Pop­ulism has long been around as a polit­i­cal method. Lit­er­al­ly, it refers to the con­nec­tion of pol­i­tics with the “pop­u­lus”, the peo­ple in the street. But it is the last few decades that have seen a sharp rise in the use of pop­ulist rhetoric in politics. 

A range of new pop­ulist par­ties have cap­ti­vat­ed Europe –Europe’s new spec­tre? Start­ing from France’s Front Nation­al and Austria’s Free­dom Par­ty (FPÖ), a long list of polit­i­cal par­ties all across the con­ti­nent ensues: the Swe­den Democ­rats, Belgium’s Vlaams Blok, the Dutch Free­dom Par­ty (PVV), Poland’s Law and Jus­tice Par­ty (PiS), Syriza inGreece, Germany’s Alter­na­tive für Deutsch­land, the Five-Star-Move­ment in Italy or Podemos in Spain, to name just a few. These par­ties have not only made advances among vot­ers; they have fun­da­men­tal­ly changed Europe’s polit­i­cal land­scape. What is the basis for populism’s recent suc­cess in Europe?

This is the ques­tion we asked our­selves in ear­ly 2016, when it seemed as if pop­ulist par­ties could not become any more rel­e­vant. Most of Europe’s nation­al par­lia­ments fea­tured at least one par­ty that made use of pop­ulist rhetoric. To iden­ti­fy sim­i­lar­i­ties between pop­ulist par­ties across Europe, we asked a num­ber of local experts to tell us about pop­ulist par­ties in their coun­try and explain their suc­cess. We want­ed to gain an in-depth view of pop­ulism and go beyond the often gen­er­alised and pan-Euro­pean cov­er­age pop­ulist par­ties received. We asked our experts to recount the devel­op­ment of pop­ulist par­ties in their local his­tor­i­cal context. 

Over the course of 2016, nine experts answered our ques­tions and con­tributed their local knowl­edge of pop­ulist par­ties in Europe. Ioan­nis Vlas­taris and Kon­stan­ti­nos Kosta­gian­nis wrote about the many trans­for­ma­tions of Syriza in Greece, Maria Tyr­berg about the elec­toral suc­cess­es and diverg­ing paths of the Swe­den Democ­racts, and Javier Martínez-Can­tó about the polit­i­cal entre­pre­neurs of Podemos in Spain. Kriszt­ian Simon explained Vic­tor Orban’s rise to pow­er in Hun­gary, and Hon­o­ra­ta and Aga­ta Maze­pus the suc­cess sto­ry of the Law and Jus­tice par­ty (PiS) in Poland. Timo Lochoc­ki wrote about the illu­sion­ary giant of Ger­man pol­i­tics, the Alter­na­tive for Ger­many (AfD) and Char­lotte de Roon about Geert Wilders’ one-man show with the Dutch Free­dom Par­ty (PVV). Their con­tri­bu­tions were first pub­lished as a series of blogs under the title“Populism in Europe” on d|part’s blog.

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