RN32_02a: Populism, Institutions and Counter-reactions
Populist Parties between Protest, Institutions and Interest groups
1University of Trento, Italy; 2University of Lausanne, Switzerland
Although some initial research has shown the entrenchment of populist formations in a complex system of political exchanges with citizens’ associations and business interest groups, few empirical studies have provided evidence of such an articulated system of social exchanges. Our aim is to identify and analyze two such systems involving populist political formations in two countries, namely the Lega, formerly the Northern Italian League – an Italian regionalist party, and the Ticino League, a Swiss-Italian regional and nationalist formation, which is the strongest party represented in regional government since 2011. We aim to highlight how in both cases parties’ success was facilitated by a set of multiple even if partially contradictory linkages with different social domains and their interest representation. Through a skillful selection of issues (e.g. immigrant workers), but also through the enablement of careers patterns of conflicting elites, the two parties were instrumental in the activation and mobilization of social and political coalitions. Moreover, we will focus on the distinctive strategies of leaders and cadres over time, and we aim to show how they plaid a crucial role in retaining needed internal cohesion among the different identities and social networks of the parties – notably, the protest component, the government component and the interest groups component. Their mediating role was essential in preventing internal splits. Our main empirical sources are analyses of speeches delivered by party personnel in various arenas, articles in the regional press and analyses of biographical data conducted on the basis of information collected from in-depth interviews with MPs and other social and political representatives.)
Eurosceptic backlash? Pro-European and Counter-Populist Movements in Europe
1University of Copenhagen, Denmark; 2University of Birmingham
Euroscepticism and right-wing populism have been on the rise in Europe particularly since the financial and Euro crisis of 2009-2010, culminating in the UK's vote to leave the EU in 2016. The 2014 European Parliament (EP) elections resulted in the largest number of far-right, Eurosceptic and right-wing populist MEPs ever elected, with the 2019 elections likely to go a similar way. Considerable academic attention has been paid to understanding the conditions for this spread and success of Eurosceptic and right-wing populist movements. What has been overlooked, however, in both academic research and public debates is counter-populist and pro-EU mobilisation. The case of pro-European discourse is mainly discussed as elitist or intellectual, disregarding the possibility that pro-European mobilisation can be also initiated from below as a form of popular resistance to Eurosceptic discourse. So far, we know very little about patterns of resistance to Eurosceptic and right-wing populist movements within European civil society. In what way and to what extent is European integration being promoted by those who support it? Is pro-European mobilisation mainly defensive reacting to the threat of a Eurosceptic takeover? Or is it also progressive defining the agenda of political parties and leadership? This panel invites for contributions from scholars working on projects relating to pro-European or counter-populist movements in the context of the 2019 EP Parliamentary elections and beyond.
The debate between Populist and anti-populists in the European Parliament
1University of Trento, Italy; 2University of Trento, Italy
Using the EUSpeech Harvard Dataverse this work focusses on the political speeches of self-identified populist and anti-populist MEPs. The analysis of word frequencies, co-occurrences, and topics’ classification and conceptualization show how these types of leaders differently employ texts to pursue strategies of political legitimation. The presentation demonstrates how automated quantitative text analysis can be used to achieve analytical reliability and shed light on the study of populist discourse. Among the topics identified and explored to contrast populist and anti-populists, there are a different vision of the European Project, definitions of ‘the people’ of reference and relations with democratic institutions.
Voting Intention Polls in the 2019 Italian Election for the European Parliament: Methodological Quality and Predictive Capacity in Times of Populism
University of Bologna, Italy
In May 2019, the European Parliamentary (EP) elections will take place and one year will have passed since the investiture of Italy’s current, and contentious, coalition government, sustained by an unlikely and unsteady alliance between the League (the ostensibly junior partner) and the Five-Star Movement. The government's patent populist policies and its leaders’ relentless social media campaigning have apparently engendered exceptionally high levels of public support. Current vote forecasts are favourable for both parties (but extremely so for the League); these expectations are noticeably driving policy decisions, shaping the balance of power between the two allies, fanning their Euroscepticism, and affecting the likelihood of the government’s survival until the EP election. Since Italian pollsters’ markedly failed to anticipate practically all of the most politically relevant outcomes of the 2018 national elections and significantly underestimated the strength of the two currently governing parties, it is legitimate to wonder whether current polls are reliable, i.e., whether pollsters are collectively “overcompensating” for last year’s failures and thus likely to perform badly once again.
The paper intends to monitor the methodological quality (especially vis-à-vis past election campaigns) of published polls carried out during the 2019 EP election campaign in Italy (administration mode, sample size, sampling technique, weighting procedures, etc.). Moreover, polls’ predictive capacity will be assessed (primarily via examination of voter turnout expectations and, for the relationships between competing parties, via Martin et al.’s “A” measure); characteristics of better-performing polls will be identified and discussed. The role of published voting intention polls and the impact of rules regulating published polls in Italy (especially its two-week embargo) will also be explored.