ECPS Youth Seminars #3 —The Others of Europe: Migrants, Refugees, Minorities and LGBTQ+ on the Eyes of Right-Wing Populists

At this ECPS Youth Seminar, Dr Koen Slootmaeckers speaks on “The others of Europe: The migrants, refugees, minorities and LGBTQ+ on the eyes of right-wing populists” and beyond. 

Dr Koen Slootmaeckers is a Senior Lecturer in International Politics at the Department of International Politics at City University of London. He has a multidisciplinary background and combines insights from sociology and political science into his work. His research focusses on gender and sexuality politics in Europe and is particularly interested in analysing hierarchies within the international system. More specifically, Koen has studied the EU accession of Serbia and how this process affects LGBT politics and activism. And his more recent project is interested in the transnational politics of LGBT Pride Parades. His work has been widely published, including a (co-)edited volume ‘EU Enlargement and Gay Politics’ (Palgrave 2016; with Heleen Touquet and Peter Vermeersch), and articles in, amongst others, East European Politics, Politics, Contemporary South-eastern Europe, Journal of Homosexuality, and Europe-Asia Studies. 

Moderator Celia Miray Yesil is a master’s student of International Political Economy at the Warwick University. She gained her undergraduate degree in European Politics at King’s College London, studying the historical background of European nations and its relationships with the rest of the world. Miray is considering focussing more on the impact of far-right populism in foreign policy, particularly looking at the political language and communication of populist leaders in the international political economy. 

Photo: Shutterstock / GagoDesign

ECPS Youth Seminars — Populism versus European Values in the Digital Era: The Case of Romania

Date/Time: Thursday, October 6, 2022 / 18:00 (CEST)

Click here to register!


Celia Miray Yesil


Dr. Antonio Momoc

The decline of trust in the political institutions of liberal democracy and in traditional journalism (print, radio, television) has been fueled by populists and anti-liberal ideologies. The rise of digital populism has especially generated “a cultural chaos of fake news” that is tremendously damaging the democratic culture. Populist leaders accused conventional media of generating fake news or of “being fake news.” In Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), the people’s loss of trust in the media amplified as they became poorly financed, unprofessional, increasingly politicized, and partisan.

Meanwhile, digital populists successfully convince these people of possible opportunities created by direct democracy thanks to the online environment. The populist actors argue that the people do not need the institutions of mediation (traditional media, journalists) and representativity (elites, political parties, parliament) anymore, thanks to the fact that they now have the internet, social media, and new technologies.

Dr. Antonio Momoc is an Associate Professor at the Department of Communication Sciences and Cultural Anthropology. He is also the Dean of the Faculty of Journalism and Communication Sciences at the University of Bucharest. Dr. Momoc teaches various aspects of communication and media, the new media theories and political communication, fashion, branding and politics, and electoral campaigns.

Moderator Celia Miray Yesil is a master’s student of International Political Economy at Warwick University. Her undergraduate degree was in European Politics at King’s College London, where she studied the historical background of Europe in the global context. Miray is interested in the impact of far-right populism on foreign policy, the political language of populist leaders, and its political economy.

Click here to register!

For right-wing populists in western world, ‘the others’ include immigrants first and foremost, but can also comprise ‘welfare scroungers’, regional minorities, those with ‘non-traditional’ lifestyles, communists, and so on.

ECPS Youth Seminars — The Others of Europe: Migrants, Refugees, Minorities and LGBTQ+ on the Eyes of Right-Wing Populists

Date/Time: Tuesday, June 21, 2022 / 18:00 (CET)

Click here to register!


Celia Miray Yesil


Dr Koen Slootmaeckers

At this ECPS Youth Seminar, Dr Koen Slootmaeckers is going to speak on “The others of Europe: The migrants, refugees, minorities and LGBTQ+ on the eyes of right-wing populists” and beyond. 

Dr Koen Slootmaeckers is a Senior Lecturer in International Politics at the Department of International Politics at City University of London. He has a multidisciplinary background and combines insights from sociology and political science into his work. His research focusses on gender and sexuality politics in Europe and is particularly interested in analysing hierarchies within the international system. More specifically, Koen has studied the EU accession of Serbia and how this process affects LGBT politics and activism. And his more recent project is interested in the transnational politics of LGBT Pride Parades. His work has been widely published, including a (co-)edited volume ‘EU Enlargement and Gay Politics’ (Palgrave 2016; with Heleen Touquet and Peter Vermeersch), and articles in, amongst others, East European Politics, Politics, Contemporary South-eastern Europe, Journal of Homosexuality, and Europe-Asia Studies. 

Moderator Celia Miray Yesil is a master’s student of International Political Economy at the Warwick University. She gained her undergraduate degree in European Politics at King’s College London, studying the historical background of European nations and its relationships with the rest of the world. Miray is considering focussing more on the impact of far-right populism in foreign policy, particularly looking at the political language and communication of populist leaders in the international political economy. 

Click here to register!


A general view of the hemicycle during of a plenary session on BREXIT vote of the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium on January 29, 2020. Photo: Alexandros Michailidis.

On Chantal Mouffe’s ‘Democratic Agonism’ and EU Democratic Deficit

Conflict constitutes an essential part of a healthy democratic society and should not be eradicated from it. Nevertheless, the “others” must not be intended as enemies to destroy but as adversaries whose ideas can be fought – even with ferocity – without ever questioning their right to defend them. Adopting a “competitive struggle” – as Chantal Mouffe calls it – implies mutual consensus towards institutions and socio-political values, even if it allows political actors to disagree on them, in the light of a “conflicting consensus.”

By Luca Mancin

According to social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1986), societal and political environments are characterized by contentions and intra-groups relations. Politics does not make an exception with its long tradition of struggles and conflicts that gave birth to the so-called antagonistic paradigm (Schmitt, 1996), namely a political hostility that cannot be solved but through a mortal dispute. Though antagonism it can be softened and transformed into what Chantal Mouffe (2013) calls democratic agonism, where dissensus is present but the opposition occurs within shared values and pluralism is safeguarded.

By applying democratic agonism to the integration of the European Union (EU), focusing specifically on post-functionalism, it is unavoidable to deal with the broad concept of Euroscepticism, namely a critical and opposing attitude toward the EU’s economic and political integration. More specifically, this commentary investigates how a democratic agonism among softened Eurosceptic parties within the European Parliament can represent a remedy to the EU democratic deficit. Post-functionalism, indeed, tackles European integration from a national outlook. Hence it is a pluralistic and variegated approach to the EU affected by cultural and socio-political differences by mirroring potential incompatibilities of European politics. Might Mouffe’s democratic agonism precisely offer a solution to overcome such obstacles by promoting a pluralistic image of European politics through a pluralism of peoples and cultures within shared socioeconomic and political values?

The Democratic Agonism Paradigm

‘Why do you kill me?’ 

‘What! Do you not live on the other side of the water? If you lived on this side, my friend, I should be an assassin, and it would be unjust to slay you in this manner. But since you live on the other side, I am a hero, and it is just.’

This sentence, contained in Blaise Pascal’s Thoughts (2011: 51), perfectly describes the human attitude to categorizing the social world in a dichotomic manner. After all, Sigmund Freud as well, in Civilization and Its Discontents (1930: 114), wrote that “It is always possible to bind together a considerable number of people in love, so long as there are other people left over to receive the manifestations of their aggressiveness.” A claim that recalls what Carl Schmitt (1996) argued about the Manichean structure of politics that relies on the contraposition between “friend” and “enemy.” Such behavior is also observable in the social identity theory elaborated by Tajfel & Turner (1986). According to this model, people create us/them divisions in their social environment and behave in the function of their membership group. 

Social identity theory relies on three steps. First, people categorize themselves and identify two parties – the in-group (“us”) and the out-group (“them”); secondly, the in-group’s members adopt the features that are believed to characterize that group; finally, the in-group compares itself with the out-group by exalting themself and belittling the other.

As anticipated above, the Manichean division between “us” and “them” is central in Schmitt’s (1996) work. The German philosopher maintained the crucial political distinction between “friend” (Freund) and “enemy” (Feind). Therefore, for him, the political enemy is “the other” or “the stranger” (der Fremde). The concept of enemy regards a group of people fighting and opposing – it is the Greek πόλεμος (pόlemos) or the Latin hostis (the public enemy). According to Schmitt, then, “the political” has two characteristics: 1) a polemical component embodied by a concrete conflict, and 2) the identification of “politician” in the sense of a political party.

The “us” versus “them” dichotomy is one of the main features of Eurosceptic and populist parties – as suggested by Cas Mudde (2004), who described populism as an opposition between “the pure people” and “the corrupt elite.” Manichean rhetoric polarizes citizenship and orients it towards a common enemy by finding a suitable scapegoat for each problem (Banning, 2006). We often notice this strategy investigating Eurosceptic and populist vocabulary and discourses, which propose an undetermined people opposed to a vague elite – the EU, the establishment, the bankers. So, an antagonistic approach allows citizens to identify a common enemy, but it denies any chance of constructive criticism and political compromise since it does not consent to establishing a fruitful political debate. Then, it is essential to find an agonistic alternative that permits dialogue and institutionalization of the conflict.

With this in mind, we draw on Chantal Mouffe’s (2013) work, which produces sublimation and institutionalization of Schmitt’s antagonism – which does not allow space for a confrontation between the two contenders that is not deadly. By contrast, Mouffe’s solution aims to overcome the limitations of a mortal political conflict by moving it into a political arena regulated by shared values and principles within institutions. By doing this, Mouffe proposes an agonistic model of democracy, whose purpose does not consist of reaching a consensus without exclusion because that would involve a “we” without a “them” – which is impossible. Mouffe recalls the idea of “radical negativity” – a form of negativity impossible to overcome and that prevents the full achievement of objectivity. Such radical negativity leaves open the possibility of an antagonism: recognizing the existence of radical negativity means recognizing the multiplicity and the divisions of the people. Societies cannot overcome such divisions but only institutionalize them.

