Anti-Europe Challenge: a road to seats in parliament

Radmir Gusev,
School of Governance and Politics, MGIMO University

Аbstract: this analytical article is devoted to the study of the promotion of relatively new or ideologically transformed European parties using populist and eurosceptic ideas in recent years. Populism today is not just an ideology aimed at the masses, but a phenomenon that arises as a result of a crisis in the political course of a country which government often fulfills its obligations to the European Union, without paying attention to the interests of the people and various social groups.

Keywords: populism, euroscepticism, non-systemic parties, islamization of Europe, anti-elitism.



In recent years in the European political arena, we can see the rise of some new parties (or restructured parties based on new ideas), which are not only of interest to political analysts, but may even become a threat to the majority parties. Such conclusions are justified, as the parties are gaining more and more support from voters and securing their positions in the parliaments of different countries. Such parties can be called "non-systemic", which we will understand as eurosceptics who have moved into opposition to systemic forces. Western researchers put forward the term "challenger parties", which they call populist parties that have challenged the traditionally supported forces of the majority. (Hino, 2012) Let's analyze the success of populist ideas in modern political realities.

Populism is focused on the masses. Dividing society into antagonistic groups in the nation and the corrupt elite [which can be understood as the Euro-bureaucracy, that interferes in the internal affairs of a state and elite of the country, executing the orders of European officials to the detriment of the interests of citizens (Shibkova, 2019)], populism is "conscientiously ideology", which can be integrated with other ideological positions. (Mudde, 2004) This confirms that populism is not a clearly expressed ideology of support for traditional basics or either innovations, nor does it promote any ideal as the basis of society. Everything that the populists demand is related to the demands of the nation. The success of populist ideas lies precisely in the fact that it opposes the current elite, which is failing in its domestic policy.

Thus, populism can be a logical consequence of elite failure, and the appearance of slogans for the benefit of each person and the support of different social groups attracts the masses — a potential electorate dissatisfied with the current policy in the country. Moreover, the active growth of populist ideas can be observed during a crisis or transformation of the political system. Today, this is confirmed by euroscepticism in view of the intensive islamization of Europe, in favor of which the ideas of multiculturalism and cultural exchange, which were voiced in the UN Secretary-General's report "international migration and development" for 2006 [1], are no longer relevant, especially after the appearance of smuggling for the illegal transport of migrants, which is already reflected in the report for 2013 [2].

For more information on the success of specific examples, we can see the following chart, which is based on an analysis of party programs and indicates the results of some election campaigns that are successful for such parties:


Populist ideas

Eurosceptic ideas

The latest success of the party

Alternative for Germany

(Alternative für Deutschland, AfD)

1) Return to nuclear power, reduction of electricity prices
2) National economic stimulus program: reconstruction of road and urban infrastructure
3) Cancellation of the climate protection plan until 2050 due to the failure of statements about the deterioration of the environmental situation in favor of the growth of the national industry

Migration movements from Africa to Europe in the expected volume can destabilize the continent in a few years. The high level of social benefits in Germany attracts many immigrants from both other EU countries and third countries. At the same time, immigrants abuse the system of movement between EU countries. Borders must be closed.
Termination of the transfer Union and exit from the Euro Zone.

In the Federal elections of 24 September 2017, the party won 12.6 % and 94 seats in the Bundestag. The biggest success of the party since its creation.

The National Rally (France)

(Rassemblement national, RN)

1) Reduction of business taxes to support manufacturers.
2) Reduction of the official apparatus.
3) Fight against the segmentation of society into religious communities.
4) Encouraging large families and returning to traditional values.

1. Independent foreign policy towards the United States and NATO.
2. "The expulsion of migrants will provide the work for all the French".
3. The abolition of the minimum subsistence level and social assistance for foreigners.

Following the 2014 European Parliament elections, the party increased its presence from 3 to 24 deputies.

