REPRESENT Seminar on Populism with Daniele Albertazzi and Davide Vampa (27/01/21)

We are pleased to invite you to join us for the next REPRESENT Seminar and the first one of 2021, taking place via Zoom on Wednesday 27th of January at 4:30pm.

On this occasion, we are delighted to have Daniele Albertazzi (University of Birmingham) and Davide Vampa (Aston University, Birmingham), who will present the book they co-edited: “Populism and New Patterns of Political Competition in Western Europe”, with Simon Toubeau (University of Nottingham) as chair of the meeting.


This book analyses how party competition has adjusted to the success of populism in Western Europe, whether this is non-populists dealing with their populist competitors, or populists interacting with each other.

The volume focuses on Western Europe in the period 2007– 2018 and considers both right- wing and left- wing populist parties. It critically assesses the concept and rise of populism, and includes case studies on Austria, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Denmark, Finland, the United Kingdom, Greece, and Italy. The authors apply an original typology of party strategic responses to political competitors, which allows them to map interactions between populist and non-populist parties in different countries. They also assess the links between ideology and policy, the goals of different populist parties, and how achieving power affects these parties. The volume provides important lessons for the study of political competition, particularly in the aftermath of a crisis and, as such, its framework can inform future research in the post-Covid- 19 era.

Book your place on the call here

This seminar is delivered by REPRESENT a joint initiative between political scientists at the Universities of Birmingham and Nottingham. It is also supported by the ESRC funded Populism in Action project led by Daniele Albertazzi and Stijn van Kessel.

The Dutch Far Right in 2021: A View from the Ground

by Dr. Léonie de Jonge (University of Groningen)

Once known for its progressivism and social tolerance, the Netherlands long seemed ‘immune’ to far-right tendencies. However, since the turn of the 21st century, the country has witnessed the rise of several influential right-wing populist parties, including the Lijst Pim Fortuyn (LPF), Geert Wilders’s Freedom Party (PVV) and, most recently, the Forum for Democracy (FvD), led by flamboyant far-right newcomer Thierry Baudet.

The rapid ascent of the FvD was remarkable by any measure. Founded as a Eurosceptic think tank in 2015, the party won two of the 150 seats in the Dutch House of Representatives after garnering 1.8 percent of the vote at the 2017 general election. Two years later, the FvD became the largest party in the Dutch Upper House after winning nearly 16 percent of the vote at the 2019 provincial elections. In January 2020, the party announced that it had become ‘the biggest party in the Netherlands by membership’, thereby surpassing traditional mass parties, including the Labour Party and Christian democrats.

The FvD’s success story was offset in November 2020, when the party succumbed to infighting. The implosion resulted in a massive exodus of (senior) party members as well as a more general loss of public support. Whilst the future of the party is currently uncertain, it seems fair to state that the breakthrough of the FvD initiated a new phase in the history of right-wing populism in the Netherlands, characterised by the normalisation of the far right in the public sphere and competition within the populist radical right party family. Indeed, since 2017, two far-right parties have parliamentary representation in the Netherlands: the PVV and the FvD.

But what exactly characterises the FvD? How does it differ from Wilders’s PVV? And why did it implode? This contribution provides an overview of the parliamentary far right in the Netherlands run-up to the 2021 general election.

The FvD in Comparative Perspective

Just like the PVV, the FvD is commonly classified as a populist radical right party, characterised by authoritarianism, nativism and populism. As such, both parties are staunchly anti-immigrant and deeply Eurosceptic. There are however, some key differences, particularly with regards to their electorate. For instance, in contrast to PVV supporters, FvD voters tend to be more highly educated and economically right-leaning (in the sense that they favour a less egalitarian income distribution).

Turning to the supply side, there are also noteworthy differences between the two parties and their leaders. Officially, the FvD was set up as a conservative party, with the aim of improving the general state of democracy in the Netherlands by ‘breaking the party cartel’ and giving Dutch voters more of a say in the decision-making process, notably by introducing binding referendums, popular initiatives, directly elected mayors and e-democracy. In fact, in its early days, the FvD presented itself as a more moderate and socially-acceptable right-wing alternative to the PVV. Over time, however, it became increasingly obvious that the FvD had tacked to the far right. How did this happen?

