Academic journal article Journal of Politics and Law

The Perils of Populist Radical Right Parties: The Case of the Bulgarian Attack Party

Academic journal article Journal of Politics and Law

The Perils of Populist Radical Right Parties: The Case of the Bulgarian Attack Party

Article excerpt

Abstract

Populist radical right parties, such as the Bulgarian Attack Party, sow the seeds of ethnic discord and rally around authoritarian policies for sustaining domestic order. Scholars studying these political parties have focused on examining their leaders' rhetoric, political messages, and electoral success, but have paid less attention to their effects on liberal democracy. This study assesses Attack's impact on Bulgarian liberal democracy. Analysis of data from the 2008 European Social Survey suggests that party preference does not affect liberal democratic values such as attitudes toward torture and immigrants, but does help us predict people's opinions on gay rights. None of Attack's legislative proposals to curtail minority rights in the Bulgarian National Assembly were approved. In spite of its image as an anti-establishment party, Attack's legislators supported Borisov's cabinet in several no confidence votes between 2009 and 2012. Overall, Attack has had little impact on Bulgaria's legislative and political process.

Keywords: Attack Party, Bulgaria, populism, radical right

1. Introduction

More than a decade ago, the Political Affairs Committee of the Council of Europe issued a report, which warned citizens and politicians about the proliferation of extremist parties and movements 'that encourage intolerance, xenophobia, and racism' and 'defend ideologies that are incompatible with democracy and human rights. ' (Note 1) Proponents of liberal democracy feel rightful indignation at the flagrantly racist rhetoric adopted by the leaders of extremist right political parties. The problem of right-wing extremism throughout Europe has hardly subsided since 2000. In a recent statement, Márton Gyöngyösi, an MP of the Hungarian Jobbik party, declared that Hungarians should make a list of all Jews who live in the country, particularly those who occupy positions in the legislature and the government, for they pose a grave national security threat. (Note 2) A leader of Romania's New Generation Party stated that if he were to win the 2009 presidential elections, he would force all homosexuals in special ghettos (Bugaric, 2008).

Scholars have extensively researched these parties' origins, discourses, electoral strategies, and leadership styles (Betz, 2005; Eatwell, 2003; Fennema, 2005; Norris, 2005; Wodak, 2005). Numerous hypotheses have been propounded in an attempt to explain their popularity and variations in their electoral success in different political contexts (Eatwell, 2003; Mudde, 2004). Less attention has been paid, however, to the effects of these political parties on people ' s value systems, their participation in legislative processes, and their influence on their countries' political processes. The analyses that do address these parties' political effects provide excellent overview of the anti-liberal values reflected in the parties' rhetoric and official statements (Arier, 2010; Betz, 2005). Nevertheless, we still know too little about these parties' effect on legislation and the inclusion of their values into policy outcomes. Since these political parties emerged in Western Europe first, most of the literature features West European case studies and comparative analyses (Ignazi, 2003; Kitschelt, 2007; Mény & Surel, 2002). Several studies of populist radical right parties (PRRPs) in Eastern and Central Europe offer insights on the differences between and within this party family in Western and Eastern Europe (Mudde, 2007; Mudde & Rovira-Kaltwasser, 2012; Ramet, 1999; Todorov, 2007). Still, we have yet to explore their effects on liberal democracy. It is important to investigate these parties' effects in Central and Eastern Europe because the liberal foundations of new democracies are more vulnerable to the attacks of the far right than those of established democracies. This study examines the individual, institutional, and systemic effects of Bulgaria's PRRP - the Attack Party - between its formation in 2005 and the present. …

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