Mouffe’s model of political society has its roots in the concepts of “antagonism” and “hegemony.” Antagonism indicates a conflict with no rational solution, while hegemony describes every society’s constitutive and ineliminable negativity. The hegemonic feature of human communities involves that every social order relies on a contingent articulation of power relations without an ultimate rational foundation. Consequently, societies are always the product of a series of practices attempting to establish a determined order in a contingent context. Hence, Mouffe declares that the central political issue consists of establishing an oppositional us/them compatibly with a pluralistic acceptance. The conflict constitutes an essential part of a healthy democratic society and should not be eradicated from it. Nevertheless, the “others” must not be approached as enemies to destroy but as adversaries whose ideas can be fought – even with ferocity – without ever questioning the right to defend. Adopting a “competitive struggle” – as Mouffe calls it – implies mutual consensus towards institutions and socio-political values, even if it allows political actors to disagree, in the light of a “conflicting consensus.”

But what happens if we apply Mouffe’s democratic agonism to European integration theories?

European Integration and Democratic Deficit

Integration theories analyze how to increase political cooperation within the EU by dealing with the EU integration results and the development of its institutions (Diez & Wiener, 2018). Among the several diversified EU integration theories, the post-functionalist outlook is relevant for this commentary. Such a theory, elaborated by Hooghe & Marks (2009), tackles the European Union from the national level of member states by stating that their domestic level politics shapes and affects EU integration and politicizes EU policies. The focus, the authors argue, is precisely on the conflicts at the level of the national citizenry, which constitute the driving forces of European integration.

Indeed, post-functionalism has spread after the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 and runs parallel to the shift from a “permissive consensus” to a “constraining dissensus” (Hooghe & Marks, 2009). By this term, scholars mean the greater awareness of citizens concerning European issues in the post-Maastricht Treaty period, followed by a broader politicization of the EU’s matters. Such a mutation has been a critical turning point for the European integration process, coinciding with the normalization of Eurosceptic parties (Bijsmans, 2020; Brack & Startin, 2015), which exploited the decrease of EU support and the increase of room for manifesting such a discontent (de Vries & Edwards, 2009). Besides, the diffusion of post-functionalism highlights the growing issue of the EU democratic deficit by making popular discontent concerning EU-related issues heard through national politics.

Whether the European Union is democratic or not raises broad debates (Beetham & Lord, 1998; Schmidt, 2006). The democratic deficit is the idea that “EU institutions and their decision-making procedures suffer from a lack of democracy and seem inaccessible to the ordinary citizen due to their complexity” (EUR-Lex)[1]. Such a democratic deficit might have different causes (the lack of genuine representative democracy in the EU, the absence of a common European demos, and the democratic deficit at the national level). Some scholars argue that the EU needs more profound politicization to create political debate to overcome the democratic deficit (Bellamy & Kroger, 2013; Føllesdal & Hix, 2006). These suggestions might entail pan-European elections, the President of the European Commission elected by the European Parliament, or a broader Europeanization of the public sphere. By contrast, other scholars maintain that the EU is as democratic as it could/should be because it aims to produce Pareto-efficient outcomes (Majone, 1994; Moravcsik, 2008). Namely, the EU creates a situation where the allocation of resources is such that improvements cannot be made to the system (i.e., the condition of one person cannot be improved without worsening the condition of another).

A general image of the EU’s democratic deficit, its causes, and potential remedies allows us to investigate whether the increasing number of softened Eurosceptic parties improved the democratic environment of the European Parliament – in terms of debates and participation – by producing a “democratic agonism.” Indeed, Chantal Mouffe (2013) considers it one of the possible solutions for the future of the EU integration since it would preserve the pluralism of identities and allow a “conflicting consensus” within the shared and common values of the Union.

Softened Euroscepticism as a Remedy to EU Democratic Deficit

Addressing the EU democratic deficit through Euroscepticism requires orientating within the complex and vague field of this topic (Szczerbiak & Taggart, 2017). Taggart has generally defined Euroscepticism as “the idea of contingent or qualified opposition, as well as incorporating outright and unqualified opposition to the process of European integration” (1998: 366). Taggart & Szczerbiak (2002) elaborate a further differentiation between “hard” and “soft” Euroscepticism. The first term indicates an opposition per se to the EU, while the second one depicts a qualified opposition to the EU – namely, a rejection of specific integration fields. However, as Kopecky and Mudde (2002) point out, it is still a too broad definition.

While these two broad categories represent necessary starting points, it is crucial to offer more specific definitions of the soft version to tackle this issue properly. Hence, I argue we should consider the category of “Eurorealizm” or softened Euroscepticism by referring to a political position that has been named in two different ways within the literature of this field. One is the term “Europragmatizm” (Kopecky & Mudde, 2002), which depicts a positive attitude towards the ideological image of the EU, but also an opposition to the principles of the European integration process. Similarly, such a political habit recalls the term “revisionist” (Flood & Usherwood, 2005), namely the desire to return to earlier stages of the EU. Finally, concerning Vasilopoulou’s (2011) work, we can consider such a position as a “conditional Euroscepticism” since it accepts a cultural definition of Europe and is aware of the importance of multilateral cooperation at the EU level but rejects the current EU’s political practice and future integrational steps.

Once we have defined what we mean here by softened Euroscepticism, we can examine how these stances can represent a (partial) remedy to the EU democratic deficit. It is essential to draw on Milner (2000), who talks about “healthy scepticism,” considering Euroscepticism as a litmus test for the awareness of critical citizenry concerning the EU’s issues. More recently, De Wilde & Trenz (2012) reconduct Euroscepticism to the EU’s integration process by stating that it is a natural element of the opposition to the European political project. Besides, it embodies a contestation of the European polity, and it might help address problems about sovereignty, democratic deficit, and responsiveness by being part of the more extensive process of legitimation and democratization of the Union. For this reason, Brack & Startin (2015), analyzing how Euroscepticism is currently a mainstream aspect of European politics, ask whether it can help in terms of a remedy to the EU democratic deficit. The literature offers two answers to this question. Firstly, Brack & Costa (2017) maintains that Eurosceptic conflicting opinions inside the European Parliament show the high degree of democratic pluralism of the Union itself. Secondly, Krouwel & Abst (2007) underline the positive aspect of populist Eurosceptic parties in the European Parliament since these actors represent a stimulus for an active citizenry. After all, a healthy democracy relies on political contestation and critics, and, to a certain extent, Euroscepticism triggering political discontent can reveal itself as a positive aspect of a democratic regime.

Such theoretical statements find a practical realization in contemporary general Eurosceptic parties’ tendency to soften their position and take up a position of what we defined above as “Eurorealism” (Balfour et al., 2019; Taggart, 2019). In other words, nowadays, Eurosceptic parties are still critics of the European Union but do not assess the exit from the EU as a feasible solution. Here, looking at the question of Eurorealism and examining whether it can fuel democratization of the EU through Mouffe’s (2013) democratic agonistic paradigm implies a European Parliament with a pluralistic trim, where conflicts are present and essential but regulated within shared values and principles. The transposition into the European Studies literature of Mouffe’s approach can be traced in Nicolaïdis’ (2004) concept of “demoi-cracy.” By this term, he means a combination of pluralistic nations and peoples working together to overcome the democratic problems in the EU but maintaining their essential socio-cultural differences and ideological divergences. Only through the maintenance of these unavoidable and natural “geo-philosophical faults” – as the Italian philosopher Massimo Cacciari calls them (1994 & 1997) – it is possible to safeguard the “field of conflicting forces”, as the Polish philosopher Krzysztof Pomian once described Europe.


This commentary applied Mouffe’s theory on democratic agonism (2013) to post-functional theories of European integration. It argued that approaching Euroscepticism through the lens of democratic agonism rather than antagonism shows how pluralism and shared values can address the EU democratic deficit. In particular, it was argued that democratic agonism would allow the increasing number of softened Eurosceptic parties to elaborate constructive criticism toward the Union’s trim without menacing an exit of their member states from the EU. Such a solution would safeguard cultures and peoples’ pluralism in what Nicolaïdis (2004) called “demoi-cracy” and constitute a compromise for the “conflicting forces” featuring the European Union politics. In the EU, then, there would still be a “competitive struggle,” not between “friends” and “enemies,” but between adversaries whose positions can be fought but must be respected in the light of a “conflicting consensus.”


Balfour, R.; Basagni, L.; Flotho-Liersch, A.; Fusaro, P.; Gelhaus, L.; Groenendaal, L.; Hegedus, D.; Von Homeyer, H.; Kausch, K.; Kutschka, T.; Matrakova, M.; Rempala, J.; & Tani, K. (2019). Divide and Obstruct: Populist Parties and EU Foreign Policy. German Marshall Fund of the United States.

Banning, M. E. (2006). “The Politics of Resentment.” JAC, 26(1/2), 67–101. 

Beetham, D., & Lord, C. (1998). Legitimacy and the European Union. London: Longman.

Bellamy, R., & Kröger, S. (2013). “Representation Deficits and Surpluses in EU Policy-making.” Journal of European Integration35(5), 477-497.

Bijsmans, P. (2020). “Euroskepticism, a multifaceted phenomenon.” In: Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics. Oxford University Press.

Brack, N., & Costa, O. (2017). “Transnational and Pan-European Euroscepticism.” In: B. Leruth, N. Startin & S. Usherwood (Eds.). The Routledge Handbook of Euroscepticism (pp. 551-569). Routledge.

