.6 Their persistence at this stage is even described as a ‘normal pathology’ of Western democracies (Mudde, 2004: 541).7 However, the rise of PRPs is not a universal phenomenon. In some countries, such as in Austria, Belgium, and France, PRPs have been growing strikingly, which were able to command more than 10% of national vote, and were even invited to join coalition governments. In other countries, such as in the Netherlands, Germany, and Spain, they had not been electorally successful and labelled as ‘flash parties’ (Goodwin, 2011: 1–3; Rydgren, 2005: 413–4; Van der Brug and Fennema, 2007: 475).

Despite their different fortunes and performances, the third wave of PRPs has been able to command sustainable electoral support in nearly a half of European countries, and this political reality caused what Messina phrases: ‘the most disturbing and intractable challenges to democracies’ (2007: 2–3).

How to explain the persistence of PRPs in contemporary Europe? There are two families of explanations—one focusing on the demand-side factors and the other on supply-side explanations.

2.1 Public Demand-Side Factors

This group explains the electoral support of PRPs from macro-structural factors that have changed voters’ interests, emotions, attitudes, and preferences.

2.1.1 Relative Deprivation/Modernization Losers Account

The relative deprivation thesis is built on people’s frustration arising from declining market situations or from fear of economic decline in the near future. This account argues that such economic frustration and fear, associating with the loss of social status or fear of loss of status, explain why people support PRPs (Rydgren, 2007: 247–8).

The modernization losers account further develops that the rise of PRPs can be understood as ‘the radical effort to undo social change associated with modernization’ (Minkenberg, 2003: 151). Betz (1994: 26–7) argues that the support for PRPs is largely ‘a consequence of a profound transformation of socio-economic and socio-cultural structure of advanced Western European democracies’ from an industrial to a post-industrial economy. Those who cannot cope with the ‘acceleration of economic, social and cultural modernization’ and/or run risks of falling into new underclass, or unemployment, may favour PRPs, as their anxiety, discontent, resentment, and insecurity could only be channelled into support for such kind of parties. Bell, accordingly, describes support for PRPs as ‘politics of frustration’ because it is based on ‘the sour impotence of those who find themselves unable to understand, let alone command, the complex mass society that is the polity today’ (cited from Rydgren, 2007: 248). In practical terms, Minkenberg (2000: 187) describes modernization losers being at ‘the second-to-last fifth’ stratum of society, which is rather secure but still can lose something.

This account echoes with Lipset’s well-known argument that interwar fascist parties were disproportionately supported by old middle class. Empirical studies support the class profile of PRPs’ supporters, but unemployment rates are found not a good predictor for PRPs’ electoral performance. For example, several studies show that PRPs gained very high support from economically insured working and old middle class with lower- and mid-school educational qualifications, while very low support from more secure and higher-paid sections of the middle classes with a university-level education (Goodwin, 2011: 6–9; Ivarsflaten, 2005: 465; Lubbers et al., 2002: 364; Norris, 2005: 139; Arzheimer and Carter, 2006: 422 & 439; Gunduz, 2010: 40; Arzheimer, 2009: 259).8 Also, unemployed people are more likely than others to vote for PRPs (Lubbers et al., 2002: 134). But unemployment rates are not a good predicator for PRPs’ support. For example, a number of cross-national surveys find either insignificant relationship (Kessler and Freeman, 2005: 283; Lubbers et al., 2002: 370–1) or negative relationship (Coffe et al., 2007: 152–3; Arzheimer and Carter, 2006: 437; Knigge, 1998: 249) between unemployment rates and electoral support of PRPs. Swank and Betz (2003: 230–3) find no significant relationship between unemployment rates, slower economic growth, or inflation rates and the electoral support of PRPs, but confirm a significant negative relationship between universal welfare state system and PRPs’ support. Arzheimer (2009: 274) also supports that unemployment benefits can effectively reduce PRPs’ support. On the other hand, Jackman and Volpert (1996: 501), Kestila and Soderlund (2007: 787), Arzheimer (2009: 274), and Rydgren and Ruth (2011: 202, 2013: 723) confirm a positive relationship between unemployment rates and PRPs’ support. Boomgaarden and Vliegenthart (2007: 412) and Golder (2003a: 525) further find that unemployment correlates with PRPs only when it interacts with immigration issue. Anderson’s case study on Denmark and Norway also suggests that unemployment would correlate with PRPs’ support when it became a serious political problem in elections (1996: 506).

2.1.2 Ethnic Competition Thesis

This account argues that immigration issue is the main, if not the only, reason for voters’ support for PRPs, because they want to reduce competition from immigrants over scarce resources such as job market, housing, welfare state benefits, or even the marriage market.9 Following these arguments, it is assumed that PRPs’ support will be more manifest in areas where there is high presence of immigrants, and among voters of lower-educated, unskilled, male voters who are confronted competition from immigrants foremost (Norris, 2005: 11; Fennema, 2005: 1–24; Mudde, 2007: 220; Goodwin, 2011: 16; Lubbers and Scheepers, 2000: 63; Kriesi et al., 2006: 921; De Koster et al., 2012: 15; Rydgren and Ruth, 2013: 723; John et al., 2005: 14–5).

A number of empirical studies support this account. For example, Knigge (1998: 249), Lubbers et al. (2002: 370–1), Swank and Betz (2003: 230), Coffe et al. (2007: 153), Anderson (1996: 507), Van der Brug et al. (2005: 562–3), Rydgren and Ruth (2011: 222–3), and Arzheimer (2009: 274) find there is a positive relationship of the number of immigrants, and asylum seekers, with PRPs’ support. But some researchers point out that such co-relationship between the number of immigrants and PRPs is conditional. For example, Golder (2003b: 454) found that it is significant only when unemployment rate exceeded 1.3%. Rydgren (2008: 737), Williams (2006: 5), and Givens (2005: 78) also found that immigration is effective to PRPs’ support only when this issue links with other meaningful issues such as criminality, social unrest, unemployment, and economic crisis. Fligstein et al. (2012: 116) suggest that the effects of immigration depend on how the electorate perceive of it, rather than the actual threat of immigrants. On the other hand, Kestila and Soderlund (2007: 789–90) and Norris (2005: 169–172) find no significant relationship between the two, and Rydgren (2007: 250) is also critical of these surveys as ‘an ecological fallacy’, because ‘most competition is more local in character’, while most surveys are conducted at country level. His study, using individual-level data, shows that there are country variances between immigration issue and PRPs’ support, for example, its correlation is significant in Denmark and the Netherlands, but not in Austria, Belgium, France, and Norway (Ibid.: 250–1).