The short answer is that the more extreme right elements were present from the start. The term ‘far right’ is generally used as an umbrella term to refer to a broader range of parties on the right end of the political spectrum and includes radical (democratic) and extreme (anti-democratic) parties. The FvD has blurred these lines. Soon after the party’s initial electoral breakthrough in 2017, tensions emerged between different factions within the party. In the internal battle over the party’s ideological course, the more radical and, at times, extreme right undercurrent prevailed.

It is useful to differentiate between the comparatively ‘moderate’ official party manifesto and the more radical and, at times, extremist messages broadcast by the party leader, Thierry Baudet, who is considerably more radical than his far-right predecessors – including Pim Fortuyn and Geert Wilders. While Wilders has focused most of his nativist agenda on the preservation of Dutch culture (notably by opposing Islam), Baudet has made blatantly racist comments. For instance, in 2015, Baudet already expressed his wish for a ‘predominantly white Europe’, and in 2017, he warned about the alleged ‘homoeopathic dilution of the Dutch population’ with people from other cultures, thereby drawing upon the extreme-right Great Replacement conspiracy theory.

The difference between Wilders and Baudet was further illustrated by their respective responses to the recent storming of the US Capitol. While Wilders was quick to distance himself from the attack by underling his commitment to democracy, Baudet shared a tweet he had originally posted in 2016, stating Trump ‘would be a great leader for the West as a whole’ – although he later removed the tweet and denied having posted it in the first place. In light of the public statements made by the party’s leader, the FvD might best be described as an extreme right party. This also partly helps to explain the party’s implosion.

The Fall of the FvD

The collapse of the FvD occurred in several phases. The party’s descent in the polls started in the summer of 2019, when the party’s co-founder and senator Henk Otten was expelled after publicly accusing Baudet of ‘pulling the party too far to the right’. In 2020, the FvD lost credibility when Baudet (who had initially pushed for stricter lockdown measures) became a vocal ally of anti-lockdown protests and voiced support for COVID-19 conspiracy theories. In November 2020, renewed allegations of anti-Semitic, homophobic and racist messages being spread on internal message boards in the party’s youth wing surfaced in the media, after which underlying tensions in the party’s leadership erupted into a public dispute.

In an attempt to ward off mounting pressure to distance himself from allegations of extremism, Baudet renounced his position as lead candidate for the 2021 general election, but subsequently backtracked his decision to resign. Having hijacked the FvD’s official social media channels, Baudet announced that he would be organising a ‘binding referendum’, asking members to decide on his fate as party leader. In response to this move, several prominent party representatives including elected officials and election candidates renounced their membership. On 4 December 2020, the FvD announced that 76 percent of the party’s 37,000 members had voted for Baudet, thereby putting an end to the leadership struggle. The internal dissention caused the FvD to plummet in the polls from approximately 17 percent in March 2019 down to approximately 2 percent in December 2020.

The Far Right in the Run-up to the 2021 Election

The big winner from all this appears to be Geert Wilders, for whom the chaos in the FvD came at a perfect moment in time, as the Netherlands is gearing up for elections in March. Indeed, the loss of support for the FvD was mirrored by a resurge in support for the PVV, which currently polls in second place, right behind Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s centre-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD). As Cas Mudde has observed, ‘as another “intellectual” far right contender bites the dust’ (thereby echoing the electoral trajectory of Pim Fortuyn), it appears that ‘the boring “common” far right mainstay picks up the electoral debris and gets ready to take center stage once again’.

The more serious consequences of the rise and fall of the FvD is the normalisation of the far right in the public sphere. With his extremist remarks and behaviour, Baudet has pushed the boundaries of what is considered ‘acceptable’ even further than those before him. There is a possibility that Geert Wilders’s PVV will now come to be seen as a moderate, relatively ‘mainstream’ alternative to the FvD. A quick glance at the PVV’s 2021 manifesto indicates that the party wants to close borders to all migrants from Islamic countries, send back Syrian asylum seekers, close down all mosques and outlaw the Qur’an, thereby confirming that Wilders has retained his radical edge.

It too soon to make definite predictions on the outcome of the 2021 general election. What is interesting, however, is that current polling estimates actually look quite similar to the political landscape at the time of the previous elections, in March 2017. While some had expected (or hoped) that the pandemic would fundamentally stir the fault lines in European politics, the current Dutch political landscape seems relatively ‘stable’. This is all the more surprising in a country in which party politics has become increasingly fragmented and volatile over the past decades.