Brack, N, & Startin, N. (2015). “Introduction: Euroscepticism, from the margins to the mainstream.” International Political Science Review36(3), 239–249.

Cacciari, M. (1994). Geofilosofia dell’Europa [Geo-philosophy of Europe]. Adelphi.

Cacciari, M. (1997). Arcipelago [Archipelago]. Adelphi.

De Vries, C. E. & Edwards, E. E. (2009). “Taking Europe to Its Extremes: Extremist Parties and Public Euroscepticism.” Party Politics. 15(1), 5–28.

de Wilde, P. & Trenz, H.J. (2012). “Denouncing European integration: Euroscepticism as polity contestation.” European Journal of Social Theory15(4): 537–554.

Diez, T. & Wiener, A. (2018). “Introducing the Mosaic of Integration Theory.” In: A. Wiener & T. Diez (Eds.), European Integration Theory (pp. 1-24). Oxford University Press.

Flood, C. & Usherwood, S. (2005). Positions, Dispositions, Transitions: A model of Group Alignment on EU Integration. Paper presented at the 55th Annual Conference of the Political Studies Association University of Leeds, 5-7 April 2005.

Føllesdal, A. & Hix, S. (2006). “Why There is a Democratic Deficit in the EU: A Response to Majone and Moravcsik.” Journal of Common Market Studies, 44(33), 533–562 

Freud, S. (1930). Civilization and its DiscontentsThe Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XXI (1927-1931). The Future of an Illusion, Civilization and its Discontents, and Other Works, 57-146. Available at:

Hooghe, L., & Marks, G. (2009). “A Post-functionalist Theory of European Integration: From Permissive Consensus to Constraining Dissensus.” British Journal of Political Science, 39(1), 1–23.

Kopecky, P. & Mudde, C. (2002). “The Two Sides of Euroscepticism. Party Positions on European Integration in East Central Europe.” European Union Politics3(3), 297-326.

Krouwel, A. & Abts, K. (2007). “Varieties of Euroscepticism and Populist Mobilization: Transforming Attitudes from Mild Euroscepticism to Harsh Eurocynicism.” Acta Politica42, 252–270.

Majone, G. (1994). “The Rise of the Regulatory State in Europe.” West European Politics, 17(3), 77–101.

Milner, S. (2000). “Introduction: A Healthy Scepticism?” Journal of European Integration22(1), 1-13.

Moravcsik, A. (2008). “The Myth of Europe’s ‘Democratic Deficit’.” Intereconomics, 43(6): 331–340.

Mouffe, C. (2013). Agonistics. Thinking the World Politically. Verso.

Mudde, C. (2004). “The Populist Zeitgeist.” Government and Opposition39(4), 541–563.  

Nicolaïdis, K. (2004). “The new constitution as european “demoi‐cracy”?” Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy7(1), 76-93.

Pascal, B. [(2011) 1669]. The Thoughts of Blaise Pascal. The Online Library of Liberty. Available at:

Schmidt, V. A. (2006). Democracy in Europe. Oxford University Press.

Schmitt, C. (1996). The Concept of the Political [1932]. Chicago University Press.

Szczerbiak, A. & Taggart, P. (2017). “Contemporary Research on Euroscepticism.” In: B. Leruth, N. Startin, & S. Usherwood (Eds.). The Routledge Handbook of Euroscepticism (pp. 45-60). Routledge.

Taggart, P. (1998). “A Touchstone of Dissent: Euroscepticism in Contemporary Western European Party Systems.” European Journal of Political Research, 33, 363-388.

Taggart, P. (2019). “Party-based hard Euroscepticism in the 2019 European parliament elections.” In: N. Bolin, K. Falasca, M. Grusel, et alEuroflections: Leading academics on the European elections 2019 (p. 26). Demicom report no. 40. Sundsval: Mittuniversitetet.

Taggart, P. & Szczerbiak, A. (2002). Crossing Europe: Patterns of Contemporary Party-Based Euroscepticism in EU Member States and the Candidate States of Central and Eastern Europe. Paper prepared for presentation at the European Consortium for Political Research Joint Workshops, Turin, March 21-27, 2002.

Tajfel, H. & Turner, J.C. (1986). “The social identity theory of intergroup behavior.” In: S. Worchel & W.G. Austin (Eds). Psychology of intergroup relations. Nelson-Hall.

Vasilopoulou S. (2011). “European Integration and the Radical Right: Three Patterns of Opposition.” Government and Opposition46(2), 223-244.

[1] The definition is available at:

Photo: Matej Kastelic.

ECPS Academy Future Leaders Program (July 4-8, 2022)   

Euroscepticism and far-right politics: The populist challenge to EU norms, institutions and values 

Are you an early-career academic researcher in the social sciences or humanities at Bachelor’s or Master’s level? Are you passionate about European politics and understanding the dynamics that shape it? Are you looking for a way to expand your knowledge under the supervision of leading experts, seeking options to have your work published by a European research institute, or simply in need of a few extra ECTS credits for your studies? Then consider applying to ECPS Academy Future Leaders Program! The European Center for Populism Studies (ECPS) is looking to select a handful of outstanding young researchers for a unique opportunity to assess the populist challenge to European politics in a five-day, interactive Summer course led by global experts from a variety of backgrounds. This rigorous program will provide a state-of-the-art introduction to a number of key issues in the field of populism studies and enable successful candidates to explore their own ideas under the supervision of our experts. You gain not only an opportunity to have your work published and a handful of ECTS points but also a unique opportunity to broaden your horizons and deepen your understanding of the challenges facing European politics in the 21st century.  


European politics have witnessed, over the last 20 years, a subversive wave of Eurosceptic, nativist, populist far-right politics. Beginning as a phenomenon on the socio-political fringes, populism has found fertile ground in the post-industrial economies of the West, attaching itself to nationalist and de-modernising movements threatening core European values of democracy, openness, tolerance and non-discrimination – and, in the process, taking many democracies by storm. In Donald Trump and the successful ‘Brexit’ campaign in the United Kingdom, many saw right-wing populism reaching its political apex and the 2010s to be the ‘populist decade’, marking populism’s entry into the political mainstream; today, although Covid-19, in a sense, undermined support for right-wing populist governance, the economic and social uncertainties that remain mean the spectre of exclusionary populism is never far.  

This trend threatens the European Union on both the institutional and the normative level. EU values such as democracy, freedom, human rights, justice, and equality are under greater threat today than perhaps at any point in the Union’s 50 years of history. Understanding the drivers and the impact of populist right politics on liberal democracy is key to tackling the most critical challenges facing European identity, institutions and values. The ECPS Academy Future Leaders Program seeks to empower future generations by helping the exceling young scholars of tomorrow to understand the nature and dynamics of the populist moment, and thereby facilitate the development of constructive and effective responses. As Europe celebrates the EU Year of Youth in 2022, our five-day Future Leaders Program offers young people a dynamic, engaging and interdisciplinary learning environment with an intellectually challenging program presented by world class scholars of populism, allowing them to grow as future academic, intellectual, activist and public leaders. 

Over the course of five days, interactive lectures by world-leading practitioners and experts from a number of backgrounds will introduce populism from a variety of angles and explore the fundamental questions and potent tensions its popularity raises. The lectures are complemented by discussions, group interactions and assignments on selected key issues to develop critical and openminded engagement with some of the most pressing questions of European politics, and to introduce participants to cutting-edge qualitative and quantitative approaches to populism reflective of the state of social science research today. Participants have the opportunity to collaborate with those from different socio-political contexts, developing invaluable cross-cultural perspectives and facilitating a knowledge exchange that goes beyond European borders.  

Who should apply? 

This unique course is addressed to outstanding candidates interested in gaining a more comprehensive and critical understanding of how the rise of far-right populism, and related trends like Euroscepticism, nativism, authoritarianism and exclusionary politics subvert the European Union’s basic pillars and essential European values. A select group of participants will be chosen based on merit, with applications welcomed from students pursuing bachelor’s and master’s degrees of any discipline, as well as early career professionals between the ages of 18 and 30. You will be selected on the basis of a letter of motivation, a CV and a research proposal of between 500 and 1000 words. The proposal should give a brief analysis of populism’s relationship to one or more core European value, and ideally outline a plan to investigate this relationship further. Drawing upon and correctly citing academic sources is desirable.  

We value the high level of diversity on our courses, welcoming applications from people of all backgrounds. The deadline for submitting applications is June 20, 2022. Reflecting the properly pan-European character of the ECPS Academy Future Leaders Program – but unfortunately also the difficulties of organising in-person events in times of pandemic – the 2022 Program will take place on Zoom, consisting of two sessions each day.  

Topics and Lecturers

  • “Populism in Europe: Origins and causes of the populist moment,” by Paul Taggart, Professor of Politics, University of Sussex.
  • “Nativist Populism: Political discourse between othering and inclusion,” by Ruth Wodak, Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Discourse Studies, Lancaster University.
  • “Populism and nationalism: Challenges to the idea of European Union,” by Daphne Halikiopoulou, Professor of Comparative Politics, University of Reading.
  • “Populism and the rule of law,” by Bojan Bugarič, Professor of Law, University of Scheffield.
  • “Populism and economic performance: Implications on institutions and good governance,” by Ibrahim Ozturk, Professor of Economics, University of Duisburg-Essen.
  • “Russia’s populist discourse and its invasion of Ukraine: Challenges for the EU,” by Neil Robinson, Professor of Comparative Politics, University of Limmerick.
  • “Populism and participation: Democracy by the People, for the People? by Susana Salgado, Professor of Political Communication, Principal Researcher at the Institute of Social Sciences, University of Lisbon
  • “Populism and new media: Understanding challenges online and offline,” by Dr Eviane Leidig, Research Fellow, International Center for Counter-Terrorism.
  • “Populism and gender: Gender identity in populist discourse,” by Dr Haley McEwen, Researcher, Wits Centre for Diversity Studies, University of the Witwatersrand.

