Radical right parties are becoming increasingly likely candidates to participate in government coalitions in Western Europe. Comparative research on the electoral performance of these parties in government is still scarce. Our overview of the electoral effects of government participation of six parties in national governments shows that they do not run a higher risk of losing votes after government participation than other parties. There is considerable variation, however. Some radical right parties experienced great losses, while others won additional support. Focusing on the ways in which radical right parties conducted themselves in government, we explore why some parties won votes and others lost in post-incumbency elections. We compare their policy achievements with regard to immigration and integration policies, the performance of their ministers, and the party coherence of the six parties in office. Our analysis shows that policy records do not fully explain the variation in post-incumbency electoral results. Weak performance and internal party conflict prevent parties from credibly laying claim to the policy achievements of coalition governments and demonstrate that some of these parties were not ready for office.
This work is part of the research programme ‘Newly Governing Parties: Success or Failure?’ (dossiernummer 013-115-060), which is financed by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).
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5 Radical right parties that support minority governments are de facto coalition members, because they are part of ‘a more or less permanent coalition that ensures acceptance of all or almost all government proposals’ (de Swaan, Abram, Coalition Theories and Cabinet Formations: A Study of Formal Theories of Coalition Formation Applied to Nine European Parliaments after 1918, Amsterdam, Elsevier, 1973, p. 85). From 2001 to 2005 the Norwegian Fremskrittspartiet (FRP) also supported a minority government, but its position was less formalized than that of its Danish counterpart. This case is therefore not included in this article.
6 The LN also joined the first Berlusconi cabinet in 1994. However, the party was primarily a regionalist party at the time. The issue of autonomy for northern Italy received more attention than immigration and integration in the electoral programme of the LN in 1994. See Fella, Stefano and Ruzza, Carlo, ‘Changing Political Opportunities and the Re-invention of the Italian Right’, Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies, 8: 2 (2006), pp. 179–200.
7 A new electoral system introduced in Italy in 2005 makes it difficult to compare the electoral results.
8 Dunphy, Richard and Bale, Tim, ‘The Radical Left in Coalition Government: Towards a Comparative Measurement of Success and Failure’, Party Politics, 17: 4 (2011), pp. 488–504.
9 Rüdig, Wolfgang, ‘Is Government Good for Greens? Comparing the Electoral Effects of Government Participation in Western and East-Central Europe’, European Journal of Political Research, 45 (2006), p. 132. Cf. Elias, Anwen and Tronconi, Filippo, ‘From Protest to Power: Autonomist Parties in Government’, Party Politics, 17: 4 (2011), pp. 505–524.
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11 Rüdig, , ‘Is Government Good for Greens’, pp. 127–145; Dorussen, Han and Taylor, Michaell (eds), Economic Voting, London, Routledge, 2002.
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16 Anderson, Christopher, ‘The Dynamics of Public Support for Coalition Governments’, Comparative Political Studies, 19 (1995), pp. 151–170; Bélanger, Éric and Meguid, Bonnie M., ‘Issue Salience, Issue Ownership, and Issue-based Vote Choice’, Electoral Studies, 27: 3 (2008), pp. 477–491; Green, Jane and Hobolt, Sara B., ‘Owning the Issue Agenda: Party Strategies and Vote Choices in British Elections’, Electoral Studies, 27: 3 (2008), pp. 460–476.
17 Petrocik, , ‘Issue Ownership’.
18 Fennema, , ‘Some Conceptual Issues’; Mudde, Populist Radical Right Parties.
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21 In the 1999 elections the FPÖ had beaten the ÖVP by a small margin. However, the two parties gained an equal number of parliamentary seats and the ÖVP took the lead in the coalition negotiations. The FPÖ was forced to acknowledge the strong bargaining position of the Christian Democrat Party and had to grant it the chancellorship. The Swiss situation is even more complicated, since Switzerland is not a parliamentary democracy. The country is not ruled by a government coalition, but by the Swiss Federal Council, in which no distinction is made between senior and junior coalition members. Thus, even though the SVP emerged as the largest party after the Swiss election of 19 October 2003, it only appoints two of the seven members of the Swiss Federal Council.
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24 De Lange, , ‘From Pariah to Power’.
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33 That is with the exception of dual nationality for residents who belong to the nation but live abroad. They should not be required to discard their original citizenship status.
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1 This work is part of the research programme ‘Newly Governing Parties: Success or Failure?’ (dossiernummer 013-115-060), which is financed by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).
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