This piece of original analysis for the Populism in Action Project, is a guest post kindly written by Dr. Léonie de Jonge of the University of Groningen who is an expert on populist radical right and extreme right politics in the Benelux countries. You can follow Léonie on Twitter here.

“Populism and New Patterns of Political Competition in Western Europe” Edited by Daniele Albertazzi and Davide Vampa has Been Published

Populism in Action’s Principal Investigator Dr. Daniele Albertazzi has edited a book in Routledge’s Extremism & Democracy series with Davide Vampa. Entitled Populism and New Patterns of Political Competition in Western Europe it was published today (14th January 2021).

The purpose of the book is described in the following terms:

This book analyses how party competition has adjusted to the success of populism in Western Europe, whether this is non-populists dealing with their populist competitors, or populists interacting with each other. The volume focuses on Western Europe in the period 2007–2018 and considers both right-wing and left-wing populist parties. It critically assesses the concept and rise of populism, and includes case studies on Austria, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Denmark, Finland, the United Kingdom, Greece, and Italy. The authors apply an original typology of party strategic responses to political competitors, which allows them to map interactions between populist and non-populist parties in different countries. They also assess the links between ideology and policy, the goals of different populist parties, and how achieving power affects these parties. The volume provides important lessons for the study of political competition, particularly in the aftermath of a crisis and, as such, its framework can inform future research in the post-Covid-19 era. This wide-ranging study will appeal to students and scholars of political science interested in populism and political competition; and will appeal to policy makers and politicians from across the political spectrum.

You can order a copy here.

Niko Hatakka Comments on US Capitol Invasion for Finland’s Yle Radio Station

Niko Hatakka – the Populism in Action Project’s Finland focused Research Fellow -was invited onto the national Yle radio station to take part in a discussion about the riotous invasion of the US Capitol Building in Washington DC by supporters of the USA’s outgoing President Donald Trump.

The programme sought to explore “What role does right-wing populism play in Washington chaos?” and was described by Yle in the following terms

The whole world has been following a completely extraordinary intrusion into the U.S. Congress Building and its aftercare. At the heart of it all is the controversy over the outcome of the November presidential election, which Trump’s most radical supporters are now pursuing. In the interview, Deputy Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, former Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja (sd) and Niko Hatakka from the Center for Parliamentary Research, who studied populism. Edited by Carolus Manninen. In the studio Aki Laine and Marko Miettinen.

The programme is listed here – and is accessible to anybody who is in Finland



Mattia Zulianello Explores the Impact of Covid-19 Upon Popular Support for Populist Radical Right Parties Across Europe for Italy’s Domani

In his latest op-ed for Italian newspaper Domani (31/12/20) our Italy focused Research Fellow Mattia Zulianello uses recent polling from across Europe to show that since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, support for populist radical right parties has – in the main – tended to remain intact.

Mattia summarises his article explaining that:

The majority of populist radical right parties (PRR) declined in the polls (i.e. voting intentions) in the year Covid-19 hit (18 out of 26), as shown by the variation between January and December 2020. During the first wave, PRR parties in govt. registered a considerable rise at the polls in the most acute phases of the crisis. However, during the second wave of Covid-19 PRR incumbents lost ground at the polls. This is shown in particular by Fidesz in Hungary and PiS in Poland. The 8 (out of 26) PRR parties that grew at the polls by the end 2020 are all opposition forces. Among them, the top-performers have been Brothers of Italy (+5.7%), the New Right in Denmark (+5.1%) and the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands (+3.5%). Overall, 2020 has NOT been an annus horribilis for European PRRs. Despite the broader negative trend in terms of voting intentions, the PRR parties in the European Union still lead the polls in Italy, Poland, Hungary and they are 2nd in France and the Netherlands, 3rd in Spain and Sweden (as well as in Italy). The pandemic has NOT wiped out the populist radical right even in countries where it has only made its appearance in recent years, such as Portugal and Spain. Furthermore, in an increasing number of countries, the political market is characterised by the presence of multiple successful parties of the PRR, a phenomenon that generates complex interactions of cooperation and competition, as the Italian case (Salvini vs Meloni) suggests. The pandemic in 2020 hence suggests a substantial resilience of the populist radical right even in the context of an unprecedented global crisis. PRR parties are here to stay. The pandemic has not inflected a fatal blow to these parties: on the contrary, it provides further evidence of the consolidation of the populist radical right in European political systems.

