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Populist Parties and the Failure of the Political Elites

The Rise of the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ)


Göran Adamson

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».
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Chapter 3 Methodology


As the literature review has shown, there is an abundance of written material about the Austrian Freedom Party, particularly from 1986 onwards. The party’s political programme, its history and its electoral successes have received significant attention, with a particular focus on fascism, xenophobia, immigration and related issues. This thesis seeks to assess the reasons for the electoral success of the Freedom Party. This requires a careful assessment of the data and the methods that will be used to analyse the data. In order to understand the reasons behind the Freedom Party’s success, two areas of interest will be highlighted: the debate concerning the Freedom Party and right-wing extremism, and the debate concerning the Freedom Party and populism.

Over the last few decades, the Austrian Freedom Party has been one of the most written-about political parties in Europe. Given Austria’s modest size, the amount of attention devoted to the Freedom Party is all the more surprising. Despite this, however, the number of thorough investigations dedicated to the Freedom Party’s own material has been fairly small. Often, second-hand sources, occasionally with a strong normative agenda, have been regarded as sufficient to support the analysis of the Party. Yet it is impossible to analyse any political movement without assigning due attention to its own documents and publications. This thesis therefore draws to a considerable extent upon primary sources; party programmes, internal documents, Jörg Haider’s own publications and books, political declarations and speeches, and statements by prominent party members....

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