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Keywords:

  • radical right-wing populist parties;
  • mainstream parties;
  • government coalitions;
  • coalition formation theories

This article investigates the recent government participation of a number of radical right-wing populist parties in West European democracies. With the help of coalition formation theories the government coalitions in which these parties have participated are characterised and inferences are made about the reasons for the cooperation between mainstream right and radical right-wing populist parties. The accuracy of these inferences is then examined in more detail by analysing the changing electoral fortunes and party positions of both mainstream and radical right-wing populist parties. These analyses demonstrate that office, policy and votes made mainstream right parties turn to radical right-wing populist parties as new coalition partners and that two important changes in West European party systems have enabled the formation of the new alliances, the first being an electoral shift to the right and the second the convergence of party positions of mainstream right and radical right-wing populist parties.