2.1.3 Political Discontent

This account claims that the growing political alienation and discontent in Western European democracies have created an audience who are receptive to anti-establishment and anti-system appeals and thus provided opportunities for PRPs to gain support from protest voters. Some empirical studies, indeed, support this account that voters who are dissatisfied with the political establishment or have lower trust and confidence in politicians and democratic institutions are more likely to support PRPs (Kessler and Freeman, 2005: 283; Lubbers et al., 2002: 371; Norris, 2005: 157–9; Oesch, 2008: 368). However, Van der Brug et al. (2005: 77) find no significant relationship between protest voters and PRPs’ electoral support. Furthermore, it is argued that protest voters play more important roles in PRPs’ breakthrough elections than in subsequent elections, as Rydgren (2007: 251) confirms this tendency in the case of France’s Front National. On the other hand, Norris (2005: 164) disagrees with this account as mistrust of politicians and political institutions has been widespread in many Western European democracies, but PRPs are not successful in every country. Also, as Rydgren (2007: 251) points out, this account cannot clarify why protest voters would turn to PRPs, instead of any other opposition party. Therefore, protest vote is ‘a concept that in itself contains biased ambiguities’ (Van der Brug and Fennema, 2007: 479).

In short, demand-side explanations share one feature in common that, whether they are from socio-economic, socio-cultural, or political perspective, they are in different ways based on a strain or grievance theory, focusing on objective conditions that have caused voters’ grievances and discontents (Rydgren, 2005: 415). Demand-side explanations have been criticized for their limitations as ‘relationship between belief and action is complex’ and voters’ attitudes and interests ‘changes more frequently and less predictably than issue preferences’ (Ivarsflaten, 2005: 467). Other researchers thus turn to the so-called supply-side approach.

2.2 Supply-Side Factors

This group explains the rise of PRPs from political opportunity structures—electoral system, elite responses, media, and so on and party organization and programmes—their ideology and discourse that PRPs offer.

2.2.1 Political Opportunity Structures

This account argues that opportunities from de-alignment and realignment processes, from convergence between established parties in political space, from open electoral system with low entrance thresholds, from mass media coverage, and from presence or absence of elite allies all provide favourable political structures for PRPs to emerge and develop (Rydgren, 2007: 252–7).10

For de-alignment and realignment processes, this account suggests that contemporary Western European democracies are characterized with two cleavage dimensions. One is economic, which concerns class issues, interest distribution between workers and capitalists, and the subsequent issue of state intervention in the economy; the other is socio-cultural, which concerns values and issues such as immigration, law and order, abortion, and so on (Rydgren, 2004: 489, 2005: 420–1). In recent decades, it has been witnessing socio-cultural cleavage dimension has increased its salience at the expanse of the economic one. This realignment process provides an opportunity for PRPs’ rise as they are able to appeal to working-class voters, who used to be conventional voters of the centre-left parties in socio-economic politics. As Lipset argues, manual workers have been traditionally at odds with the left parties’ positions on socio-cultural issues, but this did not affect their voting behaviour as long as they identified with socialist parties’ economic positions. With economic cleavage dimension losing its salience and socio-cultural one gaining its salience, socialist parties found them more difficult to hold their traditional voters as working-class voters are receptive to PRPs’ appeals on socio-cultural issues. Therefore, it is argued that PRPs are less successful in countries where centre-left parties or institutions, such as trade unions, have retained strong hold on working-class voters (Oesch, 2008: 353; Eatwell, 2000: 407; Rydgren, 2004: 490–1).

For convergence thesis, it has been argued that convergence between established parties expands opportunities for PRPs, as this may produce a feeling of established parties ‘being all the same’ and fuel voters’ distrust and discontent in politicians and parties, so as to create a niche market for PRPs to mobilize protest voters (Rydgren, 2005: 423). Most empirical studies tend to support this account, as Van der Brug et al. (2005: 562–3), Abedi (2002: 551), Arzheimer and Carter (2006: 439) all found correlation between PRPs’ electoral success and the convergence of mainstream parties. Only Norris (2005: 192–6) found no support for the convergence thesis.

For electoral system and entrance thresholds, this account argues that the openness or closure of electoral systems is critical to PRPs’ development. It is believed that a political system that has an entrance threshold of 2% or 4% would make a difference for the emergence of PRPs (Rydgren, 2007: 254). This account received mixed support from empirical studies. For example, Van der Brug et al. (2005: 568) and Arzheimer and Carter (2006: 439) found PRPs were not particularly successful under proportional electoral systems, while Swank and Betz (2003: 238), Jackman and Volpert (1996: 501), and Golder (2003b: 461) found PRPs did get more votes with proportional electoral systems.

For access to the mass media, many researchers argue that media, including mass media and the internet, play a vital role in the developments of PRPs, as ‘action of gatekeepers produce the first and most basic selection mechanism’ (Koopmans, 2004: 8). For example, Rydgren (2006: 30–1) points out that Sweden’s PRP—New Democracy—has benefited greatly from a variety of commercial TV channels developing in the 1990s, and Cammaerts (2009: 555) found that the internet is instrumental in Belgium’s case. Eatwell (2005: 101–20) also argues that French Front National reached its electoral breakthrough shortly after its leader was given access to state television. The different attitudes between Danish and Swedish newspapers on publishing PRPs’ articles, the former more generous while the latter more warily, are believed to be a reason for why PRPs have been more successful in the former than in the latter (Rydgren, 2004: 474). Plasser and Ulram (2003: 40) and Boomgaarden and Vliegenthart (2007: 413) also confirm the positive relationship of media coverage on immigration issues with PRPs’ support. However, Green-Pedersen and Krogstrup’s case study on Denmark and Sweden suggests that mass media only has limited power in setting political agenda. To a large extent, its effects depend on how issues that media reported fit with party competition and electoral strategy (2008: 628–9).