The Freedom Party of Austria

(Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, FPÖ)

1) Banning same gender marriage but interfering in the family affairs is allowed only if the child is suffering.
2) Property formation and prosperity through fair wages and fair corporate taxation. Agricultural achievements are free from the dictatorship of monopoly corporations.

Austria is a self-determined and peacemaking state and should therefore be free from membership in the military pact.
Access of foreigners to health care services only through the autonomous social insurance system.

In the 2013 parliamentary elections, The Freedom Party received 20.5%, placing third.

The CDS – People's Party (Portugal)

(Centro Democrático e Social – Partido Popular, CDS-PP)

Protection of national identity and indigenous population. Protection of traditional family values. Protection of private property.
Combining liberal support for entrepreneurship with social-populist positions in the spirit of Catholic social teaching.

The maximum limit of immigration. The preservation of the national culture due to the restriction of European integration.

In the 2015 parliamentary elections, the Alliance with the SDP (Social democratic party) received 37% of the votes.

The comment

Based on the analyzed information, euroscepticism is now in the hands of populism. Thus, in France, as of 2017, 8-10% of the population are Muslim migrants. (Veretevskaya, 2012) Due to the burden on the social system and the imperfect mechanism for receiving migrants, 4 out of 20 administrative districts in the country, as well as some suburbs, are Muslim, forming a ghetto of migrants with high criminality and unemployment. (Zholudeva, 2019) A social survey conducted by the weekly newspaper JDD in 2018 showed that 52% of French people believe that the country accepts too many migrants, and the negative attitude was explained by both the increased risk of terrorist attacks and the lack of necessary resources to continue migration policy. [3] Thus, immigrants and refugees are portrayed as an existential threat that only the people can resist. Populist parties, contrasting themselves with the elites mentioned at the beginning, use the idea of unity of the people. The importance of the union-movement is confirmed by the fact that the national front party was renamed "National Rally". (Butenko, 2019)

However, of course, it is not just the refugees who worry the potential electorate of populist parties. Alternative for Germany, which is also perceived as an anti-immigration party, pays great attention to the economic insecurity of the German population, proposes limiting the power of parties and the introduction of referendums on the Swiss model. And in general, the party's success is not due to the requirement to maintain minimum costs, but to the elites ignoring of overdue deferred issues in the social and economic sphere. (Strakevich, 2019) The same applies to the Freedom Party of Austria, which has managed to become "the mouthpiece of collective dissatisfaction with the internal policies of the two main parties". (Williams, 2006) In the 2000s, the party actively fought against Islamization and against Turkey's admission to the EU. According to the Austrian researcher, the success of the party lies in the fact that the program includes not only the normalization of inequality by reducing the influx of migrants, but also the elimination of the monopoly on political and economic power. (Pelinka, 2002) In other words, a mix of euroscepticism and populist ideas leads the party to increase the electorate. Thus, the two parties that are drawn together by their geographical location, as well as the points of their programs (euroscepticism with anti-migration, the revival of traditional German identity, the emphasis on anti-elitist slogans) become parties with a broad electoral base on the one hand, and a threat to the current elites on the other. And on the example of the FPÖ, the attitude to such parties as to the radical right is obvious: after the success in the early 2000s, 14 EU countries declared that they would not maintain bilateral contacts with the Austrian government if the FPÖ joined it. (Van der Bellen, 2000)

Another significant example of the success of populists against the backdrop of a political crisis is The CDS – People's Party in Portugal. In 2015, parliamentary elections were held after two important events: first, the country received financial assistance and had to fulfill its obligations to the European Union, and second, there was a mass protest movement organized by the International Association of workers. As a result, even despite an inactive civil society (Kutyrev, 2018), the populists were able to gain support in the elections by uniting with the social Democrats and breaking into the Parliament, making an ideological reorientation.