Evaluation Criteria 

Meeting the assessment criteria is required from all participants aiming to successfully complete the program and receive a certificate of attendance in the end. These evaluation criteria include full attendance, active participation in lectures, and the successful completion of an individual written assignment, ideally (but not necessarily) linked to your research proposal.  

Participants are expected to write an article or essay on a topic of their choice based on one of the themes discussed during the program. They are expected to plan and produce original work that presents arguments in a clear and balanced way drawing on multiple sources and incorporating and citing them consistent with academic standards. For this process, they will be supervised by one of our in-house experts to complete this assignment successfully. The articles will be between 2,000 and 3,000 words and need to be submitted within a month from the end of the program; selected papers will be considered for publication on the ECPS website and ECPS Youth blog. 


This course is worth 5 ECTS in the European system. If you intend to transfer credit to your home institution, please check the requirements with them before you apply. We will be happy to assist you in any way we can, however, please be aware that the decision to transfer credit rests with your home institution. 

Certificate of Attendance 

Awarded after program to all participants based on the satisfactory participation in, and completion of, the course assignments. Certificates are sent to students only by email.

Please submit your application: 

Brexit suporters, brexiteers, in central London holding banners campaigning to leave the European Union on January 15, 2019.

ECPS Youth Seminars — Political Psychology of Populism: Groups, Hierarchies and Emotions (Apr.4, 2022)  

 Date/Time: Monday, April 4, 2022 / 18:00-19:00 (CET)

Click here to register!


Celia Miray Yesil


Dr. Sandra Obradovic 

At this ECPS Youth Seminar, Dr. Sandra Obradovic is going to present the findings of a research paper titled “Understanding the psychological appeal of populism” which is jointly written by Obradovic, Séamus A. Power and Jennifer Sheehy-Skeffington. According to the paper, psychology can play an important role in expanding our understanding of the demand-side of populism by revealing its underlying relational logic. Social psychological perspectives on populism are beginning to show how: 1) the division between us (‘the good people’) and them (‘the corrupt elites’/ ‘foreign others’) taps into core intergroup dynamics, 2) economic and cultural processes are construed in terms of basic status concerns, and 3) collective emotions become mobilised through political communication. Taking these insights into consideration, the authors reflect on psychology’s contribution to the study of populism thus far and chart out an ambitious role for it at the heart of this interdisciplinary field.

Dr. Sandra Obradovic is a social and political psychologist in the UK. She is a lecturer in Psychology at the Open University and a researcher at the Electoral Psychology Observatory at the London School of Economics. Her work examines how group boundaries are constructed and defined, and their impact on identities, intergroup relations, and political attitudes. In bringing this focus to research on populism she works with colleagues in Denmark and the UK, examining and comparing populist and mainstream rhetoric and highlighting the role of hierarchies, emotions, and temporalities in constructing the common people as under threat. At the Electoral Psychology Observatory, she works with colleagues on research on electoral atmosphere and hostility: how voters experience elections and its impact on interpersonal relationships and overall satisfaction with democracy.

Celia Miray Yesil is a ECPS Youth Group member, co-director of Voice of Youth (VoY) and master’s student of International Political Economy at the Warwick University. She gained her undergraduate degree in European Politics at King’s College London, studying the historical background of European nations and its relationships with the rest of the world.  In her undergraduate dissertation, Miray looked at the populist ‘language’ of the far-right leaders Marine Le Pen and Recep Tayyip Erdogan. As for her master’s dissertation, Miray is considering focussing more on the impact of far-right populism in foreign policy, particularly looking at the political language and communication of populist leaders in the international political economy.

Click here to register!



ECPS Youth Seminars #1 — Populism and personality: How voters perceive the dark personality of populist leaders

At this ECPS Youth Seminar, Professor Alessandro Nai is presentäng results from his recent research on how voters perceive the (dark) personality of political candidates. Who likes dark politicians? His research article investigates whether voters showcasing populist attitudes are more likely to appreciate candidates that score high on dark personality traits (narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism) and low on agreeableness. 

Professor Nai’s investigation leverages evidence from an international survey that includes expert-ratings for personality profile of 49 top candidates having competed in 22 national elections, matched with standardized survey data gathered in the aftermath of those same elections that include self-ratings of populist attitudes and candidate likeability (CSES data, N = 70,690). Even controlling for important covariates that drive candidate likeability (e.g., the ideological distance between the voter and the candidate), the results strongly confirm the expectations: populist voters are significantly more likely to appreciate candidates high on the Dark triad and low on agreeableness. The effects, especially for (low) agreeableness, are quite substantial.

Alessandro Nai is an Assistant Professor of Political Communication at the Department of Communication Science, University of Amsterdam. His research focuses on the drivers and consequences of election campaigning, political communication, and the psychology of voting behaviour. His recent work deals more specifically with the dark sides of politics, the use of negativity and incivility in election campaigns in a comparative perspective, and the (dark) personality traits of political figures. He is currently directing a research project that maps the use of negative campaigning in elections across the world. 

Moderator Celia Miray Yesil is a master’s student of International Political Economy at the Warwick University. She gained her undergraduate degree in European Politics at King’s College London, studying the historical background of European nations and its relationships with the rest of the world. Miray is considering focussing more on the impact of far-right populism in foreign policy, particularly looking at the political language and communication of populist leaders in the international political economy. 

A young African woman hugging a white northern woman after a protest. Photo: Sabrina Bracher.

Nice White Ladies: The Truth about White Supremacy, Our Role in It, and How We Can Help Dismantle It 

In her book, Jessie Daniels deconstructs whiteness and scrutinizes individuals’ contributions to and relationships with it, making “Nice White Ladies” an excellent work of literature for those who understand that the practice of anti-racism cannot be disentangled from self-work. However much one may already know about the subject matter, Daniels’ confronting, academic, and personal approach will surely provide her readers with fresh insights.    

Reviewed by Shirin Ananda Dias*

In her book “Nice White Ladies,” Jessie Daniels deconstructs white womanhood and details how it is historically and culturally linked to the inter-generational perpetuation of everyday, systemic, and institutional racism by white women in both the United Kingdom (UK) and, most notably, in the United States (US). Both by drawing on existent literature on race, gender, cultural and blackness studies and by giving detailed ethnographic and personal examples, Daniels details how white women – often with good intentions – contribute to the cycle of racism and demonstrates their complicity in the infliction of everyday micro-aggressions on communities of color. 

Although the book is largely a cultural critique, it also serves as a “self-help book” for those seeking to break free from the toxic chains of whiteness, which inflict pain and suffering not only upon BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color), but also upon white women and their families, through generational guilt and self-destructive defense mechanisms transmitted throughout decades. The book’s six chapters take the reader through Daniels’ personal and academic journeys, zeroing in on her experiences with white womanhood and racism throughout her life and academic career. She furthermore provides the reader with alternative constructive modes of ‘being white’ in a diverse and multicultural society.

In the first chapter of the book Daniels places white womanhood in historical context and lays bare, through a cultural and historical lens, how and why white women often feel threatened by and entitled to protection from the ‘other.’ Without vilifying the ‘Karens’ of today’s society, Daniels details how their (sometimes subconscious) feelings of white supremacy, entitlement to protection, and (lethal) power over the ‘other’, are surviving legacies of the colonial period. Within white supremacist society, black men were often lynched to protect white women –the underlying sentiment has survived through generations, resulting in instances of modern-day women weaponizing their white womanhood by using police and law enforcement against BIPOC. Daniels hereby demonstrates and emphasizes how white women’s actions perpetuate colonial cultural legacies to this day, and how they are consequently beneficiaries of colonialism and slavery.

In chapter two, Daniels illustrates how white feminists on both the left and right of the political spectrum tend to perpetrate and exacerbate racial inequalities through their supposedly universal and neutral feminist activism. From the pink pussy hats to the #metoo movement and other movements aiming for women’s liberation and “equal representation, compensation and power in the public sphere as men” (Daniels, 2021: 86), Daniels shows that these movements for women’s rights are far from universally inclusive. On the contrary, these feminist movements tend to engage in gender-only, (neoliberal) feminism that is oblivious to white privilege, race, and institutionalized racism (as well as other relevant intersections). Daniels therefore criticizes so-called liberal feminists on their lack of intersectionality and calls for the inclusion of critical race theory in feminist activism with the objective of the liberation of all women.

In chapter three, “The Shallow Promise of the Wellness Industry,” Daniels shows how women are targeted by all sorts of ‘self-care’ trends – clean eating, skincare products, yoga, mindfulness – which promise fulfillment and inner peace in a capitalist society.  In one sense, these trends are shallow in their failure to deliver true fulfillment; in fact, their intertwinement with the capitalist system ensures that fulfillment is ever out of reach. Daniels, however, focuses on a different source of shallowness: namely, that purveyors of the wellness industry create white-only spaces, and construct a specific normative identity, namely the white-hetero-lady who is in need of care. In creating and orienting itself around this identity, the wellness industry excludes communities of color and obscures the reasons for their struggles. Wellness is portrayed as a product for consumption, instead of something that is contingent upon larger structural issues like systemic racism and poverty.  Daniels also touches upon the wellness industry’s self-help books and criticizes renowned authors such as Brené Brown, for her work’s blindness to whiteness and white-shame, and Eat-Pray-Love author Elizabeth Gilbert, for romanticizing her soul-seeking journey to India without reflecting upon the white privilege that afforded her the means leave everything behind, travel, and ‘find herself.’ 