For presence or absence of elite allies, there are two opposing hypothesis on this relationship. One is that cooperation with established parties would lend legitimacy to PRPs and result in more electoral success for them (Dahlstrom and Sundell, 2012: 354). The other, on the contrary, argues that PRPs’ cooperation with established parties would result in losing voters as they would find themselves more difficult to use anti-establishment strategy and mobilize protest voters, and eventually facing shrinking niches in the political market (Van der Brug et al., 2005: 548). Empirical studies, so far, have been inconclusive over this relationship (Rydgren, 2007: 255–6).

2.2.2 Party Organization

This thesis argues that, even if political opportunity structures are favourable, it still depends on how well PRPs can exploit these opportunities (De Lange and Art, 2011; Mudde, 2007: 264; Betz, 1998: 8–9). The ideology/discourse they present,11 the party organization they operate, and the internal resources they can employ are all critical to PRPs’ capability to rise and to develop (Mudde, 2007: 275–6; Lubbers et al., 2002: 361; Rydgren, 2007: 256–7, 2005: 432). Mudde (2007: 275–6) and Eatwell (2005: 101–20) even argue that the personal charisma of PRPs’ leaders is a major factor for PRPs’ electoral success. However, Van der Brug et al. (2005: 542 & 567) disagree with this argument, as successful politicians ‘are easily called charismatic, and an unsuccessful politician will never be called charismatic’, and this reasoning, therefore, becomes circular.

In spite of the fact that significance of party organization factor to PRPs’ rise has been recognized, there lacks systematic research on party dynamics being conducted (Rydgren, 2007: 257).

In sum, demand-side approaches of relative deprivation/modernization losers, ethnic competition, and political discontent derive from a macro-perspective. Supply-side accounts of political opportunity structures and party organization explain PRPs’ development from a micro-level analysis. As with its use of terminology, there lacks consensus on the explanations of PRPs’ rise, despite numerous literature and empirical studies mentioned above.12

3 Competing Interpretations for the 2014 EP Election: Identifying Causes

How can these theoretical accounts guide us to understand the rise of PRPs in the 2014 EP election? In accordance with these accounts, there are three different kinds of interpretations for explaining the 2014 EP election result.

3.1 Economic Interpretation: The Euro Crisis Factor

Echoed with the relative deprivation/modernization losers account, policy practitioners and media commentators tend to interpret the 2014 EP election result from an economic perspective. For example, The Economist explains the election result that ‘after years of the euro crisis, the biggest danger to the European project is economic stagnation’ that has caused political rejection to European integration (26 May 2014a). Another leading newspaper, Financial Times, similarly interprets the election result as the increasing discontent of Europeans for the EU as a consequence of the euro crisis that has led to record unemployment (26 May 2014a). The then president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, also maintains such economic explanations that ‘this election follows the biggest financial, economic and ultimately social crisis in decades’ (Financial Times, 26 May 2014a).

On the surface, the EU’s economic context seemed to justify the economic interpretation. The EU’s overall unemployment reached 24.4 million, 10% on average, in October 2014. The high level of unemployment is just part of the EU’s economic picture. The European Commission points out in its annual report that one in four Europeans is at risk of poverty because of the EU’s fragile economic situation, even when ‘unemployment is gradually reducing’. This is because increasing numbers of part-time and low-wage jobs mean that finding a job cannot lift workers out of poverty and no longer equate with a decent standard of living (EU Observer, 22 January 2014e). The situations in France and the UK were especially alarming. Unemployment in France reached a record high of 3488 million people, 10.5%, in November 2014 (EU Observer, 26 December 2014a). On the other hand, according to the OECD report (Andre et al., 2013: 13), labour market reforms in the UK have eased the increase in unemployment, but this has come at the price of large under-employment and low wages. Both income inequality and absolute poverty were increasing, while social transfer was being cut, which all contributed to the fact that the UK is one with the widest gap of income growth among OECD countries. In an EU survey, French people were the most anxious and pessimistic about the economic future. Sixty per cent of the surveyed responded that they would have a darker future. Another major EU country that was also more worried about the economic future was the UK, with 45% of respondents holding a pessimistic outlook (EU Observer, 25 July 2014b). Against this backdrop, it is therefore not surprising why PRPs in France and the UK rose to become the largest party in the 2014 EP election.

However, such an economic interpretation cannot explain why Italy, another EU major country which was also pessimistic, 48%, about its economic future, was not witnessed the rise of PRPs. Neither can it explain that it was not PRPs but radical left parties that did well in the euro crisis-hit EU members in the 2014 EP election (BBC, 27 May 2014b).13 An economic interpretation, understandably, is a plausible explanation after the euro crisis. However, such interpretation, which had been popular since Hitler’s rise to power in Weimar Germany in the early 1930s (Mudde, 2014), cannot fit in neatly with the whole picture across the EU.

Different from policy-makers and practitioners’ economic interpretation, some academics, following the ethnic competition thesis, interpret the 2014 EP election result from a socio-cultural perspective.

3.2 Socio-cultural Interpretation: Immigration Factor

Mudde (2014) explains the rise of PRPs in the 2014 EP election as a post-materialist phenomenon, which emphasizes socio-cultural issues and is involved in identity politics, while economic issues are secondary. He argues that the role that the euro crisis played in this election is in a socio-cultural way. PRPs framed the EU’s bailout policies with their nationalistic and populist rhetoric and most importantly framed the crisis leading to immigrants from crisis-hit countries that caused problems to their economy and culture. Goodwin (2011: 9–11) also agrees that, although PRPs voters are mainly from economically insured working and lower middle classes and they have high level of dissatisfaction with and distrust of political elites, economics and political protest are not their major motives to vote for PRPs. According to the European Social Survey, it is the immigration issue to be the ‘most important factor’ of voters to support PRPs. These voters are not simply protest voters or merely the losers of globalization but are concerned about immigration and rising ethnic and cultural diversity as threats to their culture, national identity, and the way of life.14

In terms of policy issue, immigration, indeed, is the most concerned issue singled out by PRPs voters in numerous surveys. In the 2014 EP election campaign, all PRPs revealed explicit hostile languages to immigrants, to ethnic diversity, and to multiculturalism, which all were argued to derive from the EU and European integration. For example, the leader of National Front, France’s PRP, Marine Le Pen, who won the largest share of votes in the election, accused the EU’s ‘posted workers directive’, which allows workers from poor EU countries to work in France and put thousands of French people out of work, and thus appealed to recovering ‘our identity from the EU’ (The Irish Times, 2 May 2014; Financial Times, 26 May 2014a).

