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Journal Articles

Journal of Common Market Studies - Downes, J.F. Loveless, M. & A. Lam (2021)

The Looming Refugee Crisis in the EU: Right-Wing Party Competition and Strategic Positioning

Despite a rise in the number of competitive far right parties leading up to the European refugee crisis, some centre right parties achieved or maintained electoral success. We argue that some centre right parties recognise the electoral opportunity for radical right parties to exploit the refugee crisis for electoral gains and strategically adopt hard-line positions on immigration to maintain and even increase their electoral success.

We test our theory of strategic positioning using data on party competition in national parliamentary elections across 28 EU member states at the start of the refugee crisis. Strategic positioning appears to be a particularly successful choice for centre right parties. The quantitative analysis is supported by case studies in Western Europe of Austria and The Netherlands. Whilst strategic positioning may produce short-term electoral success, it also mainstreams radical immigration positions in contemporary European politics, with negative implications for liberal democracy in Europe.

Article featured in: JCMS Blog (Ideas on Europe), LSE EUROPP & CARR.

Electoral Studies (54): pp. 148-158 - Downes, J.F. & M. Loveless (2018)

Centre Right and Radical Right Party Competition in Europe: Strategic Emphasis on Immigration, Incumbency and Economic Crisis

We examine centre right and radical right party competition. We argue that centre right parties – particularly non-incumbents – recognise economic crises as electoral opportunities for radical right parties and respond with the strategic emphasis of immigration in mass appeals. To test this, we merge party performance data with expert surveys across 24 European Union countries to examine parties’ electoral performances during the 2008 economic crisis.

We find that non-incumbent centre right parties benefited from emphasising immigration, performing better than radical right parties. Second, incumbent centre right parties that did not emphasise immigration lost out electorally, providing an opportunity for far-right parties to benefit from immigration in this economic context. Qualitative case studies further suggest that while these effects appear to be more pronounced in Western Europe, the results are consistent across the East and West. The findings suggest a reconsideration of immigration as an exclusive issue for far-right electoral success.


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