Book manuscript (contract with Oxford University Press): Centrist Anti-Establishment Parties and their Struggle for Survival
Party politics in Central and Eastern Europe are characterized by high electoral volatility and dissatisfaction with politics. Centrist anti-establishment parties (CAPs) are one of the main symptoms of and beneficiaries from these phenomena. CAPs successfully challenge mainstream parties by accusing them of being corrupt and dishonest, although unlike radical left or radical right parties, they do not attack them on ideological grounds. Numerous CAPs, such as the Bulgarian GERB, the Slovak OL’aNO and the Czech ANO, have won large numbers of votes, which have very often resulted in government participation. However, CAPs seldom survive more than one election because they struggle with the loss of their newness, which is the only characteristic that sets them apart from the political establishment. In this book, I explain CAPs’ survival and death and argue that electoral persistence requires that CAPs abandon their initial strategy of pure protest. Instead, they need to adopt one of three strategies of survival that rely on more sustainable electoral support: a reframed anti-establishment strategy, an anti-corruption strategy, or a mainstream strategy. An analysis of CAPs’ programmatic transformations over time, which uses a novel expert survey that covers more than 41 elections and 120 parties (Engler et al. 2021), confirms this claim. Furthermore, case studies integrating data from interviews with MPs and party officials not only provide a more in-depth picture of strategic change, but also point towards some potential pitfalls and constraints the parties may face when they make their strategic choices. In the second part of the book, I loosen the assumption that all CAPs are equally capable of strategic change and argue that the ideological diversity of CAPs’ voters particularly interferes with strategic change. Voter-level data support this. My book provides the first thorough analysis of the origin, persistence and death of centrist anti-establishment parties. It shows that change is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for a CAP’s survival. The adoption of a new survival strategy bears risks for CAPs with very diverse electorates, because a new strategy always also requires that CAPs adapt ideologically. Eventually, ideology determines which CAPs persist, and thus it structures party competition even in highly volatile environments.
Additional work on anti-establishment politics in Central and Eastern Europe
Centrist Anti-Establishment Parties and Their Protest Voters: More Than a Superficial Romance? [publication]
Assessing the diversity of anti-establishment and populist politics in Central and Eastern Europe. (with Bartek Pytlas and Kevin Deegan-Krause). [publication]
When the Anti-Establishment Becomes the Establishment: The Survival of New Centrist Anti-Establishment Parties after their Initial Breakthrough [working paper]
Expert survey on ‘Party Claims on Corruption and Anti-Establishment Rhetoric in Central and Eastern Europe’ (with Klaus Armingeon and Kevin Deegan-Krause) [data set]
The survival of new centrist anti-establishment parties. The interplay of anti-corruption and ideology over time [PhD thesis] - Awarded the Best Dissertation Prize (2018-2019) by the Swiss Political Science Association.