However, socio-cultural interpretation cannot explain why in Italy and Spain, where both countries have been struggling with the surge of African immigrants,15 PRPs were not successful in the 2014 EP election. This inconsistency between the surge of immigrants and the electoral success of PRPs is more evident in the case of Germany, which has topped the EU list as the choice of immigrants and asylum seekers since 2012 (EU Observer, 26 August 2015c), but its PRPs have constantly failed to progress in elections.16 Neither can this interpretation explain why PRPs gained as much as their losses in elections between 2005 and 2013 (The Economist, 4 January 2014b) but were able to make a breakthrough in the 2014 EP election. More importantly, if the immigration issue was as vital as PRPs and their voters keep claiming, and has become the most concerned issue by the electorate since the EU’s enlargement in 2003 as Goodwin argues (2011: 14), why the same PRPs suffer from instability of electoral support, for example, National Front performed badly in elections in the last decade while UKIP’s votes were halved a year later in the UK general election from the 2014 EP election?

The inapplicability of socio-cultural interpretation across countries and across different period of times exposes its limitations. These unanswered questions lead to the third interpretation emerging—the political explanation.

3.3 Interpretation of Trust Crisis: Disillusion with Political Establishment from the Euro Crisis Mismanagement

Several commentators from think-tanks and a few from the academia believe that EU political elites’ mismanagement of the euro crisis has caused the collapse of the electorate’s confidence in political establishment and the deep disillusion with the EU. For example, Jamie Bartlett, the director of Demos, a UK think-tank, explains that it is neither economics nor culture, but a wider collapse of trust in the political establishment that caused the rise of PRPs in the EU politics (EU Observer, 28 January 2014f). Stratfor, a US think-tank, also argues that ‘the wide-spread criticisms on the German-imposed solutions to the crisis, from both bailed-out and financing countries, caused the loss of legitimacy for European mainstream parties, which fell in line with the German consensus’, and ‘this anti-establishment sentiment for protesting European political elites’ has facilitated the rise of PRPs and provoked the first serious political debacle in the eurozone (24 March 2011). European Policy Centre, a Brussels-based think-tank, explains that, from the 2014 EP election results, it shows that a financial crisis has turned into a political crisis because of a representation crisis in EU members and disenchantment with European leaders (2014: 2–4).

Some academics echo with such interpretation. For example, Collignon (2015), Papadopoulou (2014: 11), and Karakasis (2014: 5–6) all interpret the 2014 EP election result as European voters’ disagreement to, rejection to, and distrust with the political establishment through ballots due to their euro crisis mismanagement. As Lifland (2013: 20) points out, the EU’s, mainly Germany’s, euro crisis management, which has been criticized by both bailed-out and financing countries, has exacerbated Euroscepticism that characterizes PRPs. Karakasis (2014: 5–6) further warns that the image of the EU and the euro have become synonymous to austerity and existing poverty, and if European leaders do not read into the reasons of the 2014 EP election result correctly, they may face bigger surprise in future elections.

Caritas, a pan-European charity, explains further the real picture of the EU’s austerity in its ‘Crisis Monitoring Report’. It points out that the EU’s management to the euro crisis is structural reforms and austerity. When these reforms translated into reality, the real pictures are that pensioners and disabilities had to wait for their allowances and pensions for months because there are no enough public servants to process all the claims because austerity has made public sector cut. This had great impact on the most vulnerable at risk, who had no part in decisions causing the euro crisis, but it was them who paid the highest price (EU Observer, 27 March 2014c, 19 February 2015a). An official report from the OECD also reminds the EU that public services benefit every income group, but they have a larger effect in lower-income groups. Austerity could hit the poor the hardest, as they rely on public services much more than other income groups, and thus public services and redistribution policies are crucial in alleviating poverty (Andre et al., 2013: 20–1). In his report, Alejandro Cercas, a Spanish MEP, backed by the EP’s employment committee, accuses that austerity being imposed by troika—the EU, ECB, IMF, breached the European Social Charter and had caused a ‘social tsunami’.

The euro crisis management, indeed, was criticized fiercely in the 2014 election campaign. For example, one slogan from National Front is to end austerity policies (Financial Times, 26 May 2014a). The interpretation of political disillusion and trust crisis seems to be in line with more empirical evidences.

According to the Eurobarometer survey in July 2014, over half, 52%, feels their voice does not count in the EU, down from 66% last year, while the number believing their voice is heard has increased significantly from 13% to 42%. Pollsters believe this change should be attributed to the shocking result of the 2014 EP election. On the other hand, trust at both the EU and national levels remained low, only 31% for the EU. The same figure in 2007, before the euro crisis, was 57%. Interestingly, low trust in the political establishment did not reduce the public’s support for the euro in principle. Majority of Europeans, 55%, viewed the euro in a positive light, and the support for the euro has raised even in the euro crisis-hit countries, such as Portugal, Cyprus, and Greece (EU Observer, 25 July 2014b).

Furthermore, in Portugal, Spain, and Italy, where unemployment, especially youth unemployment, remained very high, there appeared little risk of the rise of anti-EU, anti-euro, and anti-immigration PRPs, as it has been seen in France, the UK, and Denmark. In a survey on six largest members, which accounted for 70% of the EU’s population, Spain (63% of respondents) and Italy (64%) held much more positive attitudes than those in the UK (only 51%) and France (55%) (EU Observer, 2 June 2015b). And the electorate’s trust in the political establishment remained solid in most euro crisis-hit countries, except for Greece. By the end of 2014, a Eurobarometer survey shows that faith in Portugal’s mainstream parties remained strong as it has been in the case of Spain, Italy, and Ireland.17 Only Greece is different, where people’s faith in the political establishment has been discredited in clientelism.18 Antonio Costa Pinto, a professor of Lisbon University, explains the survey results on Portugal in that ‘political parties are … strong in their ability to frame the attitudes of society’ (Financial Times, 4 December 2014b).

