Tobias Böhmelt, Lawrence Ezrow, Roni Lehrer
Populism and intra-party democracy

European Journal of Political Research, 2022: 61, Heft 4, S. 1143-1154
ISSN: 0304-4130 (print), 1475-6765 (online)

This article examines how populism is linked to party organization and, specifically, intra-party democracy. Populism can be defined as an ideology (ideational perspective), which is characterized by anti-elitism, people-centrism and a discourse emphasizing a moral struggle between ‘good people’ and ‘the elite’. On the other hand, there are leadership-focused definitions which see populism as a form of organization with personalistic control (a leadership perspective). With respect to party organization, focusing on the ideational perspective leads to the expectation that populist parties will be internally democratic, and the leadership approach will lead to the opposite expectation. Using the recently published Populism and Political Parties Expert Survey (POPPA) that develops party-specific populism scores, we examine more than 200 parties in 26 countries. The results highlight that populist parties gravitate toward personalized leaders and thus develop less democratic intra-party structures. This finding contributes to our understanding of populist parties and their organizations.