To sum up, it should be said that the most correct study of populist ideas, including parallel to euroscepticism, is not an assessment of populism itself and the proposed changes, but of the social situation and the effectiveness of the current government as a whole. After all, as Patzelt, a political science Professor at the technical University of Dresden, said, "populism is just the ugly brother of a beautiful girl named "democracy". (Patzelt, 2018) This is why populism as a substitute for democracy occurs when a functioning democracy fails to fulfill its duty to govern on behalf of the people.

Sources used for the chart:

  1. The program of the party Alternative for Germany / Date of issue 2020. 25 Apr. URL:
  2. Results of the 2017 Bundestag elections / Date of issue 2020. 25 Apr. URL:
  3. Program of the party National Rally / Date of issue 2020. 27 Apr. URL:
  4. Results of the 2014 European Parliament elections / Date of issue 2020. 27 Apr. URL:
  5. The program of the Austrian freedom party / Date of issue 2020. 25 Apr. URL:
  6. Results of the 2013 Austrian parliamentary elections / Date of issue 2020. 25 Apr. URL:
  7. The program of the CDS — People’s Party / Date of issue 2020. 25 Apr. URL:
  8. Results of the 2015 Portuguese parliamentary elections / Date of issue 2020. 25 Apr. URL:


  1. Butenko V. A. (2019) Migration crisis in the EU: the growth of right-wing populism / / Russian political science. 2019. №2 (11). URL: (Date of issue 2020. 25 Nov.)
  2. Kutyrev G. I. (2018) Social movements of a new type and political parties in Portugal through the prism of the heterotopia concept // APE. 2018. №2. [Electronic resource.] (Date of issue 2020. 26 Nov.)
  3. Shibkova M. O. (2019) Populism and Euroscepticism: correlation of concepts // Modern Europe. 2019. №4 (89). [Electronic resource.] (Date of issue 2020. 24 Nov.)
  4. Strakevich A. A. (2019) "Old" and "new" right-wing populists in Western Europe (on the example of "Alternative for Germany" and "The Freedom Party of Austria" // РSМ. 2019. №2 (103). [Electronic resource.] (Date of issue 2020. 24 Nov.)
  5. Veretevskaya A. V. (2012) Muslims in France: features of the integration model // Bulletin of MGIMO University.2012. №5 (26). С. 100-102.
  6. Zholudeva N. R. (2019) Muslims in France: the life of the Muslim quarters of Paris // Bulletin of Tomsk state University. 2019. №438. [Electronic resource.] (Date of issue 2020. 27 Nov.)
  7. Hino A. (2012) New Challenger Parties in Western Europe: A comparative Analysis, London: Routledge.
  8. Mudde C. (2004) The Populist Zeitgeist // Government and Opposition. — 2004. —Vol. 39. — №4. — Pp. 541-563.
  9. Patzelt V. J. (2018) Populism — and what to do with It // Populism as a common challenge / Ed. by K. Crawford, B. I. Makarenko, N. V. Petrov. - Moscow: Political encyclopedia, 2018. - Pp. 16-26.
  10. Pelinka, A. (2002). Die FPÖ in der vergleichenden Parteienforschung: zur typologischen Einordnung der Freiheitlichen Partei Österreichs // Österreichische Zeitschrift für Politikwissenschaft, 31(3), 281-290. [Electronic resource.] (Date of issue 2020. 26 Nov.)
  11. Van der Bellen A. (2000) Die Torheit der Regierenden: Die EU-Sanktionen und ihr Ende // Österreichisches Jahrbuch für Politik 2000. Politische Akademie der ÖVP, 2001. S. 455–472.
  12. Williams M.H. (2006) The impact of Radical Right-Wing Parties in West European Democracies. NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. 236 p.


[1] Report of the UN Secretary General “International Migration and development” (May 2006) // UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs [] / Date of issue 2020. 28 Apr. URL :

[2] Report of the UN Secretary General “International Migration and development” (July 2013) // International Organization for Migration [] / Date of issue 2020. 28 Apr. URL :

[3] 52% of French people believe that the country accepts too many migrants // JDD Social by Hervé Gattegno [] / Date of issue 2020. 28 Apr. URL :