These surveys show that the electorate were not as anti-euro, neither were they that anti-immigration even in their economic hardships, as PRPs claim so. Rather, they lack trust in the political establishment from their performance in the euro crisis management and their subsequent economic governance. In countries, where ruling parties failed the electorate’s expectations, the political establishment lost people’s trust in politics as a result. For example, one argument that National Front criticized the government most is that President Hollande was elected on the promise to end austerity and create jobs, but his government has been putting its effort to austerity and reform public sector since his election. Not surprisingly, Hollande’s popularity lowering to a record low of 12% and National Front progressing to become the largest party in the 2014 EP election have been witnessed (The Economist, 26 May 2014a; EU Observer, 26 December 2014a). As Niblett (2015) argues, ‘the quality of individual political leadership’ is a more convincing account than a pure economic perspective when explaining the public disenchantment with the political establishment.

It is in these countries where political leadership was viewed as incapable and disappointing, PRPs became the electorate’s protest outlet and rose sharply as a result, as can be seen in France, the UK, and Greece. By contrast, in countries where ruling parties have a strong hold on the electorate and policy debates, the political establishment dominated electoral markets, and PRPs failed to gain large and stable bases of electoral support, as can be seen in Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Ireland.19 Unfavourable economic conditions, such as the euro crisis, and cultural factors, such as controversy over immigration, indeed, are not sufficient explanations for the rise of PRPs in the 2014 EP election. They only provided a political scene for ruling parties to demonstrate their governing capability and to fulfil their electoral promises. As Kulinska (2010: 58) argues, nationalistic tendencies and PRPs exist in domestic politics for decades, but they were marginalized on the European scene. Thus, PRPs’ significant rise in the 2014 EP election was not a constant phenomenon either within the EU or within individual members, even in countries where PRPs grew to the largest parties in the election. Moreover, as Kulinska points out, the rise of PRPs was not due to their changes of ideology or behaviours; they continued to follow the same pattern and strategy of anti-immigration, anti-EU, and strong nationalistic appeals as their predecessors (2010: 60). Therefore, the supply-side explanations are not applicable to the 2014 EP election case. Their sharp rise in the 2014 EP election was provoked by the public demand side—the electorate’s disillusion with the political establishment from their performance of the euro crisis management over years, which accumulated into a political trust crisis eventually. Thus, the whole picture of the 2014 EP election result is more related with the interaction between the changes of political trust and PRPs’ electoral support. This can explain why PRPs’ support varies in different EU counties in the 2014 election and in different periods of time in the same country. However, this is not to say the EU’s governance is irrelevant to the 2014 EP election. In the most euro crisis-hit countries, anti-austerity radical left parties gained momentum in a relatively short period of time, such as Spain’s Podemos Party and Greece’s Syriza.

4 Implications for European Integration

After identifying the causes of PRPs’ rise in the 2014 EP election, what does it imply for European integration and what does it suggest to national and EU policy-makers?

4.1 Implications for the EU and European Integration

When commenting on what the 2014 EP election results imply for European integration, Fabian Zuleeg, the head of European Policy Centre, a Brussels-based think-tank, points out that they ‘mean major difficulties’ for European integration, ‘particularly because of France’, as it is a co-founder and an engine of this project. The senior advisor of the French Institute of International Relations, Dominique Moisi, a well-known French political scientist, comments that ‘the legitimacy of Europe is weakened, the legitimacy of France in Europe is weakened further’ (Reuters, 27 May 2014). Indeed, as the history of European integration in the 1960s demonstrates, any projects cannot be advanced if there lacks the commitment and support of France. Moreover, the rise of Eurosceptical PRPs in the 2014 EP election implies that any move to deepen integration was hard to envisage, as European integration would encounter ‘a period of political stagnation’ (European Policy Centre, 2014: 4–5) and political mainstream parties were said to try to attract the anti-EU vote (Financial Times, 26 May 2014a). The rise of PRPs, as Cakmak and Postaci rightly point out, threatens not only immigrants but also the very roots of European integration—‘unity in diversity’ (2013: 1). European integration has been linked closely by PRPs with ethnic and cultural diversity and described as a threat to national identity and economic welfare (Cakmak and Postaci, 2013: 1; John et al., 2005: 14–5). Fligstein et al. (2012: 106–7) comment such developments, after European integration has been developing for decades, are counter-evidence to neofunctionalism proposed by Haas, as it has not spilled over to the development of a European identity but spilled back to the emphasis on national identifications, which became popular after the euro crisis. Gunduz (2010: 37) further comments that, with the EU celebrating its 50th anniversary, paradoxically, we have witnessed the rise of PRPs. It is surely not a right direction for European integration, because it manifestly violates the Treaty of the European Union and the Treaty of Lisbon regarding the regulations of fundamental and human rights.20 How to effectively respond to this development, as he argues, becomes the most important issue faced by European integration (Ibid.: 45).

The clarification of PRPs’ rise in the 2014 EP election in the previous section—disillusion with political establishment and political trust crisis—indicates that the political establishment, not economic hardships nor immigration policy, should account for this policy challenge. The (mis)management of the euro crisis by European political elites, which has hit the poor and the most vulnerable seriously, has deepened the divide of winners and losers of European integration and highlighted the issue of economic justice and evenness of European integration. As Fligstein et al. (2012: 118–9) rightly point out, ‘the ultimate fate of the EU is how ordinary citizens view the role of Europe in their lives’, because after all, democracies follow the preferences of the electorate and PRPs reflect such perceptions. Therefore, this chapter argues that the rise of PRPs in the 2014 EP election is not the real threat to European integration. They were just the reflection of voters’ disillusion and sentimental outlets and should not be overestimated. It is the distributional justice and fairness of both economic benefits and costs derived from European integration that caused the collapse of the electorate’s trust in the political establishment. As Fligstein et al. (Ibid.) argue, European integration has created far more economic and political integration than social and cultural projects that unify Europe. Due to the lack of social and cultural integration, it is thus not surprising that supporters and opponents of European integration accord with the fault lines of economic classes. Those who support European integration most, usually with a European identity, come from higher end of socio-economic group, for example, owners of businesses, managers, professionals, and other white-collar workers, the so-called winners. On the contrary, those who support European integration least and have lower degree or even none of European identity come from the lower end of economic classes, for example, blue-collar, low white-collar, services and older workers who economically benefit less from market opening and economic liberalization and may even be the victims of it, the so-called losers (Ibid.: 109–10 & 118). They are consequently the target group that PRPs appeal to. The fact that the support for and objection to European integration correspond to the divide of economic classes implies the imperative of addressing to the distributional justice of European integration by national and EU policy-makers, which was worsened after the mismanagement of the euro crisis. The deterioration of distributional justice has damaged the legitimacy of both national and EU governance and accumulated into a trust crisis for the political establishment.

