Volatile Counter-Cosmopolitans: Explaining the Electoral Performance of Radical Right Parties in Poland and Eastern Germany

in German Politics and Society
Author: Lars Rensmann
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Despite several breakthroughs that indicate radical right parties' significant electoral potential, they remain highly volatile players in both Poland and eastern Germany. This is puzzling because radical right competitors can benefit from favorable politico-cultural conditions shaped by postcommunist legacies. The electoral markets in Poland and the eastern German Länder show low levels of affective party identification and low levels of political trust in mainstream parties and government institutions. Most importantly, there is a sizeable, yet largely unrepresented segment of voters who share salient counter-cosmopolitan preferences. They point to a “silent counterrevolution“ against globalization and cosmopolitan value change that displays substantive affinities to radical right ideology. Offering a transborder regional comparison of the four most relevant radical right parties and their conditions for electoral mobilization in Poland and eastern Germany, this article argues that the radical right's crossnational volatility-and often underperformance-in elections is mainly caused by internal supply side factors. They range from organizational deficiencies, leadership issues, and internal feuds, to strategic failures and a lack of democratic responsiveness. In turn, the disequilibrium between counter-cosmopolitan demand and its political representation is likely to be reduced if radical right competitors become more effective agents of electoral mobilization-or new, better organized ones emerge.

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