Academic journal article Journal of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland

Symposium 2016-2017: Globalisation, Inequality and the Rise of Populism: Who Is the Populist Irish Voter?

Academic journal article Journal of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland

Symposium 2016-2017: Globalisation, Inequality and the Rise of Populism: Who Is the Populist Irish Voter?

Article excerpt

1. INTRODUCTION

The Great Recession begot economic and political crisis heralding a renewed march towards populism and party system fragmentation in many states. The severity of the crisis, the imposition of austerity and the protracted recovery propelled long standing critics of the Irish economic model centre stage and in common with many other states, party system fragmentation advanced with the long dominant centrist parties suffering severe losses at elections and new and more radical political forces emerging (Marsh et al., 2017; Marsh et al., 2018; Kriesi et al., 2016). Irish elections in 2011 and 2016 were among the top ten most volatile in Western Europe since 1945 and the traditional parties of government experienced sharp contractions in their vote shares.

Across Europe governments were punished and incumbents voted out of office. Hernandez and Kriesi (2015) demonstrated that as the crisis advanced within a country, the propensity for voters to punish the government increased. However, in many cases, the parties which achieved power frequently found themselves implementing policy platforms they had oftentimes explicitly rejected while in opposition and during the preceding election campaign. This dynamic led Muro and Vidal (2014) to argue that elections no longer fulfilled some of their essential properties, namely allowing voters to choose different parties and leaders to carry out different policies.

As the electoral cycles progressed, an increasing number of parties came to be rejected by electorates and there were increases in support for new parties, among them populist parties, yielding greater political fragmentation in many states. Muro and Vidal (2014) argued that this pattern was most pronounced in states with constrained governance arrangements usually arising from receipt of a financial assistance package from the Troika (European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund). The financial assistance packages provided, usually known as bailouts, were conditional on economic and political reforms and newly elected governments in bailout states often had little room for policy maneuver. Hobolt and Tilley (2016) argued that new challenger parties, often populist, which emerged across Europe, whether on the radical left or the radical right, projected a common populist narrative of 'take back control'. Essentially, Hobolt and Tilley argued that this unifying message worked as a catch phrase for parties of the far right opposed to open borders and immigration but equally for parties of the far left opposed to the fiscal retrenchment policies that had been implemented and, in some cases imposed, across the EU as a policy response to the recession.

While political fragmentation was a major theme in public discourse on Irish politics especially after the 2016 general election, discussion of populist politics tended to focus on the small but very vocal groups on the far left of Irish politics. The Socialist Party, which later coalesced with the Anti-Austerity Alliance, People Before Profit and a small number of independents (non-party members of parliament) were at the forefront of campaigns which opposed fiscal retrenchment and were particularly prominent in the water charges protests from 2014. However, these far left populist parties are best understood as occasionally potent protest forces but under-developed electorally. This view is informed by a long standing tendency among parties of the left to fragment and re-organise. The fragmentation dynamic has persisted. The Anti-Austerity Alliance relaunched in 2017 as Solidarity, the Left Alternative and it retained its loose coalition with People Before Profit. Independents 4 Change successfully contested the 2016 election as a left wing party but operates in practice as a collective of independents (non party TDs). Since the economic crisis, these parties have increased in electoral strength and organisational capacity but they remain some distance from influencing the composition of government. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.