4.2 Policy Responses: Did Policy-Makers Read the Message Right?

After the EP election results were revealed, the French prime minister, Manuel Valls, responded that ‘the EU must react’ to the breakthrough of PRPs. France’s president, François Hollande, perceives the rise of PRPs as seizing on the ‘disenchantment’ with Europe. He, accordingly, proposed strengthening the leadership for the eurozone governance by six EU founding members so as to provide more support to growth and employment (EU Observer, 20 July 2015e; Financial Times, 26 May 2014a). His call for redirecting the eurozone governance from the current austerity and structural reforms to growth and employment was echoed with some practitioners. For example, Alejandro Cercas, a Spanish MEP who was in charge of a social survey across the EU for the European Parliament, calls for an EU job recovery plan, and those social benefits which had been cut by structural reforms should be brought back (EU Observer, 14 February 2014d). Caritas, a pan-European charity, suggests EU decision-makers to shift away from its focus on austerity because ‘[it] is not working’ and calls for other policy alternatives. From its empirical experiences across the EU, it also reminds EU decision-makers to assess the social impact of any economic measures before implementing them (EU Observer, 27 March 2014c, 19 February 2015a).

These initiatives for policy change received supports from a few of academics. For example, Papadopoulou (2014: 12) contends that the EU needs to change its policy direction to aim at boosting growth because the only way that the EU could gain back its credibility is to serve citizens’ interests first, not just require them to adjust to the euro crisis. Collignon (2015) also agrees that the right medicine to the euro crisis management is not austerity but to set up an economic government to stimulate growth, stabilize financial markets, and restore social welfare. Liakopoulos (2014: 15) similarly argues that EU leaders and mainstream parties should regain their lost voters by redefining Europe’s direction to introducing a big investment plan in quality jobs and to a social Europe, which cares for its citizens.

Indeed, as argued above, the economics is just a half of the answer to the challenge of PRPs’ rise; the other, and more important, half is the social dimension of European integration—distributional justice of economic gains and prices. From the outset, European integration is not just an economic project of producing winners and losers, although economic integration is the major means to its aims. It is, in nature, a political project aimed for pursing perpetual peace and prosperity for Europe by its architects. The neglect of a social Europe would counteract the gains from an economic Europe and lead to a political Europe disintegrated, which reflects in the rise of PRPs, and eventually harm the core of European integration—unifying Europe. It is for these reasons that this chapter supports policy suggestions from Barslund et al. (2015: 1–3) and Frank Vandenbroucke (2015). The former suggest the EU to create a European unemployment insurance (EUI) that could direct financial flows to the unemployed whenever they are in Europe and support EU members that suffer from increasing unemployment. This could be a way to stress to social dimension of European integration and be seen as a direct solidarity link between the EU and European citizens. The latter, a former Belgium’s social affair minister, suggests the EU to prioritize the agenda of ‘Social Investment Package’ on education, training, and skills,21 at the highest level of budget, which has been slipping down in EU policy-making recently because on its emphasis on structural reforms and fiscal disciplines.

How are these calls for policy change from France and suggestions from practitioners and academics perceived by the German and EU policy-makers? Right after the elections, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, did not respond to the French call directly, but noted that high unemployment did damage political trust in the EU in some countries (Reuters, 27 May 2014). A year later, however, the French and German economy minister co-published the ‘Gabriel-Macron’ proposal, without treaty changes, to push further eurozone integration by allowing the eurozone to have an institution with its own budget and own revenues through taxing, in all but name an economic government (EU Observer, 4 June 2015d) to coordinate the divergent economic performance of euro members.

Policy change can also be traced from the EU’s new initiatives. The newly elected president of the European Commission following the 2014 EP election, Jean-Claude Juncker, claims that his top priority is to create jobs and growth. In January 2015, his Commission proposed to establish the European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) to mobilize at least €315 billion investment in Europe in the following three years. After being approved by the European Council and Parliament, the EFSI was scheduled in operation from September 2015.22

Another observable policy change of the Juncker Commission is its address to the idea of a social Europe. Juncker explains in his twitter that his goal is to reduce the divide between the EU and ordinary people and to highlight the social dimension of the EU is crucial to achieve this aim. European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills, and Labour Mobility, Marianne Thyssen, further illustrates in a speech that ‘a new start for Social Europe’ implies ‘fair and balanced growth that leads to the creation of decent, quality jobs’ so as to promote ‘upward social convergence’ (European Commission, Announcements on 19 June 2015). The Commission swiftly revived social dialogue between EU executive, employers, and trade union, explained as necessary in the making of new economic governance of ‘social market economy’ (EurActic.Com, 6 March 2015).

Strengthening the eurozone leadership through a coordinating economic institution and setting up the EFSI , viewed by this chapter, are right policy responses to the rise of PRPs and can demonstrate policy-makers capable of having strong hold on directing an economic Europe. However, concrete elements of a social Europe are missing. The effects of reviving social dialogue remain to be seen, and initiatives that address to economic fairness and distributional justice are absent. Without addressing to the social dimension of European integration, a recovering euro economy, underpinned by the EFSI , would not guarantee the fall of PRPs. Neither would policy-makers find it sufficient to restore the legitimacy of European integration and the political trust of the electorate.

5 Conclusion: Is the EU Still a Role Model of Regional Integration?

This chapter explores why PRPs rose in the 2014 EP election and identifies the causes of this election result from competing theoretical accounts. To explain the electoral performance of PRPs, indeed, as Arzheimer rightly points outs, ‘persistent country effects prevail’ (2009: 259). It is then difficult to provide a universal explanation to various election results across different EU countries. After examining competing interpretations, however, this chapter argues that the interpretation of disillusion and trust crisis in the political establishment from the euro crisis mismanagement is more applicable to explain the whole picture across the EU. It agrees with Martin Schulz, the president of the EP, that ‘the result conveyed the electorate are disappointed and lost trust and hope’ (The Wall Street Journal, 27 May 2014). Such deep political disillusion and trust crisis derived from the long neglect of distributional justice arising from European economic and monetary integration, which became acute after the mismanagement of the euro crisis, termed as ‘social tsunami’. The shocking results of the 2014 EP election thus could be interpreted as protest vote against the political establishment. Therefore, the audiences that PRPs can appeal to were not just ‘losers of modernity’ but rather wider social strata, as Van der Brug and Fennema rightly remind (2009: 589).