Chapters four and five discuss identity and kinship. In chapter four, “Love and Theft,” Daniels investigates the psychological and cultural reasons behind certain white women’s appropriation of BIPOC identities. Here Daniels discusses female academics such as Rachel Dolezal and Jessica Krug. She argues that it is the underlying emptiness that resides in whiteness, and, furthermore, white guilt, which drive white women to appropriate non-white identities, so that they can be seen and heard, or to deal with the psychological trauma of being white. Daniels furthermore details how white women, through ‘blackfishing’ or appropriating indigenous Cherokee identities, become the beneficiaries of policies like affirmative action, whereby their successes rest on the backs of those communities who need those policies most. 

Not all white women deal with whiteness and white guilt in the same way as the Rachel Dolezals of the world. Daniels shows how many white women engage in white saviorism in order to assuage their white guilt. An example she discusses is the adoption of BIPOC children by white families, where an undercurrent of white saviorism can perpetuate microaggressions towards communities of color, with the indirect message being that white mothers are more capable of motherhood. As is furthermore shown in the chapter “Protecting White Families,” white women often engage in practices that benefit white families and disadvantage communities of color, by raising their adopted children in a “color blind”, household, rather than a “color aware” one, thereby implicitly downplaying racism’s existence. One’s own contribution to and participation in cyclical institutionalized racism and racial segregation often goes unnoticed; well-meaning and protective mothers, who accumulate wealth within their white families and shield their children from education in multi-racial settings, which Daniels coins as the “new Jim Crow,” seem unaware of the implications of their actions. In all examples, from white women physically protecting their homes with guns from Black Lives Matter demonstrators to those well-meaning women who accumulate wealth and education for their white families, Daniels emphasizes and illustrates how white families are “one of the most powerful forces of reproducing white supremacy” (Daniels, 2021: 193). 

In the last chapter, “The Lie that is Killing All of Us,” Daniels details, through myriad examples of mental health cases (including her own mother’s), how whiteness not only poses a lethal threat to communities of color, but, even more so, how it threatens white communities. She argues that although white people are the beneficiaries of white supremacy (in that they have, for example, greater access to healthcare than communities of color do), white communities are also plagued by higher rates of depression than communities of color, and increasing addiction, mortality, and suicide rates. Daniels illustrates how nice white ladies suffer under the burden of white guilt. Building on this, Daniels exemplifies the impact white guilt has on the individual and collective health of white people and communities. In this vein, Daniels demonstrates how feelings of emptiness – inherent to whiteness – are often the root cause for infliction of harm of others, and for self-destructive behavior. 

In the concluding section, Daniels refers back to previous chapters and provides the reader with detailed methods to develop an alternate, more constructive and justform of whiteness and white womanhood. Jessie Daniels herself strives to be “white without going white, to not take up all the space, to swerve away from the supremacy of whiteness” (Daniels, 2021: 234). The suggested liberators methods include, for example, rethinking social relationships with people who actively participate in the oppression of BIPOC, giving agency to women of color, and being their accomplice in dismantling white supremacy, amongst many other suggestions.

A potential critique of the book is that certain argumentations are rather reductionist, such as Daniels’ proclamations that the Kardashians’ cultural appropriation derives from their white guilt, or that the suicide of a white health worker during COVID-19 was motivated by the burden of white survival guilt. This is where Daniels draws hasty conclusions and appears to disregard the complexity of the human psyche despite her background in critical social psychology. Although I concur that there lays trauma in whiteness, not all behavior is necessarily attributable to whiteness and its discontents. 

Despite this criticism, the book does insightfully deconstruct whiteness and scrutinizes individuals’ contributions to and relationships with it, making “Nice White Ladies” an excellent work of literature for those who understand that the work of anti-racism cannot be disentangled from self-work. However much one may already know about the subject matter, Daniels’ confronting, academic, and personal approach will surely provide her readers with fresh insights.  It is a work that I would highly recommend to both academics and laymen seeking to understand the complexities of white womanhood and racism. I would especially recommend the book to white women, as no matter how “woke” one might be, there might be a “Nice White Lady, whether big or small, in all of us.

Jessie Daniels, Nice White Ladies: The Truth about White Supremacy, Our Role in It, and How We Can Help Dismantle It, Seal Press, 2021, 304 pp., $28, ISBN: 9781541675865

(*) Shirin Ananda Dias is an alumna of SOAS university London, where she obtained her bachelor’s degree in Social Anthropology. Her two main regions of academic interest are the Middle East and South Asia, where she indulges in political anthropology focusing on ethnic and religious nationalism and populism in the broader framework of globalization and contemporary international relations. She is currently enrolled in the MA program “Social and Cultural Anthropology” at the University of Amsterdam where she is finishing writing her master dissertation on the expression of Hindu nationalism in right wing Hindu nationalist Facebook groups during the COVID-19 pandemic. 


Digital Populism: The Internet and the Rise of Right-wing Populism

This article is an attempt to critically assess the utilization of internet platforms by right-wing populists. Analysing both primary and secondary sources, the author identifies several propaganda methods used by populists in digital venues to trigger insecurities in their target audience. Nativism and xenophobia are at the forefront of these propaganda methods. The increasing use of internet algorithms and artificial intelligence is also brought to the readers’ attention as abetting the spread of fake news and hate speech. The author concludes by drawing attention to initiatives and mechanisms that social media platforms should use to limit the damaging effects of such digital populist rhetoric.

By Sena Eksi

“Populism often asks the right questions but provides the wrong answer” (Mudde and Kaltwasser, 2017: 118).

Populism is defined as a stark social and political divide between the common people and the corrupt elite. The author of The Global Rise of Populism, Benjamin Moffit writes that populist leaders aim to represent the unified “will of people,” hence arguing that populism “is generally misused especially in a European context” (Moffitt, 2016: 101-102). Accordingly, populism is embraced both by left-wing and right-wing political parties, as well as other extremist groups along the political spectrum. Even though populist leaders seem—at least superficially—to have the well-being of their citizens at heart, with time, idiosyncratic politicians tend to corrupt the popular spirit and seek to realize their own goals by labelling themselves as the natural or sole representative of the true people.

Propaganda methods and mass media have always been used to spread new ideas, thoughts, and doctrines. A well-known example is the Nazi regime in Germany, which used propaganda through different sources of media to influence the German population. Today, digital media works as a modernized platform to disseminate all kinds of extremist propaganda nationally and internationally. This article will examine primarily the historical background of populism and the rise of far-right movements, as it is necessary to trace the origin of radicalized currents on today’s digital media. According to Anton Jäger, US populism scholar, “in its original form, populism was not racist; it was truly for and by the people” (Maly, 2018: 5). As evident by contemporary populist parties, this is no longer the case, as racist policies tend to dominate. Therefore, the primary focus of this article will examine how today’s populist voices use digital media—especially social media—as tools to spread racist messages globally.

We begin with the definition of populism. Jan-Werner Müller clarifies that: “[Populism is] a particular moralistic imagination of politics, a way of perceiving the political world that sets a morally pure and fully unified—but ultimately fictional—people against elites who are deemed corrupt or in some other way morally inferior. […] Populists claim that they, and only they, represent the people” (2016: 19–20). In this view, populist leaders offer an idealized vision to the voting public with a claim that they represent the only true “voice of the people.” 

Presenting themselves as political saviours by satisfying the needs of the population, populist leaders expand their sway among a greater share of the electorate to boost their political power. Populist politicians often use strong emotional appeals, including public discontent, to stir support (Hafner-Burton et al., 2017). Precisely because right-wing politicians trigger the public’s insecurities, highlighting the lack of national and personal security (mass immigration, for example), they steadily cultivate citizen appeal. As Ico Maly emphasizes: “Populism is nowadays being used [as] a synonym for demagogues, racism, authoritarianism and nationalism. The concept has therefore become a euphemism for far more radical ideological positions” (2018:6).

The article Right-Wing Extremists’ Persistent Online Presence: History and Contemporary Trends emphasizes a notable classification, when it comes to the right-wing actors: “we conceptualize Western right-wing extremism (RWE) as a racially, ethnically, and/or sexually defined nationalism, which is typically framed in terms of white power and/or white identity (i.e., the in-group) that is grounded in xenophobic and exclusionary understandings of the perceived threats posed by some combination of non-whites, Jews, Muslims, immigrants, refugees, members of the LGBTQI+ community, and feminists (i.e., the out-group(s))” (Conway, 2019). It is common for populist politicians to make use of nationalistic notions to create a picture of the in-group, an image that will be radically developed and internalized by right-wing extremist groups. Subsequently, they must exclude individuals who don’t meet the in-group’s criteria.

The reasons for the increase in (far-right) populism and the radicalization of the political firmament in many democracies across the world is due to a complex set of factors. Undoubtedly, however, the central cause, on a global level, has been the intersection of a crisis of democracy (Fitzi, 2019) and a more fundamental crisis of governance (Yuval-Davis, 2012). Overall, the “depletion of the welfare state, the deregulation of the markets and the deconstruction of political culture” (Fitzi, 2019: 7) have proved fertile ground for the expansion of populism. Even if populism was first notable in the Americas, these factors have also caused an increase in European populism. 

Since the end of the 1990s, a rolling set of global crises, including terrorism, climate change, financial crises, and now, the COVID-19 pandemic, have undermined citizen trust in “territorial governmentality and juridical control of nation-state bounded governance,” and heightened the sense of a world spinning out of control (Vieten, 2020: 4). Populists can readily step into the breach in such a context, with promises of a return to a golden past and a restoration of “law and order.” A notable example of such an approach is Donald Trump’s declaration to the United States on winning the 2016 election: “I have a message for all of you: the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon […] come to an end. Beginning on January 20, 2017, safety will be restored” (Taylor, 2016).

