Political opportunity structures and right-wing extremist party success


Kai Arzheimer, Institut für Politikwissenschaft, Colonel-Kleinmann-Weg 2, D-55099, Mainz, Germany. E-mail: arzheimer@politik.uni-mainz.de


West European right-wing extremist parties have received a great deal of attention over the past two decades due to their electoral success. What has received less coverage, however, is the fact that these parties have not enjoyed a consistent level of electoral support across Western Europe during this period. This article puts forward an explanation of the variation in the right-wing extremist party vote across Western Europe that incorporates a wider range of factors than have been considered previously. It begins by examining the impact of socio-demographic variables on the right-wing extremist party vote. Then, it turns its attention to a whole host of structural factors that may potentially affect the extreme right party vote, including institutional, party-system and conjunctural variables. The article concludes with an assessment of which variables have the most power in explaining the uneven electoral success of right-wing extremist parties across Western Europe. The findings go some way towards challenging the conventional wisdom as to how the advance of the parties of the extreme right may be halted.