Assessing the diversity of anti-establishment and populist politics in Central and Eastern Europe

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The more populism enters public debates, the more it needs close scrutiny. Central and Eastern Europe offers a useful context for exploring the diversity of parties identified as populist. Anti-establishment rhetoric provides a suitable conceptual starting point because of its pervasive role in the region’s political discourse. Using a new expert survey, this article details the relationship between anti-establishment salience and political positions, showing that anti-establishment parties occupy a full range across both economic and cultural dimensions and many occupy more centrist positions. Narrowing the focus to content analysis of anti-establishment parties’ thin ideology in the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia, it is concurrently found that for many actors (including those usually labelled as populist) anti-establishment rhetoric is indeed predominant, yet not always extensively combined with other elements of populism: people-centrism and invocation of general will. The findings are important for understanding multiple varieties of anti-establishment politics also beyond the region.

Original languageEnglish
JournalWest European Politics
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)1310-1336
Number of pages27
Publication statusPublished - 19.09.2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Since October 2018, the research of Bartek Pytlas is funded by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft), grant no. 391643469. Part of the paper was written during Sarah Engler’s research stay at the European University Institute, Italy, that was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (grant no. P1BEP1-172267). The conducting of the expert survey was largely financed by the UniBern Forschungsstiftung (grant no. 61/2015).

    Research areas

  • anti-establishment, Central and Eastern Europe, left and right, Political parties, populist
  • Politics