Given that populist appeals manifest across the political spectrum, it is worth asking how populism has dovetailed in Europe with the return of the extreme right. For Inglehart and Norris (2016), populist tendencies in Europe increased due to cultural factors, such as the spread of multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism. With globalization, mobility increased, motivating people to freely choose and even abandon their national identities in favour of the “global supermarket” and of cosmopolitan identities (Flew & Iosifidis, 2019: 9). Thus, right-wing populists and their voters fear that their distinctive national cultures or identities may be destroyed. These cultural concerns expand and spread widely into society via the extensive use of social media. According to Iosifidis, globalization plays an important role in the rise of far-right movements. The new-social media spreads both the cosmopolitan and nationalistic views (ibid).

The more globalization was emphasized the more the nationalist borders and boundaries were materialized in social media discussions. Economic nationalism was one response in a globalizing yet increasingly unequal economic world. Inglehart and Norris, as well as others such as Judis (2016), have constructed populism as an economic reaction against rising inequalities. But beyond the economy, the ideologies broadcasted on social media created unconfirmed biases on many grounds, especially since the users of social media became the mass consumers of ideology. These included far-right arguments propagating the rationales for exclusivist policies. 

One of the main characteristics of far-right actors is their tendency to advocate for “exclusionist populism” and “their ethno-nationalist notion of citizenship, reflected in the slogan ‘own people first” (Betz, 1994; Rydgren, 2005, as cited in Muis; Immerzeel, 2017: 2). Limiting migration, introducing nativist policies (favouring one’s own language, traditions, and culture) are just a few strategies advanced by far-right politics. This exclusivity can be seen in the nativist claim that “states should be inhabited exclusively by members of the native group (the nation) and that non-native elements (persons and ideas) threaten homogeneous nation-states” (Mudde, 2007; Muis & Immerzeel, 2017, as cited in Muis; Immerzeel, 2017: 2). In most of cases, nationalist convictions are followed by racism and an ethnocentric and xenophobic vision leading to anti-immigration propaganda. Right-wing groups often prefer strong leaders, who reflect “the will of the people” by “stressing themes like law and order and traditional values” (Inglehart & Norris, 2016, as cited in Muis & Immerzeel, 2017: 2-3).

Summarizing, global frustrations with political establishments, concerns about immigration, economic insecurities, growing inequality in wealth distribution, and the dilution of “national identity, have brought about a broader concern that globalization is associated with a shift of power to transnational elites” (Flew & Iosifidis, 2019: 2). This explains why voters, especially European ones, are now attracted to populist leaders who promise security, an ethno-centric identity, and democracy. The fact that nine far-right parties have formed a new bloc in the European Parliament, called Identity and Democracy (ID), highlights this aspect (BBC News, 2019). 

Digital media has played a significant role in the rise of populism, often facilitating the circulation of far-right propaganda. Accordingly, I’ll next focus on the background of far-right extremism in media. A special consideration will be given to how far-right actors have mobilized across various platforms, particularly in Europe.

Populism in the Digital Age: Social Media as a New Far-right Platform

Before populist politicians speak in the name of the people, they must build a large audience. According to Professor of Government Kurt Weyland, it is firstly important to attract the citizens’ attention. For many citizens, their first impression of a populist movement is formed by the personalistic leaders. By managing politics in opportunistic ways, rather than following a strict program, populist leaders attract followers (Weyland, 2021). Secondly, the media contributes to the construction or destruction and distribution of the populist voice (Maly, 2018: 9).

To understand populism in the digital age, it is necessary to take the socio-technical assemblage, consisting of human and non-human players, into account (Maly, 2018: 17). Non-human players can be defined as the algorithmic functions of digital media. Maly, a professor of politics, goes one step further by subcategorizing these functions as “algorithmic activism.” He highlights the importance of this type of activism, most widely used by politicians: “this type of activism contributes to spreading the message of a politician or movement by interacting with the post to trigger the algorithms of the medium so that it boosts the popularity rankings of this message and its messenger” (Maly, 2018: 10). This algorithmic activism accomplishes a crucial function for a populist, who effectively spreads his or her message with the help of social media. Indeed, contemporary populism boosted by social media algorithms exploit both the public sphere and disrupts individual realities (Maly, 2018). An example of how such contemporary populism measures impact individual realities in the spread of hate-speech online; individuals who would usually not express hate speech in public feel like they have a comfortable and normalised online platform to do so.

International Security professor Maura Conway considers the beginning of far-right extremism on digital media to be the mid-1990s when the World Wide Web developed. This introduced the first cases of internet-afforded hate, initiated and promoted by humans (Conway, 2019: 4). Since then, existing far-right movements have replaced offline based ego-centric, xenophobic, nationalistic, and racist propaganda by voicing them online. Therefore, “the development of information and communication technologies” as well as the alleviation of European borders are considered the “new enablers” permitting far-right groups to “connect and cooperate” (Whine, 2012: 317). 

However, populism scholars are not only concerned about online hate speech but also about disinformation and radicalization. The US and other countries have undergone a series of attacks that can be connected to online disinformation and radicalization. Conway lists different incidents, including the terrorist attack on March 15, 2019, in Christchurch New Zealand, which she cites as the pioneer of such “mainstreaming” of disinformation and online radicalization. She emphasizes that the mosque attack, in which 51 people died, was peculiarly internet-centric, as it involved the distribution of a pre-planned online manifesto and a Facebook Live video stream. Other examples include the Poway synagogue attack on April 2019, the El Paso Walmart shooting in August 2019, the Halle shootings in October 2019, and a series of similar attacks, which only heightened attention on right-wing and their use of the internet to mobilize and radicalize (Conway, 2019: 12-13).

Accordingly, as research shows, many organized hate groups have also developed websites and forums. Some of these, such as those established by various Ku Klux Klan (KKK) branches, function as quasi “news” sites for a more general audience, while others offer more group-specific information (history, mission, events, etc.) (Conway, 2019: 4). Importantly, forums have also “acted as an essential medium for RWEs to air their grievances, bond, and form a collective identity by othering their ‘common enemies’” (Conway, 2019: 4-5).

In addition to playing a key role in facilitating the spread of hate speech, social media is also connected to the rapid circulation of “Fake News” (Wardle, 2017). When talking about “Fake News,” it is necessary to refer to Hannah Arendt, who emphasized in 1953 that the individual could become subject of the totalitarian state and be unable to distinguish between fact and fiction. The flattening of online news, between more traditional sites, social media, and “news” from RWE sites, has made it difficult for social media users to differentiate between fact and fiction, and has helped RWE spread hate and nationalism, galvanize supporters, and attract new ones. 

Twitter is considered a vanguard platform when it comes to polarizing fake news and hate speech in political discourses. Particularly, the German far-right party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) is known for its digital activism using the “hashjacking” strategy. Twitter “hashtags” were designed to create a “virtual community of interested listeners” when directing users to a particular topic. They also facilitate communication and engage debates surrounding specific hashtags. Although this can contribute to open and democratic discussion about a range of topics, extremists have exploited the hashtag to infiltrate their views into moderate discussions (Berger, 2016; Graham, 2015, as cited in Ahmed; Pisoiu, 2020). “Hashjacking,” hijacking a hashtag, uses someone else’s hashtag to promote one’s own social media activity (Darius & Stephany, 2019). Research by the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society showed that the Far-right AfD supporters hijacked rising hashtags in 2020, including #FlattenTheCurve or #CoronaVirusDE (Fox, 2020).  Most of the right-wing politicians use both their own party hashtags as well as the hashjacking method to strategically target opponent campaigns and to effectively polarize political discourse. As a result of their digital political communication strategy, they succeed not only online but also in elections (Darius & Stephany, 2019).

When it comes to data about the identified numbers of right-wing extremist accounts, the Twitter application programming interface (API) counts around 175 EU-wide profiles, mainly centred on neo-Nazi and white supremacist topics (Ahmed & Pisoiu, 2020). The field of interest of European-based accounts is centred on topics like antisemitism (holocaust denial, “Jewish world conspiracy,” etc.); defending European culture, identity, and race; and “white genocide.” In the European context, the high rate of activity of Spanish far-right populist accounts stands out, while the electoral success in 2019 of the Spanish far-right party Vox is a testament to their efforts (ibid). The increasing number of refugees and immigrants has contributed even more to digital polarization.

The rise of right-wing populist parties and activists is very concerning, as they not only induce radical activities but also contribute to the formation of narcissistic populations and introverted communities. By creating a self-centred in-group, out-group members are expected to be excluded socially, as well as politically. Moreover, besides the increasing number of asylum seekers, migrants, and “classical” refugees (those who fear persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group), it is predicted that within the next decades, most countries will also have to face different classes of refugees, specifically “climate refugees” (Tetsuji, 2021). Although immigration is common in every modern society, it is also often followed by xenophobic tendencies. With the arrival of social media 2.0 (simplified technology to allow its users to create, share, collaborate and communicate easily) and the uncontrolled spread of fake news, the formation of xenophobic communities and anti-immigration policies became unavoidable and inevitable.  

To limit the damaging effects of digital media, Wu (2016) suggests using Facebook, among others, as a “public benefit corporation.” To put it in another way, online platforms would aim to support their users’ activity to advantage for the online community and avoid harmful activities. Meanwhile Napoli and Caplan (2017) favour modified frameworks that reflect “the hybrid nature of social media platforms—content producers, but also investors in platforms’ to create connectivity, called ‘information utilities’” (Flew & Iosifidis, 2019: 24). By relying on the users’ sense of social responsibility, social media platforms would create an information exchange space, as a common good for the internet community. However, these proposals are utopic visions, as they rely on the idealized version of internet users, who aim to use digital media only for the well-being of global internet users.

