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During the past three decades, anti-immigration parties have emerged all over Western Europe. Some of them have been treated like any other party by their mainstream opponents and a few have even become members of governing coalitions (e.g., the Austrian FPÖ). Other such parties have been politically excluded: established parties have refrained from any cooperation with them and in some cases even refused to enter into a political debate with their politicians. This article investigates how the strategy of ostracising anti-immigration parties affects the internal dynamics within these parties. In particular, we assess whether these parties radicalise as a result of this strategy, and, conversely whether it has a moderating effect when these parties are approached more pragmatically. Our analyses, regarding ten parties at several moments in time, show that anti-immigration parties that were not ostracised became more moderate, whereas those that were treated as outcasts continued to be extremist.
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The Party as Pariah: The Exclusion of Anti-Immigration
Parties and its Effect on their Ideological Positions
Joost Van Spanje; Wouter Van Der Brug
Online Publication Date: 01 November 2007
To cite this Article: Van Spanje, Joost and Van Der Brug, Wouter (2007) 'The Party
as Pariah: The Exclusion of Anti-Immigration Parties and its Effect on their
Ideological Positions', West European Politics, 30:5, 1022 - 1040
To link to this article: DOI: 10.1080/01402380701617431
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The Party as Pariah: The Exclusion of
Anti-Immigration Parties and its
Effect on their Ideological Positions
JOOST VAN SPANJE and WOUTER VAN DER BRUG
During the past three decades, anti-immigration parties have emerged all over Western
Europe. Some of them have been treated like any other party by their mainstream
opponents and a few have even become members of governing coalitions (e.g., the
Austrian FPO
¨). Other such parties have been politically excluded: established parties
have refrained from any cooperation with them and in some cases even refused to enter
into a political debate with their politicians. This article investigates how the strategy of
ostracising anti-immigration parties affects the internal dynamics within these parties.
In particular, we assess whether these parties radicalise as a result of this strategy, and,
conversely whether it has a moderating effect when these parties are approached more
pragmatically. Our analyses, regarding ten parties at several moments in time, show
that anti-immigration parties that were not ostracised became more moderate, whereas
those that were treated as outcasts continued to be extremist.
Since the 1970s, many Western European countries have witnessed the rise
of a particular set of political parties which are often referred to as ‘right-
wing populist’ or ‘extreme right’, but which we will call ‘anti-immigration
parties’ for the reasons discussed below. These parties have encountered
various responses from other parties, ranging from full cooperation at all
levels to complete political exclusion.
1
Political exclusion can be assumed to
serve three different goals in the three different arenas distinguished by
Sjo
¨blom (1968): the parliamentary, electoral and internal.
Concerning the parliamentary arena, the strategy aims at keeping an anti-
immigration party from power. In the electoral arena, the mainstream
parties seek to de-legitimise anti-immigration parties in the eyes of the voters
by denouncing them as ‘extremist’. In addition, the boycotting of anti-
immigration parties by the establishment is aimed at preventing citizens
from casting a vote for these parties, through emphasising that such votes
would be ‘wasted’. Results of research into the electoral consequences of
Correspondence Address: joost.vanspanje@eui.eu; w.vanderbrug@uva.nl
West European Politics,
Vol. 30, No. 5, 1022 – 1040, November 2007
ISSN 0140-2382 Print/1743-9655 Online ª2007 Taylor & Francis
DOI: 10.1080/01402380701617431
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political exclusion have been somewhat mixed (Downs 2002; Van Spanje
and Van der Brug 2006).
The exclusion of anti-immigration parties from ‘normal politics’ may also
have an effect on internal party dynamics, the so-called internal arena. In
particular, it has been argued that the political exclusion and particularly
state repression – of anti-immigration parties can lead to a stronger sense of
solidarity and group-think among the activists. A case study of the National
Democratic Party of Germany (NPD), for example, shows that this may
have led to its increasing radicalisation (Erb and Minkenberg forthcoming).
Some studies exist on the consequences of state repression, but no studies
have yet been conducted to assess whether parties radicalise as a
consequence of political exclusion. This is quite surprising, since the
strategy of exclusion is widely used,
2
and since some scholars have warned
against the risk that these parties will radicalise when they are politically
excluded (Van der Brug and Fennema 2004). In this analysis, we explore the
relationship between political exclusion and radicalisation.
Hypotheses
Our guiding hypotheses are that anti-immigration parties which are
ostracised by established parties will radicalise as a result (H1), whereas
anti-immigration parties that are not isolated will become more moderate
over time (H2). These expectations are derived from the assumption that in
order to achieve any of its goals, every party has to cooperate to some extent
with other parties. This is certainly true for governing parties, but also for
parties in opposition that aim to affect policy outcomes. This requires them
to cooperate with other parties in order to seek a majority in parliament. To
cooperate with other parties, an anti-immigration party will first have to
mellow its tone towards other parties, towards immigrants and towards the
political system.
Secondly, any kind of cooperation requires that, despite disagreements,
the partners involved have some ground in common. If a party is too
radical, it may not pass the ‘threshold of acceptability’.
3
Hence, to be able to
cooperate with other parties, an anti-immigration party has an incentive to
become more moderate. When such cooperation is hindered by the
strategies of exclusion that mainstream parties pursue, there is no incentive
to become more moderate.
