The Left Parties Choices and the Emergence of the Far Right

Maria Snegovaya (Columbia University)

Abstract: I look at the choices made by the ex-Communist left parties following the collapse of the Communist system in the Vyshegard-4 countries. By focusing on the cases of Hungary and Czech Republic I show that where the the left parties chose to move to the center of the economic scale (to become more of a typical western Social democratic party), as in Hungary, the left party discredited itself in the eyes of its traditional constituency (workers, lower middle class), a constituency which was ultimately incorporated by the far right parties. Hence in such countries the far right parties are strong. In the countries where the ex-Communist party preserved their more traditional radical left agenda, as in Czech Republic, it was partly able to retain its traditional workers constituency and in such countries the far right is weak. I prove my argument on the series of experimental and regular surveys within the two countries. On the cross-countries level I show that the far right tends to become more electorally successful in countries where it is able to embrace the economic redistributionist agenda due to the absence of a strong far left competitor. My argument contributes to the understanding of the dynamics of political systems, and the rise of the right populist parties in Europe.