Building on the conceptualization of the radical right party family and impact as interaction effect, the chapter elaborates the idea that any political actor’s impact is tied to its environment; that is, the arena of interaction. The chapter, therefore, identifies the characteristics of the electoral arena in the region according to the power configurations in the party system. The key context factors discussed here concern the particular historical legacies (late nation-building, lack of democratic experience, communist legacy), the Brubakerian “triad” coming from the particular trajectories of nation-building and the accompanying cultures, and the structural patterns of underdeveloped electoral cleavages and underinstitutionalized party systems. The particular focus in the chapter is on the strength and electoral success of the radical right and the varying significance of ethnic and national minorities as well as refugees and asylum-seekers in the respective countries. Building on previously existing and novel survey data, the prevalence of xenophobic attitudes in the region and the salience of the radical right’s traditional and new-found scapegoats – that is, of ethnic and national minorities as well as asylum-seekers and refugees – are discussed to further specify existing opportunity structures. The chapter concludes with a brief overview of the main actors of the radical right scene in the seven countries from the regime change until 2016.
After a discussion of alternative terms and concepts, such as extremism, fascism, and populism, the chapter develops an operational definition of the “radical right” as a collective actor with a distinct political ideology, the core element of which is a populist ultranationalism grounded in modernization theory. The chapter puts forward the central arguments of the book, that the radical right has been able to shape the discourse and policies of inclusion – of minorities and more recently refugees and asylum-seekers – in Eastern Europe in an anti-liberal way, and that the positions of many East European governments are the results of the infiltration of ultranationalist politics into the political mainstream. After reviewing the existing literature on the direct and indirect impact of the radical right, an analytical model is put forward to study such processes regarding parties’ positions and policy-making. Beyond party positions and policies, however, the authors argue that the abovementioned developments have considerable repercussions for the quality of democracy, as well, in so far as the fundamentally exclusionary ultranationalist or ethnocultural understanding of the people characteristic of the radical right party family is directed against the concept of liberal democracy. This is captured by the authors’ concept of “depletion of democracy.” Finally, the chapter proceeds to operationalize the analytical model and democratic quality for studying the role of the radical right in the political process and its political impact.
A summary view of the radical right in Eastern Europe reveals that despite its organizational and electoral volatility it has not remained on the political margins. Through its contagion effects, radical right parties managed to lastingly influence mainstream parties’ positions both on the radical right’s core issues as well as overall along the GAL-TAN scale leading to the radicalization of the mainstream. They impacted policy-making and negatively affected the status and rights of vulnerable groups such as ethnic and national minorities and refugees and asylum-seekers in several countries either directly through restrictive legislative changes or by shifting the discourse and bringing the rise of violence. These parties naturally do not function in a vacuum and the positive engagement of their mainstream competitors always enabled such shifts. While earlier research had not found impact on the polity, the book argues that this conclusion is starting to be shaken in Eastern Europe: beyond the radicalization of the mainstream and the implementation of restrictive policies, the co-existence of these developments and the lasting rise and strengthening of radical right parties fundamentally threaten principles of equality and inclusiveness and thereby challenge the liberal foundations of democracy leading to its depletion.
Depleting Democracies aims at assessing the extent to which radical right parties across the new democracies in post-communist Eastern Europe can negatively affect the quality οf democracy in this region. To this end, the book concentrates on institutional and party-politics, e.g. cordon sanitaire arrangements, as well as identity politics with a particular focus on the policy positions and active policy-making of radical right as well as mainstream parties on issues pertaining to ethnic minorities and refugees. The study compares three country groups, which are distinct in terms of the radical right’s relevance (Bulgaria and Slovakia; Hungary, Poland, and Romania; and the Czech Republic and Estonia) and covers the period from 2000 until 2016. In its research design, the study pursues a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods, including expert surveys and analysis of archival material. The book shows significant – and mostly irreversible – effects across the entire region: when mainstream parties engaged positively with radical right parties (collaboration and/or co-optation), they shifted rightward in their sociocultural and minority-related positions. Moreover, the mainstream’s positive engagement with the radical right often resulted in rightward shifts in the selected policy areas. Such developments are indicative signs of what can be called “depletion of democracy” – i.e., the process of weakening and undermining key values of the liberal democratic order (equality and inclusiveness). Altogether, the study furthers both theory development on and comparative analyses of radical right actors in political processes, and its results are particularly relevant to the debate on democratic quality in liberal democracies.
The Introduction commences with the dual observation that, despite the successful integration of the post-communist democracies into the European Union, the quality of democracy has suffered setbacks in some countries of Eastern Europe and that by today the agenda of the radical right has clearly reached the mainstream in the region. After the observations are outlined, the key questions to be addressed in the book are presented. Arguing that the strengthening and mainstreaming of the radical right, primarily in its manifestation as political parties, may have detrimental effects on the overall quality of democracy, the book seeks to explore if there is a direct relationship between radical right parties’ electoral strength and their impact, or if other, mostly mainstream, parties’ strategies, such as maintaining or abandoning a cordon sanitaire between them and the radical right, play a more crucial role in how the radical right can affect its political environment. The chapter introduces the three layers of potential impact to be later examined in the book: parties’ positions, policies, and the polity as such. It identifies the thematic focus as parties’ positions and policies toward the rights and status of ethnic and national minorities as well as refugees and asylum-seekers, which tend to be core issues contested by the radical right, and which are also of key concern for the book’s understanding of liberal democracy as benchmarks for inclusiveness.