In addition to these organisational causes leading to the moderating effect
that comes about from being treated like a normal party, there is also a
possible psychological process at work. If other parties inundate an anti-
immigration party with denunciations and stigma, its members or
supporters may interpret this as a violation of some of their democratic
rights, such as freedom of speech. Those who are already sceptical about
parliamentary democracy may thus be reconfirmed in their views. More-
over, the isolation resulting from the strategy of exclusion may lead to
The Exclusion of Anti-Immigration Parties 1023
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stronger feelings of solidarity within the group and stronger feelings of
antagonism towards outsiders, which in turn could lead to radicalisation, as
has been argued elsewhere (Erb and Minkenberg forthcoming; Giugni et al.
2005; Husbands 2002; Koopmans 1996; Minkenberg 2006). Although these
other studies focus on the consequences of state repression, the strategy of
established parties to isolate and stigmatise anti-immigration parties is
expected to have similar effects.
If, on the other hand, a party is confronted with more respectful and less
emotion-ridden criticism, and if it is allowed the opportunity to express its
views in public, it will, to some extent, become part of the system. This may
lead the party and its followers to become more moderate towards their
political opponents.
4
Our hypotheses pertain to the effects of ostracism on extremism.
However, we are aware of the fact that the causal relationship between
extremism and ostracism could theoretically run both ways. That is, while it
is possible for a party to radicalise as a consequence of being ostracised, it is
also possible that more extremist parties are more likely to be ostracised
than those that are less extreme. Therefore, we will not only explore the
relationship between ostracism of parties on the one hand, and their
ideological positions on the other by way of cross-sectional analysis only; we
will also explore how the ideological positions of parties have changed over
time as a function of the ostracism to which they are subjected.
A complicating factor when testing our hypothesis that ostracised parties
radicalise (H1), is that anti-immigration parties are likely to take extremist
positions. As a result, they may have little margin to become more radical,
at least not in terms of the survey items we employ in this study. Non-
ostracised anti-immigration parties, on the contrary, have more room to
moderate their positions (H2). Therefore, we are more likely to generate
support for our second hypothesis than for the first one.
Case Selection
The kind of parties that we study here have sometimes been classified by their
position on a left–right dimension (Ignazi 1992; Kitschelt and McGann 1995),
and sometimes combined with the qualification ‘populist’ (Betz 1994;
Ivarsflaten 2005). We, however, will take Fennema’s (1997) definition of the
‘anti-immigrant party’ as a starting point. In his opinion, these parties are an
ideologically mixed bag, and the only thing they have in common is their fierce
opposition towards immigration. Since they do not always attack immigrants,
but are constantly fiercely opposed to immigration, we prefer to label them
anti-immigration parties. In line with Fennema, we define them as political
parties that employ the immigration issue as their core political concern in
electoral campaigns, or are considered by elites of other parties as doing so.
We focus on Western democracies where (1) anti-immigration parties
have participated in national elections, (2) data about their positions can be
1024 J. van Spanje and W. van der Brug
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obtained from all the data sources we use, and where (3) the data are
available for at least two time-points, which is important because our
hypotheses pertain to developments over time. Since we employ (among
others) the data sets of the European Election Studies 1989, 1994, 1999 and
2004, we focus on the countries that were EU member states in those years.
In these country–year combinations, we select all the parties for which we
have data both on the independent variable (level of exclusion of the anti-
immigration party) and on the dependent variable (party radicalisation) and
we assess whether each of them should be classified as an ‘anti-immigration
party’.
In order to distinguish between anti-immigration and other parties, we
examine party attitudes toward immigration, which is highly similar to other
operational definitions of anti-immigration parties (Lubbers 2001; Norris
2005). We take advantage of information emanating from an expert survey,
which was conducted by Lubbers (2001). Lubbers asked country experts to
indicate the positions of all the relevant parties in various Western European
countries by 1990 and 2000 on a 0–10 ‘immigration restriction score’.
5
Since
we expect parties to radicalise or to become more moderate as a function of
ostracism, we included all the anti-immigration parties, which should be
classified as anti-immigration parties at the first time-point in our over-time
analysis. So, parties that should be classified as anti-immigration parties in
1990 were always selected. In addition we selected parties such as Danish
People’s Party (DF), which did not yet exist in 1990, but which should be
classified as anti-immigration in 2000. The results of these expert surveys
revealed a wide gap between parties that can be labelled as ‘anti-
immigration’ (scoring more than 8.5 on the scale) and the other parties
(scoring less than 8.0). On this basis we selected the Danish People’s Party
and the Progress Party (FrP) in Denmark, the French and Walloon
National Fronts (FNs), the former Flemish Bloc (VB), the German
Republicans (REP), the Dutch Centre Democrats (CD), the Italian Social
Movement (MSI, renamed National Alliance, AN) and Northern League
(LN), and the Freedom Party of Austria (FPO
¨). Our case selection,
including ten parties from eight different political systems, is very similar to
that of other studies on anti-immigration parties (e.g., Golder 2003; Van der
Brug et al. 2005). It has been shown that attitudes toward the immigration
issue were an important predictor of voting for these kinds of parties (Van
der Brug et al. 2000). In the following section, we assess for each of the
parties under study whether it was ostracised by the other parties at each
relevant point in time. We then address the question whether political
exclusion is related to radicalisation.