The full article can be read here (in Italian and paywalled).

Niko Hatakka Writes Report on Finland for the Friedrich Ebert Foundation’s Series on Right-wing populism and the COVID-19 Crisis

Populism in Action’s Finland focused Research Fellow Niko Hatakka has written a report for the Friedrich Ebert Foundation’s “The Profiteers of Fear? Right-wing populism and the COVID-19 Crisis” series. His contribution explores developments in Finland since the pandemic first began battering European countries in March 2020.

The Friedrich Ebert Foundation describe the series’ purpose as providing:

…reports from Sweden, Finland, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Germany – all countries with large or growing right-wing populist movements and parties. The reports explore the question, if right-wing populism in Europe has been able to benefit from the Corona-crisis. A synopsis will interpret and classify the developments in the individual countries in a comparative perspective.

In his contribution to the series Niko:

…analyses how the Finnish far right has reacted to the government’s handling of COVID-19 and the economic consequences of the virus during its first wave. It explains, how the populist radical right Finns Party has remained reasonably reserved in its criticism, and how the party has attempted to avoid affiliation with the Finnish online far right. Instead of uniting Finnish far right actors, COVID-19 has reinvigorated coalition building potential especially between the centre right and the populist radical right.

The full paper, along with the others in series can be read here in England and in German on the Friedrich Ebert Foundation website.

Mattia Zulianello Writes for Italy’s Domani with Andrea Giovanardi

Populism in Action’s Italy focused Research Fellow has published his latest op-ed for the discussion focused Italian newspaper Domani. Written with the academic tax lawyer Andrea Giovanardi, Mattia describes the article as arguing:

that the proposal to provide regional autonomy to the regions of Emilia-Romagna, Lombardy and Veneto is often attacked on a priori basis. Instead, we maintain that enhanced regional self-government can be the only solution to achieve two key goals: first, making local territories accountable; second, tackle the profound public finance crisis in Italy.

A copy of the article (in Italian) can be read here.

Populism in Action’s Daniele Albertazzi Quoted in Belgium’s Knack Magazine

Populism in Action’s Daniele Albertazzi was quoted in Knack, a major current affairs weekly published in Belgium’s Flanders region. His comments appear in a substantial feature article published online on 8th December 2020, which explores the shifting contours of right-wing politics in Europe.

Key insights shared with the magazine include reflections on recent developments in Italy, with Dr. Albertazzi saying:

To everyone’s surprise, the Five Star Movement formed a new government with the center-left Partito Democratico (PD). Salvini has disregarded the main rule of Italian politics….  which states: “anything is possible”. At the beginning of this year, he also lost the regional elections in Emilia-Romagna, after shouting from the rooftops for months that he would oust the PD from power. He has lost his aura of invincibility, and he owes that entirely to himself.

The full (Dutch language) article can be read here (paywalled)



PiAP Team Media Work Round-Up of 2020

Engaging in dialogue, informing debate and sparking conversations about the phenomenon of contemporary populist radical right party politics beyond academia is an integral and a critical part of the work that the Populism in Action Project (PiAP) does. One of the main ways in which the research team does this, is by writing and producing content for general audiences, and through speaking with and assisting the work of communications professionals, such as journalists. Over the last year or so the project’s staff have between them racked up over 100 such appearances, whether as authors, contributors or expert advisors.

This has included apperances in broadcast, print and digital media outlets based in the UK, USA, Netherlands, Italy, France, Belgium, Spain, Finland, Ireland and publications whose audience is Europe as a whole, rather than the population of a specific geographical entity. Titles which have featured comment from PiAP’s researchers range from major outlets like The Financial Times, New York Times and the BBC to local newspapers which have run in-depth interviews with Research Fellows about the purpose of their fieldwork.

