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Challenging the establishment : cross-temporal and cross-sectional analyses of anti-political-establishment parties Abedi-Djourabtchi, Amir-Hassan

Abstract

Most studies that have examined parties that challenge the political establishment have focused their attention on certain types of 'anti-political-establishment parties' (a-pe parties), such as left-libertarian parties or right-wing populist parties. It is argued here that before moving on to an exploration of the reasons behind the electoral success or failure of specific a-p-e parties, one should take a closer look at the preconditions for the success of a-p-e parties in general. This makes it necessary to avoid any 'time-specific' or 'ideology-specific' explanations. Consequently, only those explanatory variables that could be tested at any point in time and for any a-p-e party regardless of its position on the left-right political scale were included in this study. Six hypotheses that fulfilled these criteria were selected to be tested using data from nineteen advanced industrial democracies covering the entire 1945 to 1999 time period. These hypotheses stress the importance of the electoral system, political traditions, the economic conditions of a country, the colluding behaviour of the establishment parties, certain party system features and the 'availability' of voters. In contrast to prior research which has often emphasized the importance of socioeconomic and institutional factors, the results of the bivariate and multivariate analyses suggest that political variables explain much of the variance in the level of electoral support for a-p-e parties in different democracies, at different points in time. Thus, the economic situation of a country as well as the electoral system do not appear to have a significant impact on the electoral fortunes of a-p-e parties. On the other hand, anti- political-establishment parties thrive in an environment where and when the establishment parties are fairly close to each other ideologically and where and when weak partisan attachments make voters available to their appeals. In addition, the behaviour of the establishment parties, especially the mode of interaction between them and the main opposition is very important. That is, a-p-e parties profit from collusion between the main establishment parties, especially in an environment that is characterized by mutual distrust between the governing party(ies) and an opposition that is excluded and sometimes even ostracized.

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