Populist Parties and the Failure of the Political Elites

The Rise of the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ)

by Göran Adamson (Author)
©2016 Monographs 264 Pages
Series: DemOkrit, Volume 6


The author analyses the reasons behind the electoral success of European right-wing populist parties. Using the Austrian Freedom Party under Jörg Haider as a case study and with a richness of primary material, he argues that their success is only partly caused by «racism». It is also, and more prominently, the result of populism – i.e. a critique of the «elite». These parties and their voters should not, then, be labelled as arrogant insiders attacking downtrodden outsiders like immigrants, workers, and minorities. Instead, the right-wingers are more justly portrayed as outsiders and underdogs, raising their anger and frustration against the insiders: the «media elite» and the «leftists and the artists».

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Milestones
  • Abbreviations
  • Glossary of Non-English terms
  • German Preface: Populismus als parteienkritischer Topos Einführung von Helmut Stubbe da Luz
  • Author’s Preface: What’s wrong with the people?
  • Chapter 1 Introduction
  • Chapter 2 Right-wing Extremism and Populism – A Review of the Literature
  • The Study of Right-wing Extremism
  • Right-Wing Extremism – Ideological Underpinnings
  • An Old or New Phenomena?
  • Right-Wing Extremist Parties – Populist or not?
  • Explaining the Electoral Appeal of Right-Wing Extremist Parties
  • Right-wing Extremism – A Determining Factor for the Electoral Success of the FPÖ?
  • Populism – A Factor of Success for the Party? An Overview of the Literature
  • The Importance of the Party Leader
  • Chapter 3 Methodology
  • Jörg Haider’s Writings
  • Freiheit und Verantwortung – The Party’s Yearbooks
  • The Party Programmes
  • Election Data and Polls
  • Populism and the Austrian Elite
  • The Political Context
  • Chapter 4 Populism
  • The Origins of ‘Populism’
  • Common Features of Populism
  • Two Different Forms of Populism – Right wing and Egalitarian Populism
  • Chapter 5 Austrian Corporatism – An Overview
  • Austrian Corporatism – Elitist Oppression?
  • Corruption in the Political System
  • Political Participation and Opposition
  • The Scientific Rationality of Austrian Corporatism
  • Ideology Strikes Back
  • Austrian Corporatism – a Success Story
  • Austrian Corporatism – Historical Legacy
  • Healing the Wounds and Bridging the Past
  • Corporatism and the Austrian National Character
  • Austrian Corporatism – Ideological and yet Progressive
  • Corporatism and Democratic Flaws
  • Post-war Economic Realities
  • Chapter 6 A Short History of the FPÖ from 1949 to 1986
  • Verband der Unabhängigen – the Failed Integration of FPÖ’s Predecessor
  • The Early Years – Fledging Attempts at Liberalism
  • The Salzburg Programme, Bruno Kreisky and Attersee Circle – Between Mainstream and Oblivion
  • The Bad Ischl Programme and the Libertarian Promise
  • The Fragile Coalition 1983–1986
  • The Ascendancy of Jörg Haider
  • The Early FPÖ – Battle between Extremists and Liberals
  • Chapter 7 Analysing the FPÖ’s Electoral Appeal – Rhetoric, Party Programme and Reactions
  • Racism, Anti-Democratic Ideas and Fascism – Rhetoric and Provocation
  • The Party Yearbooks – The Party’s Ideological Spectrum
  • The Party Programmes of 1985 and 1997
  • The EU Sanctions against Austria
  • Haider and the FPÖ – Manipulation, Tactics and Hidden Agendas?
  • Chapter 8 Analysing the Appeal of the FPÖ – the Electorate
  • Election Results
  • Public Polls – How Different are FPÖ Voters?
  • Chapter 9 The FPÖ’s Critique of the Elite
  • Social and Cultural Critique
  • Political Critique
  • Power-greedy socialism
  • Daily encounters with the Austrian elite
  • Economic Critique
  • Chapter 10 Conclusion
  • Synthesis of Main Findings
  • What About the Events since 2000?
  • Right-wing Extremism and Populism and Its Wider Implications
  • A Final Note
  • References
  • Annex

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1949 Founding of Verband der Unabhängigen (VdU) (League of Independents).