Party Ostracism: Conceptualisation
In the relevant literature, the response of all other parties to anti-
immigration parties is assumed to be dichotomous. On this view, an
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anti-immigration party is perceived by all other parties either as a viable
partner with which they can cooperate, or as some kind of evil which they
should ignore or even try to isolate politically (De Witte 1997; Downs 2001;
Van Donselaar 1995). However, it is only seldom that established parties
react en bloc to an anti-immigration party. For the assessment of the effects
of these party responses, it is very important whether the responses of
individual parties differ, and in what way. For example, just after the
Austrian Social Democratic Party (SPO
¨) had renewed its politics of
Ausgrenzung (ostracism) towards Haider’s FPO
¨in 1999, the People’s Party
(O
¨VP) invited the FPO
¨to join a government coalition (Art 2006). This
outcome shows us that it is important to assess the reaction of separate
parties. Only then can we assess the situation of each anti-immigration party
and categorise each of them as ‘ostracised’ or ‘not ostracised’.
Furthermore, we must take into account that a party can be ostracised at
one level, while it is admitted to ‘normal’ politics at another. For example,
the Austrian SPO
¨officially applied a strict strategy of the Ausgrenzung of
the FPO
¨at the national level. At other levels, however, this Ausgrenzung was
far from complete, since SPO
¨and FPO
¨colleagues in local and state
parliaments cooperated in legislative activities (Art 2006). In this study we
focus on the national level, because this is where the strategy of political
exclusion is bound to have the greatest impact on the electorate. After all, in
the eyes of the voter, national elections are the most important (‘first order’)
elections (Reif and Schmitt 1980).
In order to make the concept comparable over time and space, we take as
a starting point that any party – operating in any party system – has the
choice towards every other party in that system either to politically
cooperate with that party to some extent, or to decide not to cooperate with
it. As an extreme option, a party can choose to systematically rule out any
political cooperation with a specific party. Vice versa, a specific party can be
systematically ruled out from any political cooperation by all the other
parties in the party system at a specific moment in time. If the party is
systematically ruled out from collaboration by a party on principle because
it is perceived as anti-democratic, we refer to it as ostracism. We view the
extent to which a party is ostracised as running along a continuum. This
dimension ranges between two extremes. At the one end, we have a situation
in which all the other parties in the system systematically rule out any
cooperation with the party on principle – full ostracism, what Downs (2001)
would call ‘political isolation’; at the other extreme, there is a situation
whereby none of the other parties in the system systematically rules out
cooperation with the party (no ostracism at all, or ‘collaboration’).
6
Even if ostracism is conceptualised as a continuum, however, the strategy
of ostracism is only expected to have an effect if the targeted party is
confronted by a broad coalition of other parties. In the case of anti-
immigration parties, the participation of the main right-wing party in the
party system can be considered as a necessary and sufficient condition for
1026 J. van Spanje and W. van der Brug
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effective ostracism, since insofar as anti-immigration parties have coop-
erated with other parties, this has been with other parties from the right.
Therefore, each anti-immigration party will be classified as ‘ostracised’ if it
was boycotted and denounced as ‘anti-democratic’ by the main right-wing
party. If not, then the party was ostracised – if at all – only by a minority, or
by a majority which includes all parties of the left, with which it presumably
would not want to cooperate anyway because of ideological differences. In
either case the anti-immigration party is assumed not to be ostracised in any
meaningful way.
Party Ostracism: Caveats
Some objections may be raised against our approach. Firstly, it may
sometimes be quite difficult to assess whether a certain party rules out
cooperation with a specific other party, and to what extent – especially if the
isolation of a party is not merely due to ostracism by other parties, but also
partly because of its own strategy. For instance, the Progress Party in
Denmark refused to collaborate with other parties for a long period of time.
These cases are quite rare, however.
Secondly, it is theoretically possible that established parties do not bother
enacting any strategy against an anti-immigration party when it is very small
and thus not powerful. In this case the concept of party ostracism would be
no more than theoretical. For example, the National Front in Wallonia and
the Dutch Centre Democrats have always been on the fringe of their party
systems, and the German Republicans have never managed to get their
representatives elected to the Bundestag. However, even though these parties
are small, they have all received enough media attention to oblige other
parties to react in some way to their existence. In many cases, mainstream
politicians have denounced anti-immigration parties as ‘anti-democratic’
and/or associated them with Fascism even though these parties do not pose
any credible electoral threat to them. For example, when the cordon sanitaire
agreement was signed in 1989, the former Flemish Bloc was still quite small,
receiving about two per cent of the Flemish vote. The same goes for the
Freedom Party of Austria (FPO
¨) when Haider took over in 1986 and the
Social Democrats (SPO
¨) opted for Ausgrenzung, as it gained only five per
cent of the Austrian vote in the national elections immediately beforehand.
In addition, we should be aware of the fact that the strategy of ostracism is
often part of a broader set of responses in society. So whatever effects we
observe regarding political exclusion, they probably also reflect responses
from civil society and the media. As a case in point, in the Netherlands
‘antifascist’ committees were formed all over the country after the Centre
Party (CP) won a single parliamentary seat in 1982 (Art 2006). In accordance
with this response, all the other political parties represented in the Dutch
parliament responded to the CP with a strategy of boycotts and denuncia-
tion. In Austria, by contrast, there were no large demonstrations or other
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signs of widespread indignation in society about Haider’s takeover of the
FPO
¨in September 1986 – despite his periodically alleged flirtation with
Nazism (Lubbers 2001). Like the Austrian public, the Austrian mainstream
right-wing party, the O
¨VP, did not react strongly to Haider’s coming on
stage. It never fully adopted the strategy of Ausgrenzung (Art 2006).
The same pattern can be witnessed regarding the response of the mass
media. While in Germany the completely isolated Republicans also
encountered strong opposition from the influential tabloid Bild, Austria’s
dominant counterpart Krone Zeitung strongly supported the FPO
¨from the
moment Haider took over in 1986 (Art 2006). So, even though party
ostracism is defined in a narrow sense – pertaining to political parties only
the concept could have wider implications.
7
Party Ostracism: Data and Operationalisation
In order to answer the research questions posed in this study, information
about anti-immigration parties was linked to data derived from the
European Election Studies 1989, 1994, 1999 and 2004. On the basis of a
literature review, we classified each of the anti-immigration parties as
‘ostracised’ or ‘not ostracised’ in each of those four years.
We have operationalised the ostracism of anti-immigration parties by
examining the response of the largest mainstream right-wing party to the
anti-immigration party in the political system. These responses have been
divided into two categories: either the established right-wing party
ostracised the party, or not. In other words, only if the right denounced
the anti-immigration party as a non-democratic party and therefore
refrained from any political cooperation or alliance with the anti-
immigration party was it classified as ‘ostracised’ at that moment in time.
This refusal to cooperate can manifest itself in the electoral and/or in the
parliamentary arena. In the electoral arena, the other parties might refuse to
collaborate in the form of joint press releases, or to refrain from electoral
alliances with these parties. In the parliamentary arena, the other parties
may refuse any joint legislative activity with these parties, or deny them a
place in administrative or executive positions.
The situation of each anti-immigration party has been assessed for all
four points in time.
8
See Table 1 for the classification for each of the anti-
immigration parties at these different moments in time.
The table shows 28 observations
9
concerning the extent to which the ten
anti-immigration parties were politically excluded by other parties in 1989,
1994, 1999 and 2004. This varied greatly. Five of the ten parties were
excluded from all kinds of cooperation by the mainstream right, whereas the
other five were not ostracised by the main right-wing party throughout the
entire period of study.
The five parties that have been completely isolated on principle are the
former Flemish Bloc, the Walloon National Front, the Republicans in
1028 J. van Spanje and W. van der Brug
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Germany, the Dutch Centre Democrats and the French National Front. In
Flanders, all other parties represented in the national parliament reached a
formal agreement as early as 1989, committing themselves not to undertake
any political agreements or arrangements with the Flemish Bloc – either in
TABLE 1
ANTI-IMMIGRATION PARTIES: PARTY OSTRACISM
Year Anti-immigration party Main right-wing party Ostracism
1989 Progress Party (FrP, Denmark) Conservative People’s Party (C) N
1989 National Front (FN, France) Rally for the Republic (RPR) Y
1989 Republicans (REPs, Germany) Christian Democratic
Union-Christian Social
Union (CDU-CSU)
Y
1989 Italian Social Movement
(MSI, Italy)
Christian Democracy (DC) Y
1994 Flemish Bloc (VB, Flanders) Flemish Liberals and
Democrats (VLD)
Y
1994 National Front (FN, Wallonia) Liberal Reformist Party (PRL) Y
1994 Progress Party (FrP, Denmark) Liberal Party (V) N
1994 National Front (FN, France) Rally for the Republic (RPR) Y
1994 Republicans (REPs, Germany) Christian Democratic
Union-Christian Social
Union (CDU-CSU)
Y
1994 National Alliance (AN, Italy) Go Italy (FI) N
1994 Northern League (LN, Italy) Go Italy (FI) N
1994 Centre Democrats
(CD, Netherlands)
People’s Party for
Freedom and
Democracy (VVD)
Y
1999 Freedom Party (FPO
¨, Austria) Austrian People’s
Party (O
¨VP)
N
1999 Flemish Bloc (VB, Flanders) Flemish Liberals and
Democrats (VLD)
Y
1999 National Front (FN, Wallonia) Liberal Reformist
Party (PRL)
Y
1999 Progress Party (FrP, Denmark) Liberal Party (V) N
1999 Danish People’s Party
(DF, Denmark)
Liberal Party (V) N
1999 National Front (FN, France) Rally for the Republic (RPR) Y
1999 Republicans (REPs, Germany) Christian Democratic
Union-Christian Social
Union (CDU-CSU)
Y
1999 National Alliance (AN, Italy) Go Italy (FI) N
1999 Northern League (LN, Italy) Go Italy (FI) N
1999 Centre Democrats
(CD, Netherlands)
People’s Party for Freedom
and Democracy (VVD)
Y
2004 Freedom Party (FPO
¨, Austria) Austrian People’s Party (O
¨VP) N
2004 Danish People’s Party
(DF, Denmark)
Liberal Party (V) N
2004 National Front (FN, France) Union for the Presidential
Majority (UMP)
Y
2004 Republicans (REPs, Germany) Christian Democratic
Union-Christian Social
Union (CDU-CSU)
Y
2004 National Alliance (AN, Italy) Go Italy (FI) N
2004 Northern League (LN, Italy) Go Italy (FI) N
Source: relevant literature (see text).
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the context of the democratically elected institutes or in the context of the
elections for these institutes (Swyngedouw 1998: 72). According to the
parties involved, the reason for signing the Protocol was that the VB would
not acknowledge the fundamental democratic principles or human rights
(Damen, 1999: 6–7). Resolutions repeating the condemnation of the VB
were passed in the national parliament in 1992, and again in 1996 (Damen
1999). Although the precise meaning of the Protocol is often disputed
(Damen 1999: 11–15) and significant minorities within the mainstream right
have opposed the cordon sanitaire (Swyngedouw 1998: 72), collaboration
with the VB has remained a taboo for the mainstream right-wing Flemish
Liberals and Democrats (VLD) throughout the period of study.
Another anti-immigration party in Belgium, the National Front, has also
faced a cordon sanitaire, as cooperation with it is ruled out by all other
parties. The ostracism of the FN was formalised in a ‘Democratic Charter’,
which was signed by the four largest Walloon parties in 1993 – among which
the main right-wing party Liberal Reformist Party (PRL) – and which was
renewed five years later (Delwit and De Waele 1998: 238–9).
In 1989, a few members of the German mainstream right Christian
Democratic Union-Christian Social Union (CDU-CSU) called for a
coalition with the Republicans (Backes and Mudde 2000: 459). All the
established parties nonetheless associated the REPs with Nazism, and made
it extremely clear that any form of cooperation with the party was
unthinkable (Art 2006). Indeed, members of the mainstream parties who
violated the policy of Ausgrenzung were immediately banished from their
parties (Art 2006). Even representatives of the most right-wing established
party, the CDU-CSU, went out of their way to express their rejection of the
REPs (Backes and Mudde 2000: 466).
The same applies to the Dutch Centre Democrats. The party, represented
in the national parliament until 1998, was boycotted and denounced as anti-
democratic by all the other parties in parliament, including the main right-
wing People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) (Mudde and Van
Holsteyn 2000). Janmaat, the leader of the CD, was usually ignored and
never taken seriously by his colleagues in the other parties. If the CD was
addressed by mainstream politicians at all, then it was either to ridicule the
party, or to express their disgust about it.
In France, the same pattern can be discerned, as all the other parties
ostracised the National Front (Hainsworth 2000: 19–20). Since the late
1980s, not only the left, but also the mainstream right parties have
stigmatised the FN (Minkenberg and Schain 2003). In the 1997 national
election campaign, for example, the mainstream right explicitly ruled out
any kind of collaboration with the FN (Givens 2005: 121). Unlike the
countries mentioned above, however, France has no proportional repre-
sentation (PR), but a two-round majoritarian electoral system. This system
has often given the FN the opportunity to exchange its electoral support for
some kind of policy concessions, the message of the FN to the moderate
1030 J. van Spanje and W. van der Brug
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right being, in Downs’ (2002: 42) words, ‘[b]egin to adopt our policy
positions or grant us some other prize if you want us to help you defeat the
Left’. Nonetheless, the message sent by all other parties to the voters is clear:
the FN is a party that is a threat to liberal democracy, and it should
therefore be kept away from power.
The five parties that were not ostracised through the period of study are
the Progress Party, the Danish People’s Party, the Freedom Party of
Austria, the Northern League in Italy and the Italian Social Movement/
National Alliance. In Denmark, both the Progress Party and its successor
party, the Danish People’s Party, have supported minority governments.
The FrP emerged as an anti-tax party that rejected deals with the existing
parties in the years following its entrance onto the political stage in 1973.
Under the leadership of Kjaersgaard, the FrP abandoned its isolationist
stance and the centre parties and the right accepted its support for minority
governments led by Schlu
¨ter (Conservative People’s Party) between 1987
and 1993 (Kritzinger et al. 2004: 16–17).
In 1995, Kjaersgaard founded a new party, the DF, which also managed to
avoid being ostracised by the Conservative People’s Party and the Liberal
Party, which had taken over the position of the Conservatives as the main
right-wing party. Indeed, the leader of the Liberal Party stated in 1999 that he
was prepared to make deals with the DF (Rydgren 2004: 496), which was
repeated several times before the 2001 national elections (Givens 2005: 146–
7). Since these elections, the DF has supported the right-wing minority
government including both the Conservative People’s Party and the Liberal
Party.
In Austria, Haider’s Freedom Party did not have to face an elaborate
strategy of ostracism either (Art 2006; Riedlsperger 1998: 39). Ever since his
takeover of the FPO
¨in 1986, the party had been denounced and boycotted
by all the main parties except for the Austrian People’s Party. The O
¨VP
never fully adopted a strategy of Ausgrenzung and often threatened its
coalition partner SPO
¨that it would switch to the FPO
¨instead (Art 2006).
Indeed, in 2000 it struck a deal with the FPO
¨within only eight days after it
had ended its talks on government formation with the SPO
¨(Luther 2000:
432–33). The O
¨VP–FPO
¨coalition was renewed after the 2002 national
elections, which underlines the fact that the party was not ostracised.
As in Austria, in Italy, anti-immigration parties have also been invited to
join a government coalition. The Northern League joined the right-wing
government under the command of media magnate Berlusconi after its
leader Bossi had decided to renounce the self-inflicted isolation of his
movement in 1993 (Betz 1998: 53; Bull and Newell 1995: 83). Although
Bossi subsequently broke down the government coalition with Berlusconi
and tried to position his party in the centre of the political spectrum (Betz
1998: 54–5), the alliance with Berlusconi was nonetheless renewed in 2001.
Finally, the Italian Social Movement was treated by all other relevant
parties as a pariah until the early 1990s (Ignazi 2003). Officially, this
The Exclusion of Anti-Immigration Parties 1031
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was due to its neo-fascist ideology, but strategic considerations of the main
right-wing DC may also have played a role in this (Newell 2000: 477). The
end of the First Republic in the early 1990s provided the MSI with the
opportunity to make a fresh start. Under the new name National Alliance, it
launched a campaign sponsored and facilitated by Berlusconi, which proved
crucial to its acceptance by other parties (Newell 2000). As Statham (1996:
101) puts it: ‘At a time when political legitimacy was a new and potentially
fragile resource for the newly formed ex-neofascists, the tactical alliance
with [Berlusconi’s] Forza Italia has ensured that the party receives favorable
media coverage from the private television networks at a comparatively
minuscule cost’. The AN remained an ally of the mainstream right and was
invited to join a coalition in 1994 and, again, in 2001.
Party Radicalisation or Moderation: Data and Operationalisation
The dependent variable of this study is party radicalisation versus
moderation. Radicalisation or moderation will be measured in terms of
party movement along the dominant ideological dimension in contemporary
Western European party politics: the left–right divide. Anti-immigration
parties are generally described – and sometimes defined – as parties of the
radical, extreme or far right. In addition, many of these parties, such as the
Italian Social Movement and the French National Front, have a back-
ground that is usually referred to as ‘extreme right’. Nevertheless, there are
important differences in how ‘extreme’ these parties are.
In order to measure whether the isolation of anti-immigration parties has
affected their ideological stances, we investigate whether these parties shifted
either to the extreme end of the political spectrum or to a more centrist
position on the left/right axis. We employed data from the European
Election Studies 1989, 1994, 1999 and 2004. These are four of the few data
sets that include voters’ perceptions of party positions on a 1–10 left–right
dimension. Since the same questions were asked in all surveys, the perceived
positions are comparable over time and across countries. In Table 2 we
present data on the perceptions of voters regarding left–right positions of
anti-immigration parties from these four data sets.
One could, of course, argue that perceptions of party positions may not
reflect parties’ ‘true’ positions, because voters may not know where parties
stand. However, studies in which perceptions of voters are compared with
other indicators of parties’ positions – based on contents of manifestos, roll-
call behaviour and perceptions of parliamentarians themselves (Van der
Brug 1998; 1999; Van der Brug and Van der Eijk 1999) – show that median
perceptions of left/right positions are remarkably accurate. Moreover, we
tested our results with expert judgements as well – see the ‘results’ section.
Table 2 reflects 28 observations regarding the perceived positions of the
ten anti-immigration parties under study. It turns out that there is quite a
wide variety in the perceived positions of anti-immigration parties, ranging
1032 J. van Spanje and W. van der Brug
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from the most extreme (9.96) placement of the Italian Social Movement in
1989 to the centrist position (5.32) of the Italian Northern League ten years
later. The majority of the selected anti-immigration parties were attributed a
score higher than 9.0, however.
In view of the differences in the perception of these parties, it could be
questioned whether the most frequently used labels, ‘extreme’, ‘radical’ or
‘far right’, are appropriate for these parties. According to the classification
by Castles and Mair (1984), for example, six of these ten parties actually fell
within the category of ‘moderate right’ at a specific point in time,
10
one of
which (the Northern League) was actually placed left of centre in the
political spectrum in 1999.
Results
Having discussed the selection of cases and how we measured our variables,
we now return to our research question. Do parties radicalise when faced
with the strategy of exclusion? As a first step in assessing the relationship
between party ostracism and radicalisation, we perform a regression
analysis with ostracism as the independent variable and party radicalisation
as the dependent variable. The extent to which anti-immigration parties
were excluded from ‘normal politics’ turns out to have a strong, positive
impact on party radicalisation, significant at the p ¼0.001 level. Party
ostracism explains 40 per cent of the variance in left–right placement
regarding the 28 observations. On average, anti-immigration parties that
were facing ostracising strategies by other parties were 1.41 points more to
the right on a 1–10 left–right scale than those that were not ostracised (9.65
and 8.24). These results were confirmed by analyses on the basis of data
derived from various expert surveys (Benoit and Laver 2006; Huber and
Inglehart 1995; Lubbers 2001; Marks and Steenbergen 1999).
11
TABLE 2
ANTI-IMMIGRATION PARTIES: PARTY RADICALISATION*
1989 1994 1999 2004
Freedom Party (FPO
¨, Austria) 7.54 8.11
Flemish Bloc (VB, Flanders) 8.75 9.43
National Front (FN, Wallonia) 9.87 9.86
Progress Party (FrP, Denmark) 9.56 9.43 8.75
Danish People’s Party (DF, Denmark) 8.53 8.74
National Front (FN, France) 9.83 9.81 9.85 9.64
Republicans (REPs, Germany) 9.62 9.89 9.57 9.60
Italian Social Movement/National
Alliance (MSI/AN, Italy)
9.96 9.48 7.98 9.13
Northern League (LN, Italy) 6.79 5.32 7.81
Centre Democrats (CD, Netherlands) 9.72 9.37
Source: European Election Studies 1989, 1994, 1999 and 2004.
*Interpolated medians.
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All the ostracised parties were positioned at least at 8.75 on a 1–10 scale,
whereas only two of the other parties were placed so far to the extreme
right. The exceptions are the National Alliance in Italy and the Progress
Party in Denmark. These are not really outliers, however, as the AN was
ostracised until the collapse of the party system of the Italian First
Republic, and the FrP adopted an isolationist stance during the 1970s and
early 1980s.
In sum, all the parties that are very right-wing were ostracised in the past,
or opted for self-imposed isolation, such as the FrP. On the other hand, all
anti-immigration parties that have not been ostracised are less radical
than those that were ostracised. This shows that political exclusion and the
ideological positions of the targeted anti-immigration parties are strongly
correlated. Yet at this point we cannot rule out the possibility that the
effect runs the other way. Perhaps the most radical parties are ostracised
because of their extreme positions. In order to draw valid inferences
about the effect of political exclusion, we turn our focus to the development
of the ideological positions of individual anti-immigration parties. To this
end, we divide the anti-immigration parties into two categories: those
anti-immigration parties that were ostracised throughout the period of
study, and those that were not. Figure 1 shows how the perceived per-
ceptions of the first group of anti-immigration parties developed, whereas
the positions of those parties that were not ostracised are reflected in
Figure 2.
The patterns shown in Figures 1 and 2 are rather suggestive. Those anti-
immigration parties that have been treated as outcasts throughout the last
15 years have remained more radical than those that were not. This is no
evidence, however, for our first hypothesis, stating that the parties that faced
ostracism became radicalised. The only party that became more radical in
terms of left and right was the former Flemish Bloc, but this outcome could
have had more to do with the increasing salience of left and right in Flanders
near the end of the 1990s than with a change in the party’s positions (Van
der Brug 2001). Rather, the ostracised anti-immigration parties seem to be
stuck at the extreme right end of the political spectrum – unwilling, or
unable, to resist the pressures of their most radical factions. The Walloon
and French National Fronts, the Republicans in Germany and the Dutch
Centre Democrats were all positioned well over 9.0 during the whole time
period. It would thus seem that these parties were ‘frozen’ into radical right
positions. It should be noted, however, that the positions of the ostracised
anti-immigration parties were already so extreme that there is hardly any
space left for radicalisation. Still, Hypothesis 1 is not confirmed by the
empirical data.
Unlike the first hypothesis, the evidence clearly supports our second
hypothesis. All of the anti-immigration parties that were not ostracised
became more moderate in 1999 and 2004 than they had been in 1989,
although they were pushed back and forth from radicalisation to
1034 J. van Spanje and W. van der Brug
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FIGURE 2
IDEOLOGICAL POSITIONS OF NON-OSTRACISED ANTI-IMMIGRATION PARTIES
Source: European Elections Studies 1989, 1994, 1999 and 2004.
FIGURE 1
IDEOLOGICAL POSITIONS OF OSTRACISED ANTI-IMMIGRATION PARTIES
Source: European Elections Studies 1989, 1994, 1999 and 2004.
The Exclusion of Anti-Immigration Parties 1035
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convergence with other parties. The Italian Social Movement and the
Progress Party in Denmark started off at positions similar to the ostracised
anti-immigration parties, but showed a steady trend toward more moderate
positions. These two parties managed to escape from their isolated
positions – either self-imposed or not – and they have been able to
reposition themselves towards the political centre since then. Not surpris-
ingly, the starting point of the Danish People’s Party was at a position
similar to that of its predecessor, the Progress Party. Finally, the Northern
League in Italy and the Freedom Party of Austria may never have been
perceived as extreme right-wing by the public at large in the first place.
These parties, which have never experienced full ostracism, have always
been perceived as more moderate than the other anti-immigration parties
12
as far as these data show.
Conclusion and Discussion
In this paper, we have tested two hypotheses. The first hypothesis (H1) is
that anti-immigration parties become radicalised as a result of their
exclusion. Our data have not provided evidence that this is the case. All of
the ostracised parties were extremist when they were founded, and they did
not change in this respect. The second hypothesis (H2) was that anti-
immigration parties that were not ostracised would slowly become more
moderate. Our analyses provide clear support for this hypothesis. Anti-
immigration parties that have been allowed to participate in normal
politics have managed to escape from outright extremism, while their
ostracised counterparts have not. Lacking any incentive to tone down their
rhetoric, the latter parties can be dominated by their most radical factions.
This indicates that the positions of anti-immigration parties can be
substantially influenced by strategies of the other parties in the political
system.
What do these results tell us about the effects of the strategy of ostracism
on anti-immigration parties? First of all, we have to keep in mind that the
consequences for an ostracised party vary with the arena in which the party
operates. One could distinguish the parliamentary, the electoral and the
internal arenas (Sjo
¨blom 1968). In the parliamentary arena, anti-immigra-
tion parties can be kept from power with this strategy as long as they do not
win a majority of seats in the parliamentary arena. In the electoral arena,
anti-immigration parties may be damaged by political exclusion. Whether
these parties are ostracised or not is only one of the factors that structure
their electoral performance, however (Van Spanje and Van der Brug 2006).
As the case of the former Flemish Bloc – now called Flemish Interest –
shows, it is certainly possible that these parties continue to grow electorally.
In the internal arena, ostracism by other parties keeps a targeted party from
becoming more moderate.
1036 J. van Spanje and W. van der Brug
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The implication is therefore that the strategy to ostracise an anti-
immigration party is most likely to prevent it from becoming more
moderate. In combination with the fact that a cordon sanitaire cannot
(always) stop the electoral growth of a party, the possible result of this
strategy is the presence in the party system of a large extremist party. So,
even though party ostracism might be effective at the parliamentary level,
the findings of this study suggest that more attention should be paid to its
consequences on the internal dynamics within a party.