It is at this point that the trust crisis in the political establishment, reflected in the rise of PRPs in the 2014 EP election, should not be underestimated. It could imply for a stagnation, even a spill back of European integration, and eventually undermine the legitimacy of the whole European project. This chapter, accordingly, suggests that policy redirection from the current austerity to economic recovery and addressing to social dimension of European integration at the same time are required in order to regain the credence of good governance from the electorate for both national and EU policy-makers. Policy responses taken by the EU, so far, conform to the former suggestion, but not to the latter.

Having celebrated its 50th anniversary only few years ago, European integration now has witnessed the rise of anti-EU political forces. This is not just counter-evident to neofunctionalism but also highlights the insufficiency of intergovernmentalism. For an advanced model of regional integration such as the EU, one-sided emphasis on economic integration, an economic Europe, without addressing to social dimension, a social Europe, was doomed to result in anti-forces, as economic integration only produces winners and losers, while distributional fairness and justice that are felt by a wider part of the electorate are left untouched. European integration, as history shows, has been experiencing numerous ups and downs, and this is not the first time for this movement to encounter a crisis. However, it is the first time that European integration encountered such a serious political trust crisis of Euroscepticism that allows anti-EU PRPs to make an electoral breakthrough in the 2014 EP election. Such developments are ironic to the achievements that European integration has fulfilled. For a long time, the EU has been a role model of regional integration for the rest of the world to emulate. This is because it is not only the most advanced model but also the most successful one. One key to its advancement and success is the common sharing of the core values of European integration between the political elites and the public, and its self-learning capability from trial and error. However, such a common value-sharing, which political trust is built on, has been jeopardized by the deteriorating distributional justice. Whether or not key policy-makers can rightly read the massage from the 2014 election result and rectify its mismanagement through self-learning once again will determine how far European integration can go and demonstrate to the rest of the world that whether or not it is still qualified as a role model of regional integration.

Footnotes

  1. 1.

    Because of these new powers that are endowed to the new European Parliament and the new change to the production of the Commission president, Simon Hix argues that the 2014 EP elections is ‘a genuinely “European” election’ and could significantly reduce the EU’s democratic deficits consequently. See Simon Hix (2013), ‘Why the 2014 European elections matter: The key votes in the 2009–2013 European Parliament’, European Policy Analysis, Issue 15, p. 11, for more details.

  2. 2.

    The other group that also gained significantly in the election was the anti-austerity, anti-EU radical left parties in the euro crisis-hit countries such as Greece, Spain, and Portugal. Interestingly, the electoral gains of radical left parties received much less criticism and concerns than radical right ones.

  3. 3.

    For example, the UK Cameron government’s increasingly hardline stances on immigration from the EU and on open borders were seen as a response to the rise of the UK independence party (UKIP). See The Economist, ‘Europe’s populist insurgents: Turning right’, 4 January 2014, available at http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21592666-parties-nationalist-right-are-changing-terms-european-political-debate-does, for more details.

  4. 4.

    T. Bale, C. Green-Pederson, A. Krouwel, K.R. Luther, and N. Sitter (2010) argue that the rise of PRPs challenges mainstream parties on both the centre-right and centre-left. To centre-right parties, PRPs have been pushing centre-right parties to adopt increasingly restrictive policies on immigration and integration, the so-called contagion from the right. To centre-left parties, they presented a ‘triple challenge’ by forming coalitions with centre-right, by highlighting the salience of social and cultural issues in domestic politics that tend to favour the right, by attracting support from manual workers who traditionally supported the left. See Bale, Green-Pederson, Krouwel, Luther, and Sitter (2010), ‘If you can’t beat them, join them? Explaining social democratic responses to the challenge from the populist radical right in Western Europe’, Political Studies, Vol. 58, pp. 410–26, for more details.

  5. 5.

    These difficulties demonstrate in a fact that there is no consensus among scholars and media on the use of terminology. Terms like extreme right, far right, radical right, radical right-wing populism, right-wing populism, national populism, new populism, new populism, neopopulism, exclusionary populism, xenophobic populism, etho-nationalism, anti-immigrant, nativism, racism, racist extremism, fascism, neofascism, postfascism, reactionary tribalism, integralism, and antipartyism are all different languages referring to the same subject. This terminological chaos, as Mudde (2007: 11–2) points out, ‘is largely the consequence of a lack of clear definitions’. However, it does not prevent academics from discussing this issue, because ‘we know who they are, even though we do not know exactly what they are’ (Mudde, 1996: 233). According to Mudde’s observations, nativism, authoritarianism, and populism are reoccurring features of PRPs and constitute the ‘three pillars’ of such parties (2007: 294). See Cas Mudde (2007), Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 11–2; (1996), ‘The war of words: Defining the extreme right party family’, West European Politics, Vol. 19, No. 2, pp. 225–48, for more details.

  6. 6.

    Ignazi (2003) points out that the third wave of PRPs was different from the first and second waves. The former two were the heirs of the conflicts derived from the development of the industrial society and are by-products of the Industrial Revolution. The third wave was by-products of the conflicts of the post-industrial society, where material interests are no longer so central, and bourgeoisie and working class are not so clearly defined. The post-war economic and cultural transformation, such as the development of services sector, the decline of labour relations, atomization, and secularization process, all have blurred class identification and loosened traditional loyalties to social groups. See Piero Ignazi (2003), Extreme Right Parties in Western Europe, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 33–4, for more details.

  7. 7.

    However, Mudde (2010) does not agree with ‘normal pathology thesis’. He argues that the ideology of PRPs should be seen as ‘a radicalization of mainstream values’, and therefore PRPs should be regarded as a pathological normalcy, not normal pathology. See Cas Mudde (2010), ‘The populist radical right: A pathological normalcy’, West European Politics, Vol. 33, Issue 6, pp. 1167–86, for more details.

  8. 8.

    According to Goodwin’s survey (2011: 6–9), working class was two times of middle class to be PRPs’ supporters in Austria, three times in Belgium and France, and four times in Norway. See Mathew Goodwin (2011), Right Response: Understanding and Countering Populist Extremism in Europe, London: Chatham House, pp. 6–9 and 17, for more details.

  9. 9.