An initiative taken by the European Commission along with Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Microsoft produced relevant outcomes: introducing a “Code of Conduct on Countering Illegal Hate Speech Online” (May 31, 2016) and developing “a series of Europe-wide commitments to combat the spread of ‘illegal hate speech’ via the internet” (Conway, 2019: 16-17). 

Furthermore, Twitter’s reaction to violence and hateful conduct achieved meaningful results including the removal from the platform of far-right political group accounts including the American Nazi Party, the League of the South, and Britain First (Kuchler, 2017). However, even though accounts from the far-right group Britain First, such as Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen, were suspended, it didn’t take long until they reopened new accounts. Many white nationalist groups also tend to create fake accounts. Recent examples are fake profiles linked to Identity Evropa, an identarian movement which anonymously pushed violent rhetoric related to ongoing protests in multiple states across the US (Collins, Zadrozny & Saliba, 2020). The fact that Twitter does not investigate users’ real identity to protect its users’ privacy, consequently, limits the monitoring of far-right activism and therefore is still in need of improvement.

The exposure to a diversity of ideologies on social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, can open opportunities for dialogue. Even though the rise of right-wing populists cannot be prevented, digital media efforts, such as the project of the European Commission, can create significant barriers for right-wing activists on digital media. The rise of online far-right activism has been experienced across the world, and it is the responsibility of digital platforms to prevent such activities from taking place, ensuring all their consumers a safe experience.


This article confirms that populist far-right parties and movements can mobilize and organize on social media. Populism in its original form was meant to be “from the people and for the people.” Since right-wing populist leaders have become more influential, the term “populism” is now laden with negative connotations. 

While globalization is meant to create a more international and multicultural reality, far-right extremists are feeling threatened and use xenophobic propaganda to urge ethno-centric radicalization. Far-right digital media users, especially neo-Nazi and antisemitic groups, use digital media and algorithms to widen their sphere of influence while spreading (internet) hate. Their motives are the defence of in-group culture, identity, and race; “white genocide” is cited as one of their main motivations. 

Ultimately, the digital medium has contributed to the global spread of disinformation, hate-speech, propaganda, and radicalization, and it is increasingly difficult for digital platforms to monitor fringe extremist websites and activity. Due to the immensity of the World Wide Web, it will only grow more difficult to track and avoid radical activities, which multiply daily. It shall be, thus, the responsibility of both the citizen to critically evaluate digital data and of the digital platform owners to safeguard their platforms from online extremism.


— (2019). “Europe and right-wing nationalism: A country-by-country guide.” BBC News. November 13, 2019. Europe and right-wing nationalism: A country-by-country guide – BBC News (accessed on August 24, 2021).

Ahmed, Reem & Pisoiu, Daniela. (2020). “How Extreme Is The European Far-Right: A Twitter Analysis”. VOX-Pol (accessed on August 27, 2021).

Arendt, Hannah. (1953). “Ideology and Terror: A novel form of governance.” The Review of Politics. 15: 303–27.

Berger, J. M. (2016). “Nazis vs. ISIS on Twitter: A Comparative Study of White Nationalist and ISIS Online Social Media Networks.” Program on Extremism. 3-19.

Betz, H-G. (1994). Radical Right-Wing Populism in Western Europe. New York: St Martin’s Press.

Bull, Glen; Thompson, Ann; Searson, Mike; Garofalo, Joe; Park, John; Young, Carl; Lee, John. (2008). “Connecting Informal and Formal Learning Experiences in the Age of Participatory Media.” Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education. 100-105.

Collins, Ben; Zadrozny, Brandy & Saliba, Emmanuelle. (2020). “White nationalist group posing as antifa called for violence on Twitter.” NBC News. June 2, 2020. (accessed on August 27, 2021).

Conway, Maura; Khawaja, Moign; Lakhani, Suraj; Reffin, Jeremy; Robertson, Andrew & Weir, David. (2019). “Disrupting Daesh: Measuring Takedown of Online Terrorist Material and Its Impacts.” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism. 42, no. 1-2: 141-160.

Conway, Maura; Ryan, Scrivens & Macnair, Logan. (2019). “Right-Wing Extremists’ Persistent Online Presence: History and Contemporary Trends.” Policy Brief.

Darius, Philipp; Stephany, Fabian. (2019). ““Hashjacking” the Debate: Polarisation Strategies of Germany’s Political Far-Right on Twitter.” Social Informatics, pp. 298-308.

Fitzi, Gregor. (2019). “Introduction: Political populism as a symptom of the great transformation of democracy.” In: Populism and the Crisis of Democracy. Vol. 2. Politics, Social Movements and Extremism. Edited by Fitzi Gregor, Mackert Juergen and Bryan S. Turner. Abingdon and New York: Routledge, pp. 1–8.

Flew, Terry & Iosfidis, Petros. (2019). “Populism, Globalisation and Social Media.” International Communication Gazette

Graham, Roderick. (2015). “Inter-ideological mingling: White extremist ideology entering the mainstream on Twitter.” Taylor & Francis Online. October 9, 2015. (accessed on December 23, 2021).

Hafner-Burton, Emilie M.; Haggard, Stephan M.; Lake, David A. & Victor, David G. (2017). “What makes populist leaders tick? Here are 3 things we’ve learned.” The Washington Post. June 11, 2017. (accessed on August 24, 2021).

Ingelhart, R. & Norris P. (2016). Trump, Brexit, and the Rise of Populism: Economic Have-Nots and Cultural Backlash. Faculty Research Working Paper Series RWP-16. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Kennedy School – John FR. Kennedy School of Government.

Jäger, Anton. (2018). “The Myth of ‘Populism’.” Jacobin Magazine. March 1, 2018. (accessed on August 24, 2021).

Jagers, Jan & Walgrave, Stefaan. (2005). “Populism as political communication style. An empirical study of political parties’ discourse in Belgium.” European Journal of Political Science (accessed on August 24, 2021).

Judis, J. (2016). “The Populist Explosion: How the Great Recession Transformed American and European Politics.” New York: Colombia Global Reports.

Kuchler, Hannah. (2017). “Twitter suspends accounts of far-right groups.” San Francisco: Financial Times. (accessed on August 27, 2021).

Maly, Ico. (2018). “Populism as a mediatized communicative relation: The birth of algorithmic populism.” Tilburg Papers in Culture Studies. Paper 2013. Tilburg University.

Moffitt, Benjamin. (2016). The Global Rise of Populism: Performance, Political Style, and Representation. Stanford University Press.

Mudde, C. & Kaltwasser, C. R. (2017). Populism: A very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Muis, Jasper & Immerzeel, Tim. (2017). “Causes and consequences of the rise of populist radical right parties and movements in Europe.” Current Sociology. 65, issue 6 (2017): 909-930.

Müller, Jan-Werner. (2016). What is Populism? Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Napoli P.M. & Caplan, R. (2017). “Why media companies insist they’re not media companies, why they’re wrong, and why it matters.” First Monday. 22(5), May 1. (accessed August 24, 2021).

Norris, P. & Inglehart, R. (2019). Cultural Backlash: Trump, Brexit, and Authoritarian Populism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Rydgren, J (ed.) (2005). Movements of Exclusion: Radical Right-Wing Populism in the Western World. New York: Nova Publishers. 

Taylor, Jessica. (2016). “Painting A Grim Picture of America, Trump Says ‘Safety Will Be Restored’ If He Wins.” NPR. July 21, 2016. (accessed August 24, 2021).

Tetsuji, Ida. (2021). “Climate refugees – the world’s forgotten victims.” World Economic Forum. June 18, 2021. (accessed December 23, 2021).

Vieten, Ulrike M. & Poynting, Scott (2020). The Avoidable Normalisation of the Global Far-Right. Bingley: Emerald Publishing.

Wardle, C. (2017). “Fake News: It’s complicated.” First Draft. February 17, 2017. (accessed on August 24, 2021).

Weyland, Kurt. (2021). “Populism as a Political Strategy: An Approach’s Enduring — and Increasing — Advantages.” SAGE journals. December 23, 2021. (accessed December 23, 2021). 

Whine, Michael. (2012). “Trans-European trends in right-wing extremism.” In: Mapping the Extreme Right in Contemporary Europe. Vol. 1. Edited by Mammone, Andrea; Godin, Emmanuel; Jenkins, Brian. Routledge, pp. 300–360. 

Wu, T. (2016). The Attention Merchants. New York: Alfred A. Knopf

Yuval-Davis, Nira. (2011). The Politics of Belonging—Intersectional Contestations. London: SAGE.

Frauke Petry

Far-right female extremism and leadership: Their power of framing reality in the European context

Female populist followers, members and leaders are becoming an unexpectedly increasing reality, especially in Europe. While social and economic insecurities create uncertainty, mo re and more female voters tend to rely on populist parties’ promises, especially when it is a female leader expressing them. By appealing to the women’s call for equality, security and liberty, the far-right feminist agenda turns to be an adequate reply. 

By Sena Eksi

Populism ancestry lies on the intention of the white supremacist milieu, or the common white people, to stand against the corrupt elite. Even if, the vanguard was pictured to be composed of unsatisfied white male, with time, women also entered the political frame. A new generation of women who didn’t consider their political, social, and economic needs to be satisfied by the patriarchal system, believed that being active in populist parties and movements would be the adequate alternative (Miller-Idris, 2020). 

According to recent studies in Poland, Greece, Hungary, Germany, Sweden and France, more and more females considered the far-right parties to be the right solution when it comes to rebalancing socio-economic and politic dissatisfaction (Taube, 2018). While there is an exponential increase of female right-wing supporters, who tend to vote for parties like Generation Identity or Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), “evidence suggests that the gender gap in far-right support is decreasing” (Iyer & Jain, 2021). Further, ever more women are engaging not only as followers, but also as members and leaders, even if the far-right concerns Western European countries when it comes to national security (Fangen & Skjelsbækb, 2021).