The chapter explores radical right impact on policy-making, particularly regarding the radical right’s traditional and new core issues. In doing so, the chapter builds on extensive archival research relating to legislative initiatives (passed and failed) concerning the rights and status of ethnic and national minorities as well as those of refugees and asylum-seekers between 2000 and 2016. The focus lies primarily on periods when radical right parties held parliamentary seats and thus could have direct influence on legislation. The identified restrictive legal initiatives are studied and discussed here in their wider context – along the interaction model introduced earlier – taking into account potential counter-mobilization, e.g. in the civil society or the wider public, and potential state reactions, which could influence the outcome of the policy-making process. The analysis shows that the positive engagement of mainstream parties with the radical right either through collaboration or co-optation does not only shift their positions, but also tends to lead to the mainstreaming of radical right policies though restrictive legislative changes in the thematic areas. Even when restrictive legislation was not passed, the strengthening of the radical right often brought along an increase in – physical and rhetorical – hostilities against minorities. The passing of restrictive legislation was particularly noted regarding ethnic and national minorities, and when passed, they were rarely reversed. Asylum-related legislation on the other hand was mostly seen as a technical issue until the displacement crisis, and in line with its low salience was not politicized by radical right actors until recently.
In their combination, restrictive shifts of mainstream competitor parties’ positions, that is the radicalization of the mainstream, and the adoption of distinct radical right policies via legislation pose a serious challenge to the democratic quality of the political systems in question, leading to the phenomenon of the “depletion of democracy.” In this light, the chapter moves on to discuss the radical right’s impact on a more systemic level; i.e., on the democratic quality in the seven East European countries. It connects the findings of the previous two chapters to the concept of liberal democracy and democratic quality, thereby emphasizing the importance of inclusiveness as it appears in Dahl’s widely accepted polyarchy concept. Admitting that most quality of democracy measurements focus on the institutional-structural components of democracy and that inclusiveness has been treated rather marginally, the chapter nonetheless attempts to bridge the gap between research on radical right impact and democracy quality. It does so by reviewing correlations between periods of identified position and policy shifts in the previous chapters and periods of decline in democratic quality as reflected in the liberal democracy index of the Varieties of Democracy project. Based on this overview, the authors identify instances of depletion of democracy and conclude that the earlier observation that the radical right does not pose a fundamental threat to the democratic order has become disputable with regard to certain parts of Eastern Europe.
Under the assumption that when having coalition and/or blackmail potential radical right parties can influence not only the strategic response, but also the positions of their mainstream competitors, the chapter examines the development of party positions in the seven countries between 2000 and 2016. Building on the Chapel House Expert Survey and the authors’ own survey, the development of parties’ positions is studied first along the GAL-TAN scale to reflect on any potential shifts toward the “Traditional-Authoritarian-Nationalist” end of the spectrum. Subsequently, shifts in party positions regarding ethnic and national minorities are also studied. Finally, the chapter discusses party positions on the radical right’s new scapegoats, refugees, and asylum-seekers, which has been uniquely collected by the authors’ survey for the first time and which overall shows that in the aftermath of the 2015 peak of the refugee and migration crisis, radical right parties and most of their mainstream competitors adopted just as and at times even more restrictive positions regarding these groups as they previously did regarding ethnic and national minorities. Based on the empirical observations, the chapter argues that where mainstream parties’ positions either along the GAL-TAN scale or on policy issues shifted in a restrictive direction in response to the radical right’s blackmail potential or following mainstream parties’ positive engagement with the radical right, the shifts tend to last – even if the radical right eventually falls out of parliament.
Chapter 4 addresses a notable gap in the literature by exploring the period during which the government built its new institutional framework. The chapter argues that establishing credible and respected institutions was essential to legitimise the Act’s legal rules, but the process was bedevilled by internal tensions and disagreements about presentational aspects of reform between ministers, the ‘lower-levels’ of the core executive and officials working in the new institutions. The chapter provides insights into the institutional formal rules and informal norms that ministers hoped would secure institutional credibility and the perception of independence. This was a critical part of a wider framing contest over the merits of reform. By tracing the staggered introduction of the Registrar of Trade Unions and Employers (Phase 1), the Commission of Industrial Relations (Phase 2), the Industrial Arbitration Board and the National Industrial Relations Court (Phase 3), the chapter discusses the informal mechanisms of influence and control that developed as the day-to-day practicalities of institutional ‘independence’ dominated internal debates. The chapter concludes with an analysis of the Act’s ‘non-role’ during the first miners’ strike (December 1971 – February 1972), indicating the limits of ‘depoliticised’ strategies at moments of heightened tensions. This section provides the first detailed account of the discussions that took place surrounding use of the Act’s emergency procedures in this dispute and explains why ministers were so cautious about intervening for fear of ‘repoliticising’ the government’s role in industrial relations before the Act had settled in.
The primary purpose of Chapter 5 is to chart the two most significant and infamous disputes during the Act’s life – the 1972 railways strikes and the docks disputes. The chapter highlights the fragility of ‘depoliticised’ governing as the Act proved incapable of defusing these highly politicised, national disputes. It argues that the role of the judiciary proved to be an inappropriate and deeply problematic vehicle for ‘depoliticised’ governing in this context as rank-and-file trade unionists distrusted the courts and began to actively resist and undermine the strategy. The government was neither insulated from blame as events unfolded, nor was it able to influence them from a distance. The ‘independence’ of the judiciary – the very thing it was hoped provided the strategy its credibility – became its liability as the framework of rules became increasingly unpredictable as creative judicial interpretation caused havoc and produced unanticipated outcomes. Through analysis of newly released archival material, the chapter explores how perceptions of governmental interference were forged as tensions grew between the overarching depoliticising intentions of the Act and the distinctly politicising interventionist emergency measures that these disputes involved.