The significance of populist parties and their presence in party systems is undeniable. Parties like the Dutch Freedom Party, the French National Front, and the Five Star Movement in Italy rank among the largest political parties in their party systems.
Absorbing the Blow examines the effect of populist parties on eleven European party systems. The results are mixed. The book finds that impact often depends on the influence that populist parties have had on mainstream political parties – those that hitherto dominated party competition.
In some instances, populist parties reinforce existing patterns of competition and government formation. Party systems that were bipolar continue to be bipolar. In others change occurs, either because populist parties make it difficult for mainstream parties to form coalitions that were hitherto possible, or because their presence allows mainstream parties to form coalitions that were not previously conceivable.
This collection seeks to analyse the way in which mainstream parties absorb the blow of populist party activity, and concludes that populist parties are one of several factors contributing to changes in party systems.
'This set of sophisticated case studies provides the basis for a wide-ranging comparative analysis that asks how the rise of populist parties is changing European party systems. The record shows that by reshaping the competition for votes, and the competition for government, populist parties have been the midwives of competitive processes working to transform the continent’s party systems and democratic politics.'
R. Kenneth Carty, University of British Columbia
'This is a timely book. As the editors point out in their introduction, populists are now the single most successful postwar political family. Written by renowned experts, the country chapters cover a good cross-section of relevant European party systems and show that populist parties represent one of several factors that reshape party systems.'
Thomas Poguntke, Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf