Event Date: 15 – 17 May 2019
Richmond University – The American University in London
Richmond TW10 6JP
A Century of Radical Right Extremism: New Approaches
Dr James Downes (The Chinese University of Hong Kong) – Strategic Positioning: Center Right and Radical Right Party Competition over Immigration during the 2015-2018 European Refugee Crisis [via Skype]
This paper examines right-wing party competition in the context of the European refugee crisis. We argue that center right parties recognize the electoral opportunity that the refugee crisis provides for radical right parties and respond by adopting hardline positions on immigration to maintain – and even increase – their electoral success. Using data across all 28 EU member states during the 2015-2018 refugee crisis, we find substantial evidence for this strategic positioning. Center right incumbents, in particular, benefit from this maneuver to stay in government. Qualitative case studies support the empirical findings by further demonstrating that center right parties which did not adopt anti-immigrant positions tended to lose electorally to radical right parties. While strategic positioning offers a potential means to electoral success for center right parties, it also moves the rhetoric surrounding immigration farther to the right, thus tugging at the handle of Pandora’s Box in future electoral competitions in Europe.