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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Explaining Support for Radical Right Parties in New Democracies: The Limits of Structural Determinants and the Potentiality of Civil Society

  • Author(s): Polyakova, Alina
  • et al.

Europe has undergone a “Right turn” in politics over the last three decades, as evidenced by the continued success of radical right parties in Western European countries. Early studies of Western European radical right parties examined country level sociostructural factors for explaining variation in electoral support of radical right parties, but studies left unanswered if the same aggregate level factors are sufficient for explaining different levels of support that radical right parties secure outside of Western Europe. This paper builds upon the early studies of Western European radical right parties to examine whether structural factors – low economic growth, high unemployment, and high ethnic heterogeneity – are associated with high electoral support for radical right parties in the Central Eastern European EU member states from 1990 to 2010. The findings show that these factors are associated with support for radical right parties in some countries but not others. The paper then draws on theories of democratization to show that civic participation is a potentially important factor for understanding differences in support for radical right parties. This study contributes to a growing literature on the role of civic organizations in democratization and the body of knowledge on right-wing politics in Europe.

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