    Voters’ perceptions of immigrants vary with the income level of countries. According to O’Connell (2005: 73), immigrants are perceived as an economic threat in lower-income countries, such as in Portugal, Greece, and Spain, while they are seen as a problem of social integration in wealthier countries, such as in Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, and Austria. See Michael O’Connell (2005), ‘Economic forces and anti-immigrant attitudes in Western Europe: A paradox in search of an explanation’, Patterns of Prejudice, Vol. 39, No. 1, pp. 60–74, for more details.

  10. 10.

    Rydgren (2005: 418) suggests that some political opportunity structures are stable and enduring so can be qualified as structures, and some are rather situational. Stable and enduring political opportunity structures are useful in explaining long-term cross-country variations, while situational ones are good at explaining variations within one specific country over time. See Jens Rydgren (2005), ‘Is extreme right-wing populism contagious? Explaining emergence of a new party family’, European Journal of Political Research, Vol. 44, p. 418, for more details.

  11. 11.

    Rydgren (2004: 475–8, 2005: 426) argues that France’s Front National’s innovation of new master frame combining ethno-nationalism, cultural racism, and anti-political establishment populism was the major reason for this party’s electoral breakthrough in 1984. This new master frame has been diffused to other Western European countries and becomes a main reason of the electoral sustainability of the third-wave PRPs. However, he reminds that only the new master frame was not sufficient for PRPs’ electoral success, it still requires the conditions of favourable political opportunity structures for them to operate. See Jens Rydgren (2004), ‘Explaining the emergence of radical right-wing populist parties: The case of Denmark’, West European Politics, Vol. 27, No. 3, pp. 474–502; (2005), ‘Is extreme right-wing populism contagious? Explaining emergence of a new party family’, European Journal of Political Research, Vol. 44, pp. 413–37, for more details.

  12. 12.

    Several commentators provide explanations for the inconsistency of these studies. For example, Hooghe and Reeskens (2007: 185 & 195) point out that cross-country, quantitative surveys may not be a good way to conduct empirical studies on PRPs, as there will be technical bias and response bias which both lead to measurement bias and lack cross-cultural external validity in this measurement. Kestila and Soderlund (2007: 780) also suggest that the reason why quantitative studies produce different, and often contradictory, results is because they differ in data magnitude, method precision, and the number and quality of variables included in surveys. Rydgren and Ruth (2013: 712) argue that cross-national studies cannot avoid ideological, programmatic, and institutional variances in different countries. See Marc Hooghe and Tim Reeskens (2007), ‘Are cross-national surveys the best way to study the extreme-right vote in Europe?’, Patterns of Prejudice, Vol. 41, No. 2, pp. 177–96; Elena Kestila and Peter Soderlund (2007), ‘Subnational political opportunity structure and the success of radical right: Evidence from the March 2004 regional elections in France’, European Journal of Political Research, Vol. 46, p. 780; Jens Rydgren and Patrick Ruth (2013), ‘Contextual explanations of radical right-wing support in Sweden: Socioeconomic marginalization, group threat and the halo effect’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Vol. 36, No. 4, pp. 711–28, for more details.

  13. 13.

    In Spain, the United Left Coalition and the newly formed Podemos Party, both anti-austerity, came third and fourth, respectively. In Greece, radical left party Syriza came first. In Portugal, the opposition party, Socialist Party, and the Communist Party, which campaigned for a referendum on leaving the euro, were the two biggest winners. See BBC (2014), ‘European election result: At a glance’, 27 May 2014, available at http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-27575869, for more details.

  14. 14.

    In a survey of 18 European countries, concerns over culture are five times more important than those about the national economy. See Mathew Goodwin (2011), Right Response: Understanding and Countering Populist Extremism in Europe, London: Chatham House, p. 17, for more details.

  15. 15.

    The migrant smuggling has escalated into humanitarian crises in the Mediterranean Sea and led to the EU’s launch of a military operation to sink migrant smugglers’ boats in May 2015. See EU Observer, ‘EU countries agree boat-sinking operation’, 18 May 2015, available at https://euobserver.com/foreign/128743, for more details.

  16. 16.

    The surge of refugees from the Middle East to Europe had escalated into a migrant crisis in August, 2015, and Germany took a leading role by announcing that it could receive up to 800,000 refugees that year. See The Economist, ‘Europe’s migrant crisis: Merkel the bold’, 5 September 2015, available at http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21663228-refugees-germanys-chancellor-brave-decisive-and-right-merkel-bold, for more details.

  17. 17.

    O’Malley (2008) argues that Irish mainstream parties’ populist and nationalistic rhetoric and policy reduce the space for PRPs to develop in Ireland. For example, citizenship referendum in 2004, in which removed citizenship to those who was born in Ireland, reduces the controversy over immigration that many PRPs tend to develop on. See Eoin O’Malley (2008), ‘Why is there no radical right party in Ireland?’, West European Politics, Vol. 31, Issue 5, pp. 960–77, for more details.

  18. 18.

    For a long time, Greece has not witnessed the rise of PRPs because of its legacy of authoritarianism and the absence of welfare state. Ellinas (2013) argues that the Greek debt crisis provided an electoral breakthrough for Greece’s PRP—Golden Dawn in 2012, as the crisis exposed the chronic failure of the Greek political establishment and de-legitimatized its governance. The political de-alignment and realignment of the electorate gave rise to calls for radical political changes and thus can explain the rise of Golden Dawn’s rise after 2012. See Antonis A. Ellinas (2013), ‘The rise of the Golden Dawn: The new face of the far right in Greece’, South European Society and Politics, Vol. 18, Issue 4, pp. 543–65, for more details.

  19. 19.

    For the full details of the 2014 EP election results, see BBC, ‘European election result: At a glance’, 27 May 2014, available at http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-27575869.

  20. 20.

    Refer to Article 6 of the Treaty of the European Union, Article 6 of the Lisbon Treaty, and Articles 20 and 21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which is an integral part of the Lisbon Treaty for details.

  21. 21.

    More details of the EU’s Social Investment Package are available at http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=1044.

  22. 22.

    For Juncker’s Commission’s top priority on jobs, growth, and investment and the EFSI , see http://ec.europa.eu/priorities/jobs-growth-investment/index_en.htm for more details.

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© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Public Administration and PolicyNational Taipei UniversityNew Taipei CityTaiwan

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