Acknowledgements
An earlier version of this article was presented at the 2004 ECPR Joint
Sessions of Workshops in Uppsala. We would like to thank the participants
of Workshop 17, ‘Effects of Incumbency on Organization of Radical
Rightwing Parties’, for their comments, and Bob Harmel (Texas A&M
University) for organising the workshop. Special thanks to Karina Pedersen
(University of Copenhagen) for providing detailed information on the
Danish case. Wouter van der Brug thanks the NIAS for its hospitality and
support, while finishing this article. We are also grateful for comments from
two anonymous referees and the editor of this journal. We are responsible
for any remaining mistakes.
Notes
1. In Belgium and France this strategy is referred to as the strategy of the cordon sanitaire,in
German-speaking countries it is called Ausgrenzung.
2. Strategies of exclusion have not only been applied to anti-immigration parties, but to
various kinds of parties in many established party systems. For example, communist parties
were confronted with similar strategies during the cold war.
3. Rabinowitz and Macdonald (1989) coined the term ‘region of acceptability’ in the context
of electoral research, where it refers to policies that are no longer acceptable to most voters.
We use the term here in a different context.
4. Many anarchists refuse to vote for precisely this reason: those who are elected will become
‘encapsulated’ by the system.
5. Of course, asking to indicate the positions of political parties of ten years earlier, as Lubbers
(2001) did, is likely to result in major misspecifications. This is not relevant for this paper,
however. None of the conclusions of this paper would be different if the 1990 measurements
collected by Lubbers were not taken into account. The point here is that there is a wide gap
between anti-immigration and other parties, which justifies our classification of parties on
the basis of party positioning on the immigration issue.
6. Note that the party ostracism dimension can apply not only to anti-immigration parties,
but to any political party operating in any party system at a specific point in time.
7. Another possible critique of the approach is that it is not an interactive model, i.e., it does
not account for interplay of actions of the one actor, and reactions of the other. The
underlying assumption is that parties react to the existence of a specific (other) party, and
following reactions of the ostracised party are of no or less importance. This is in
accordance with the situation in Western Europe, however, where responses to anti-
immigration parties seem to stem from political culture and tradition in the various
The Exclusion of Anti-Immigration Parties 1037
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countries. In any case, they can be safely assumed to be independent of the attitudes of the
anti-immigration parties towards the other parties.
8. We restricted ourselves to assessing ‘party ostracism’ only for those party/year
combinations for which we have also data on (one of) the dependent variables.
9. The observations are limited to the 28 party/year combinations for which we also have
values of the dependent variable at our disposal (see below).
10. The category ‘moderate right’ in Castles and Mair (1984) ranged between 6.25 and 8.75 on a
0–10 left–right scale.
11. We tested our results by using data from a different kind of source: estimations by experts.
We also performed the analyses with left–right party placements by experts, using the
combined results derived from two different surveys, conducted at different points in time:
Huber and Inglehart (1995) with data pertaining to 1994 and Lubbers (2001) on 1999. The
conclusions of these analyses turned out to be similar to the findings on the basis of the
voters’ perceptions. The variance in left–right party placement was explained for 50%
(adjusted R-square ¼0.50) by party ostracism. Regarding 15 observations, the difference
between the two categories was more than a full point (1.06). Our findings are also in
accordance with left–right party placement by experts reported by Marks and Steenbergen
(1999) and Benoit and Laver (2006).
12. With the possible exception of the Italian AN by 1999.
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... In addition, other contextual and party-internal conditions might explain RRPP moderation, too. In many countries, established mainstream parties cooperate with RRPPs and even form coalition governments, which can create incentives to depart from more radical positions (Van Spanje & Van der Brug, 2007). Finally, the party's internal response to taking over government is important. ...
... In addition, RRPPs are more likely to become moderate if they are not isolated, stigmatized, and denounced by the mainstream parties but are in principle regarded as "normal" parties. Contrariwise, if RRPPs are not regarded as legitimate actors by other parties and can expect that mainstream parties will not cooperate with them, RRPPs may maintain their ideological standpoints or even become more radical (Van Spanje & Van der Brug, 2007). Hence the behavior of mainstream parties can indeed create incentives and opportunities for moderation. ...
... Regarding the moderation of RRPPs, quantitative studies investigating the relationship between the political exclusion of RRPPs and their moderation come to contradictory results. According to Van Spanje & Van der Brug (2007), RRPPs become more moderate when mainstream parties cooperate with them and remain radical when mainstream parties do not cooperate with them. According to Akkerman & Rooduijn (2015) however, RRPPs parties do not become more moderate even when mainstream parties cooperate with them. ...
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... Still, these works hardly refer to parliaments and fail to elaborate on response options in this specific arena. The same is the case with in-depth studies that deal with the effects of the cordon sanitaire (e.g., Van Spanje and Van Der Brug, 2007;Pauwels, 2011) or government coalitions with PRRPs (e.g., Heinisch, 2003;Akkerman and de Lange, 2012). ...
... This usually requires a change in formal rules or at least in the informal parliamentary practices. Politically, mainstream parties can exclude a PRRP through a cordon sanitaire, that is, a strict blocking alliance between all or almost all of them (Downs, 2001: 27;Van Spanje and Van Der Brug, 2007). In parliament, they may reject all PRRP candidates and initiatives, also refusing to introduce joint motions. ...
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