Keeping the rascals in: Anti-political-establishment parties and their cost of governing in established democracies


Joost van Spanje, Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR), University of Amsterdam, Kloveniersburgwal 48, 1012 CX Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Tel.: +31 (0) 20 525 4827; Email:; Webpage:


Coalition governments in established democracies incur, on average, an electoral ‘cost of governing’. This cost varies across coalition partners, and is higher for anti-political-establishment parties. This is because, if such a party participates in a coalition, it loses the purity of its message by being seen to cooperate with the political establishment. In order to demonstrate that anti-political-establishment parties suffer an additional cost of governing, this article builds on the work by Van der Brug et al. and refines the standard cost of governing theory by ‘bringing the party back in’. The results of the analyses, based on 594 observations concerning 51 parties in seven Western European countries, cast doubt on the conventional concept of a cost of governing that pertains to all parties equally. The findings call for a major revision of the standard cost of governing literature, while adding a significant contribution to the debate on strategies against parties that may constitute a danger to democracy.