Identifying the Radical Center: An Empirical Analysis of New Party Families in Europe

Abstract

Europe has seen the emergence of many new political parties that have become significant players in politics, particularly on the extremes of the political spectrum. Comparative political scientists have tried to explain this phenomenon and grouped these extremist parties in an abstract family. These constructs are broad and include a disparate set of parties. This paper looks at whether this grouping is empirically supported. While political scientists have invested a lot of effort into conceptualizing parties into families, political parties from across Europe have already self-sorted into formal groups in the European Parliament. By observing how parties have aligned together in groups we can to understand how radical parties understand themselves. These European Parliament groupings show that a new party family exists, distinct from the radical-right populist family. We call this newly emergent party family the radical-center. The radical-center can be identified by its populist rhetoric and its adoption of policy preferences that draw from both radical right and radical left positions at the same time. 

Keywords: Populism, Europe, Political Parties, Ideology, Party Families

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