Austrian Democracy and the Rise of Right-Wing Populism

Lecture | September 6 | 12-1 p.m. | 201 Moses Hall

 David M. Wineroither, National University for Public Service, Budapest

 Institute of European Studies

Most party systems in Western Europe have seen the establishment of right-wing populist parties (RPPs) since the 1980s. Among these newcomers, the rise of the Freedom Party in Austria (FPÖ) has gained particular prominence for several reasons: First, unlike many other parties belonging to this type, the FPÖ had already existed for three decades at the time of its incipient electoral rise but then proved effective in its swift response to voters’ changing political preferences. Second, scholars’ attention was attracted by the key element of charismatic leadership in transforming an old-style honorary party into a successful RPP. Third, the extent of electoral support outnumbered the share of the vote of all other RPPs except for the Swiss SVP, and peaked at almost 27% in 1999. Following a similar success in the 2017 general election, the FPÖentered government as junior partner to conservative Austrian People´s Party (ÖVP). 
 
David M. Wineroitherwill show that the electoral fortunes of RPPs over time can best be explained by dynamics in party competition. This includes strategies of containment (Social Democrats) and contagion (the Conservatives´ recent populist-personalist turn) by mainstream competitors.Most notably, however, the parties of the far right proved willing and able to adapt to changing electoral winning formulas. The effectiveness of these strategies in turn by and large rests upon key characteristics of Austrian post-WWII consensus democracy. 

David M. Wineroither works as a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Social Sciences in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and Senior Research Advisor to the Dean of the Faculty for Public Administration at National University for Public Service, Budapest. 

 heike@berkeley.edu, 510-6434558