Change or Perish. Centrist Anti-establishment Parties and their Struggle for Survival

31.05.2021 - 12:00
Online via Zoom
Art der Veranstaltung: 
AB B-Kolloquium
Dr. Sarah Engler
Zugehörigkeit des Vortragenden: 
Universität Zürich

This paper analyses how parties that use extensively anti-establishment rhetoric in the electoral campaign of their first appearance deal with their transformation to a party of the establishment itself. I focus on Central and Eastern Europe where new parties with moderate political positions but strong emphasis on anti-establishment and anti-corruption rhetoric frequently enter government right after their initial breakthrough. While many of these so-called centrist anti-establishment parties (CAPs) struggle in government and lose most of their support in subsequent elections, other parties establish themselves as important political players. The aim of the paper is to understand how differences among their future political campaigns affect the variation in the parties’ chances of survival. Using a new expert survey on anti-establishment and anti-corruption claims of political parties in 11 Eastern European countries between 2000 and 2016, I show that there are three strategies of survival the parties can adapt: (1) they can focus on the fight against corruption in a more genuine way by leaving the anti-establishment discourse aside; (2) they can keep the anti-establishment rhetoric, but need to redefine who the establishment is; or (3) they adapt the electoral strategy of the mainstream parties and neither use the anti-establishment nor the anti-corruption discourse anymore. In all three strategies, ideology gains in importance. The paper thus shows that protest without any ideological reference does not last long.