The success of the radical right in Western Europe - the effect of mainstream parties' policy positions?
The electoral gains of the radical right in Europe have been remarkable during recent years. There is not one single cause explaining the phenomenon but scholars are to a great extent agreeing on the fact that convergence between mainstream left and right parties has had an excessive impact on the success of the family. The sociocultural policy dimension has been gaining more attention in research as it is seen as the primary basis for these new parties. Drawing on theories on party competition and political opportunity structures this study seek to study policy positions and reanalyse (with an inclusion of a sociocultural dimension) the question of whether convergence of positions held by mainstream left and right parties can explain variation in success of radical right parties in Western Europe. Looking at recent time variant cross-country data and using a two-step approach the study first explores the relationship between distance on party positioning of mainstream parties in Western Europe and the likelihood of a country having a radical right party. At second it explores the relationship between mainstream party positioning and electoral success of the radical right parties. Distance on party positioning is measured on a left-right economic dimension and a left-right sociocultural dimension. The findings do not give proof to the convergence theory. Looking at the positioning at sociocultural dimension it rather it shows the opposite. The main finding is that, the more to the right mainstream right parties are positioned on the sociocultural dimension the higher electoral support for the radical right.