1950 Jörg Haider is born in Bad Giosern/Oberösterreich.

1955 Anton Reinthaler, former Nazi, creates Freiheitspartei as a rival to the VdU.

1956 VdU and Freiheitspartei merge into Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs (FPÖ).

1956 Reinthaler wins a landslide over Kraus. FPÖ’s liberal wing is marginalised.

1958 Reinthaler dies and is succeeded by Friedrich Peter, previous SS soldier.

1958 Peter declares that the FPÖ is a party for nationals and liberals alike.

1964 Salzburger Programm (the Salzburg Programme) adapts a more liberal profile.

1966 German Nationalist splinter group forms Nationaldemokratische Partei.

1968 Bad Ischl Programm (the Bad Ischl Programme), introducing libertarian views.

1971 Foundation of Atterseekreis (the Attersee Circle) by young, liberal students.

1973 Freiheitliche Manifest gives voice to both liberal and libertarian sentiments.

1973 Intensification of tension between German Nationalists and modernizers.

1978 Peter looses election to Alexander Götz, German Nationalist.

1979 The FPÖ becomes member of the world-wide Liberal International.

1980 The liberal Norbert Steger wins election over the Nationalist Harald Ofner.

1983 The SPÖ looses absolute majority, and initiates negotiations with the FPÖ.

1983 Coalition between SPÖ under Vranitzky and FPÖ under Steger.

1983 The FPÖ reaches an all-time-low with 5.3 per cent of votes cast.

1984 In Carinthia, his home region, Haider starts an internal opposition to Steger.

1984 FPÖ is supported by 16 per cent in the Carinthian local election.

1985 Liberal views are strengthened in the new Salzburg Programme.

1985 Haider refers to WWII as ‘events’ in the Austrian newspaper Profil.

1985 Friedhelm Frischenschläger shakes hand with war criminal Walter Reder,

1986 Steger is outmaneuvered by Jörg Haider, who seizes power of the FPÖ.

1986 Vranizky terminates coalition with the Freedom Party.

1986 The FPÖ is supported by 9.7 per cent in the National election.

1991 Haider states that the Nazi regime had a ‘proper unemployment policy’.

1991 As a result, Haider is forced to resign as Head of Provincial Government.

1993 Heide Schmidt, Friedhelm Frischenschläger and other liberals leave FPÖ.

1993 The FPÖ leaves Liberal International followed by anti-liberal campaigning.

1995 Haider talks at Krumpendorf to war veterans and ÖVP and SPÖ politicians.

1995 Haider refers to concentration camps as ‘punishment camps’. ← 9 | 10 →

1997 The Linz Programme erases all references to liberalism.

1999 The FPÖ achieves 26.9 per cent of votes cast.

1999 Coalition discussions between SPÖ and ÖVP unsuccessful.

2000 Government coalition between ÖVP and FPÖ.

2000 EU-sanctions against ÖVP/FPÖ government coalition and against Austria.

2000 Jörg Haider resigns and is replaced by Susanne Riess-Passer.

2000 Haider tries to retain control over the FPÖ from Carinthia.

2002 The FPÖ receives 10 per cent of votes, almost 40% less than 1999.

2005 Split in the FPÖ. Jörg Haider launches Bundnis Zukunft Austria (BZÖ).

2008 Sum of FPÖ/BZÖ votes 28.2 per cent in National election.

2008 Haider dies in a car crash as a consequence of high speed and alcohol.

2009 In the EU-election, FPÖ receives 12.7 per cent and BZÖ wins 4.6 per cent.

2009 BZÖ receives 44.9 per cent of voters in the regional election in Carinthia.

2013 BZÖ receives 6.4 per cent of voters in the regional election in Carinthia.

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ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2016 (April)
Right-wing Appeal Anti-elitism Jörg Haider's Appeal Anti-racist Rhetoric
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2016. 264 pp., 27 tables, 3 graphs

Biographical notes

Göran Adamson (Author)

Göran Adamson is an Associate Professor in Sociology, with a PhD from the LSE, London. His research interests are contemporary right-wing populism, forms of nationalism, and multiculturalism.


Title: Populist Parties and the Failure of the Political Elites
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266 pages