For some of the highlights from the project team’s media work in 2020 see below:

Particular highlights for individual team members include:

  • Daniele Albertazzi – PiAP’s Principal Investigator (project lead) – has contributed extensive insight to the Financial Times’ reporting on populist radical right party politics, and populist politics (especially in Italy), more generally this year. In addition to this his analysis has appeared in many other news reports, including in the Wall Street Journal, as well as in a major feature on contemporary populism and COVID-19 in Spain’s El Confidencial.
  • PiAP’s Co-Investigator Stijn van Kessel has also appeared in the highly regarded business press, with his thoughts and analysis featuring at length in a news feature published in The Netherlands’ Het Financieele Dagblad.
  • Following a highly successful first outing in the paper at the start of October 2020, Italy focused Research Fellow Mattia Zulianello is now a frequent columnist for Domani a new Italian “quality” newspaper focused upon longform journalism and expert analysis.
  • Niko Hatakka, PiAP’s Finland focused Research Fellow, has made numerous contributions to the country’s public discussion around both the phenomenon of contemporary right-wing populism, and questions around how political groups utilise and relate to new media and the communities that form on online platforms. Here he provided analysis for an article published on
  • Belgium (Flanders) focused Research Fellow Judith Sijstermans was invited by the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Constitutional Change to produce an in-depth portrait and analysis of Vlaams Belang, the party that she is studying.
  • In addition to his work on the project, Switzerland focused Research Fellow Adrian Favero has been appointed by the journal Government & Opposition as their Mick Moran Fellow to support their engagement work and find “…new ways to curate and promote the scholarship [Government & Opposition] publish both to ensure past insights do not get lost in the current political turmoil and to encourage innovative lines of inquiry and research.

In the wider world, PiAP Co-Investigator Scott Lucas of EA Worldview has provided relentless commentary and analysis of developments in the USA in the lead up towards, and the aftermath of, the 2020 Presidential Election:

Round Up of 2020

It goes without saying that nobody could have predicted how 2020 eventually unfolded. It has been a tough year in all manner of ways for people right across the world, and for us in the Populism in Action team it forced a rethink of several aspects of our plans for the project. However, in the face of the adversity caused by the Covid-19 pandemic we have adapted our ways of working so as to continue studying and explaining how and why populist radical right parties in Western Europe invest a lot of time, effort and resources into building mass membership and supporter organisations. Along the way we have produced analysis across both print and video explaining what we have found out, and the bearing that it has upon current affairs, in a succinct and accessible way. Now as we approach the end of 2020 and the rest of the decade stretches tentatively ahead of us we are delighted to share a selection of these with you.

Enjoy having a look back at what we have done to disseminate some of our findings this year – we wish you good health and comfort over the festive period and throughout 2021.

January – March

The first few months of 2020 – much like the last quarter of 2019 – saw our research team using their expertise and knowledge to produce incisive analysis of European current affairs.

Where Luigi Di Maio and Italy’s Five Star Movement Went Wrong – by Mattia Zulianello


Italy’s Government Still On A Knife Edge After Key Regional Elections – by Daniele Albertazzi and Davide Pellegrino


The Swiss People’s Party Looks for a New Leader – by Adrian Favero

Why Europe’s Populist Radical Right Parties Are Not Eager to Leave the EU – by Stijn van Kessel


March – June

When Covid-19 first began shutting down countries, our research team produced a series of analyses looking at how the Flemish, Swiss, Italian and Finnish populist radical right parties under study reacted to the public health emergency:

June – September

As life across Europe settled into a tentative wait for effective treatments and successful vaccines, our research team turned its attention to exploring some of the long-term trends that our research is examining.

A Starter Library on Populism – by Adrian Favero, Niko Hatakka, Judith Sijstermans, Mattia Zulianello


A “Great Identity Crisis” Complicates Belgium’s Colonial and Racial Reckoning – by Judith Sijstermans


Right-Wing Populism Across Europe – PiAP’s First Video Series

-This series of short films consists of in-depth discussions between members of the project team. Our researchers focus on key issues around the political parties we are studying, by looking at their communication strategies, membership organisation, strategic approaches and political objectives.

September – December

Despite the continued wait for effective public health measures and treatments to end the pandemic the latter part of the year saw the Populism in Action team engaged in a number of significant initiatives aimed at disseminating the projects’ research findings.

PiAP-Clinton Institute Webinar: Comparing Populisms – Daniele Albertazzi and Stijn van Kessel


Populism in Europe and the USA – Webinar Recording – Daniele Albertazzi and Scott Lucas


Populism and Sub-State Nationalism Intersect in Belgium’s Flanders – Judith Sijstermans


Launch of the new Populism in Action Project website


Thank you for following our research and engaging with us this year. Its been quite a ride but we look forward to sharing and discussing more of our findings with you in 2021. Wishing you a happy, healthy and prosperous festive period and an excellent year to come – onwards and upwards.