“Right-Wing Populist Party Organisation across Europe: The Survival of the Mass-Party?” PiAP at ECPR 2021

At this year’s European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) General Conference (taking place online, 30th August-3rd September 2021) the Populism in Action Team will be leading and participating in a panel entitled Right-Wing Populist Party Organisation across Europe: The Survival of the Mass-Party? which will present key research findings from the project. The panel will be chaired by PiAP’s Dr. Judith Sijstermans (University of Birmingham), Co-Chaired by PiAP’s Dr. Stijn van Kessel (Queen Mary, University of London), with Prof. Sarah De Lange (University of Amsterdam) as the Discussant. 

Panel Abstract

This panel analyses the nature of populist radical right party (PRRP) organisations and the relationship between PRRP organisations, leaders, and party members. We present initial results of our comparative research project which studies long-established PRRP parties in Western Europe: the League in Italy, the Flemish Interest in Belgium, the Swiss People’s Party, and the Finns. PRRPs are often still associated with centralised and ‘charismatic’ leadership, but we find that several PRRPs have invested in creating organisations more similar to the ‘mass party’ model, in which parties actively recruit members and create communities of loyal partisan activists.

In our four case study papers, we explore how party elites attempt to foster involvement, activism and loyalty from the party base. We analyse how these efforts are managed within each party’s, often highly centralised, organisational structures. Through these in-depth case studies, our papers also reflect on the nature and development of the mass party model in the current era. Our panel will conclude with a comparative analysis of all four cases. This analysis explores the extent to which personalisation and centralisation have helped to manage organisational tensions in PRRPs and to facilitate changes in leadership. It will also reflect on the importance of these organisational structures and dynamics for populist parties today.


1. Dr. Mattia Zulianello (University of Birmingham) – Fostering and Exporting a Modern Mass Party: Agency and Structure in Salvini’s League

2. Dr. Niko Hatakka (University of Birmingham) – Between horizontality and centralization: Organizational form and practice in the Finns Party

3. Adrian Favero (University of Birmingham) – Rootedness, Activism and Centralisation: The Case of the Swiss People’s Party

4. Judith Sijstermans (University of Birmingham) – The Vlaams Belang: A Mass Party of the 21st century

5. Stijn van Kessel (Queen Mary University of London; presenting), Daniele Albertazzi (University of Birmingham) – The Survival of the Mass Party: Centralisation, Rootedness and Control Among Populist Radical Right Parties (PRRPs) in Europe

Programme details: A programme for this year’s ECPR General Conference will be released presently. It will be available via the Consortium’s website – where registration has already opened.