Consequently, reasons for this phenomenon become widely interest of studies, while this article will examine the most common ones, relying on contemporary examples in the European context. Besides this, the female population does not only rely on populist parties to see their political ambitions to be fulfilled, but they also tend to become leaders in the political sphere themselves. In this context, I will descriptively analyse how female leaders attempt to attract not only the attention of male, but also female citizens across Europe. Their methods and power of framing reality by appealing to feminist propaganda regarding anti-immigration policies will be of particular interest during this study. Main question is, hence, does a new era of far-right feminism arise in the Orient and develop in Europe?

Far-right Female Extremism and Leadership

Shifting in first moment the attention to the Oriental world, the growing Buddhist nationalist movement in Myanmar, known as Burma, is one of the most known ones, when it comes to recent examples of female extremist groups. The female supporters argue that they “find empowerment and opportunities within the movement that they don’t [find] elsewhere” (Provost & Whyte, 2018). Another reason for their participation is their feminist conviction, while many scholars argue that the classic right-wing female supporters deny being definite as feminists. Anthropologist Melyn McKay adds that the female members ‘have received a powerful platform to elevate the concerns of women and bring visibility to the struggles they face in daily life.” Summarised, the members of the Burma movement argue that their activity within the populist group help them to overcome their daily struggles, that they must face as women in a patriarchal environment.

Unlike in the European context, right-wing female supporters in the Oriental world differentiate themselves from traditional values and their “oppressive gender norms,” appealing to feminist convictions. Therefore, the right-wing movements offer female members “opportunities to experience some form of empowerment through political action, participation and even leadership” (Provost & Whyte, 2018). 

A new far-right feminist genesis blossoms in the Orient, while they perform as a symbol of emancipation and independence for women. The belief that they could perform as actors of the change they want to see in society becomes, hence, main stimulation to become members of far-right parties. However, could they be defined as real feminists, just because they oppose themselves against traditional issues and a society dominated by machismo? Maybe they are just fed by xenophobic agenda of feminism or believe that by being pictured as feminist activists, they could create a counter-reform to patriarchal politics. Focusing on the reasons why female voters join the far-right sphere will help us to understand to what extent both oriental and occidental women share feminist convictions by supporting extremist parties.

Why Female Voters Join the Far Right

On a global level, commonly it has been argued that the female followers are concerned about ‘domestic issues’ (Shruti & Prithvi, 2021). A 2016 study confirmed that “women aged between 18-40 years of age are most concerned about equal pay, equal opportunities in professional life and good quality childcare facilities” (Shruti & Prithvi, 2021). In addition, also social exclusion and financial strain have been determined as important factors favouring right-wing tendencies. Therefore, it isn’t surprising that right-wing populist -as well as right-wing extremist parties- promise respecting family and gender policy within their programmes, according to “The Triumph of the women?” study. By drilling into these arguments’ feminist convictions are identifiable, among others, being economically independent -and not reliant on the male- and access to equal opportunities on the labour market.

In this regard especially in the last few decades far right parties opted for a welfare-driven policy agenda, focusing on social issues to gain female support (Shruti & Prithvi, 2021). It is well known that nativism, etno-centric and xenophobic regulations are the core elements of far-right parties’ agenda. Accordingly, the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) attempts to increase the birth-rate of the native population by assuring German mothers a child allowance of €25.000 in Germany. Germany is followed by Poland, where the right-wing conservative Law and Justice party (PiS) guarantees native families with two children a monthly payment of €120 per child until they are of legal age (Shruti & Prithvi, 2021). It is to be expected that these pro-nationalistic initiatives will produce a widespread echo around the EU, while other measurements to push the native birth-rate are assumed.

Contrary to these promises, UN special rapporteur Karima Bennoune warns in her report (2017) of growing populist ultranationalism that disregard key principles of equality and the universality of human rights. Furthermore, the rise of far-right politics poses serious risks to gender equality, as well as to women’s rights, according to Bennoune. However, the number of far-right female leaders in politics is unexpectedly increasing, while an insight into their political discourses and their parties’ agenda will be part of examination in the following part. Referring to their power and methods of framing reality will be hence the final aspect to be considered. 

French National Front party leader Marine Le Pen, is maybe one of the most known ones when it comes to female far-right populist faces. Daughter of the right-extremist Jean-Marie Le Pen, who considered the Nazi gas chambers as “a point of detail of the history of World War II,” Marine grew up in an ultra-nationalistic environment. Even if she expelled her father from the party to soften the party’s far right image, she is considered on the vanguard in terms of her nativist statements. Additionally, in common with other far-right politicians she used women’s rights demands as a tool to achieve support for her Islamophobic campaigns. A series of New Year’s Eve sexual attacks in Cologne and Hamburg, Germany (2015) attributed to immigrants –without substantial evidence– were hence a particular occasion to receive the citizens’ approval on a referendum on immigration. Expressing: “I am scared that the migrant crisis signals the beginning of the end of women’s rights” (Provost & Whyte, 2018), she successfully convinced the population when limiting the number of immigrant-arrivals.  

Labelling immigration as a national problem is part of the political discourse of most populist parties. In this regard, particularly female citizens feel themselves effected by the number of immigrants, while it is not surprising, that they tend to count on populist parties when regulating refugee numbers. Goethe Institute researcher Gutsche argues that “women sense they are the lower rungs of society and find themselves having to compete against refugees and migrants (Taube, 2018). Therefore, it exists a continuous struggle of losing out job opportunities to immigrants, which leads the female population to support the anti-immigrant rhetoric of right-wing parties. The latter in return achieve a wider range of national voters.

Furthermore, besides women’s fear of immigrants taking their jobs, refugees are often blamed of being sole perpetrators of sexual violence. Right-wing groups argue that the women’s’ safety will be at risk as long as immigrants –especially from Muslim countries– enter into the country (Chrisafis, Connolly & Giuffrida, 2019). Even if data shows that most cases of sexual violence are committed mostly by native men (Chrisafis, Connolly & Giuffrida, 2019), the power of far-right politicians framing reality, lead listeners to accuse migrants groundlessly. Therefore, the comments of research assistants Shruti and Prithvi (2021) result significant: “Nonetheless, it is not data but persuasiveness of narrative that shapes public opinion; and right-wing groups leveraging fears of immigrants being sexual predators while also pegging themselves as the defenders of women rights has been a powerful narrative driving more recruitment of young white women.”

Accordingly, by portraying themselves as the defenders of “women’s rights”, far-right populist groups illusionary achieve international-wide sympathy and electoral success. “These women are there to give these parties a more open, modern guise and to appeal to female voters,” explained Gutsche. “These are not progressive parties; there is no real gender equality.”

Feminist far-right leaders act, therefore, as wolves in sheep’s clothing, betraying the female population when promising social, political, and economic equality and autonomy, as well as freedom to control over their lives. They just act as marionettes of the dominant masculine far-right party members.

Contemporary Germany is home of most female right-wing populist leaders, leading as front runners when it comes to homophobic currents. Ex-leader of the AfD party, Frauke Petry, is known for her anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant policies, whereas she ensured her party to enter the German parliament in 2017 (Provost & Whyte, 2018). The party’s ad campaign launched at 2017 further comprises a step on the discrimination scale, including posters saying: “Burkas? We prefer bikinis,” displaying two women in skimpy bathing suits. Other ads had an image of a pregnant woman’s body, with the words: “New Germans? We’ll make them ourselves” (Provost & Whyte, 2018). Another anti-immigrant grievance, accompanied by nativist proclamations of the party appear surreal to a rational person, whilst it becomes apparently a European-wide reality.

In Poland, Deputy Prime Minister Beata Szydlo of PiS is another example in the anti-immigration political frame. Criticized for using an appearance at former Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp to highlight her anti-migrant policies, is just another nuance of her convictions. Moving to the north-east Europe Pia Kjaersgaard, co-founder of the far-right Danish People’s Party, is known for her strong anti-multiculturalism and immigration views, while her views also have been defined as racist by anti-EU activist Karen Sunds.

Summarised conservative agendas, as well as anti-immigration and Islamophobic policies are common characteristics of groups “ranging from the English Defence League in the UK to Stop Islamization of Norway/Stop Islamization of Europe in Scandinavia, to the Golden Dawn in Greece draw on a rhetoric of progressive gender values” (Provost & Whyte, 2018). To counter the Islamic threat, linked to Immigration, these parties offer gender equality and women’s emancipation. In addition, due to the immigration from Muslim countries these far-right currents claim that their true national values (democracy, safety, liberty, equality) tend to be threatened. Consequently, extreme-right parties picture a dangerous and economic threatening external world, that menace traditions and values, while promising a conservative, introvert, and protected society, if elected.


In conclusion, female populist followers, members and leaders are becoming an unexpectedly increasing reality, especially in Europe. While social and economic insecurities create uncertainty, more and more female voters tend to rely on populist parties’ promises, especially when it is a female leader expressing them. It results that far-right males utilize female party members as pioneers to gain support also among the female voters. By appealing to the women’s call for equality, security and liberty, the far-right feminist agenda turns to be an adequate reply. 

Due to the female leaders’ power of framing and shaping reality, they obtain consensus when uniting the citizens on a common national identity. Therefore, foreign beliefs, lifestyles, and customs need to be excluded. Consequently, a new nativist population arises, whereas to the local culture and traditions are given priority. 

Labelling immigrants as sexual predators and a threat to local security are one of the few accusations used by female populists to differentiate between “insiders” and “outsiders.” By utilizing the anti-migration rhetoric to garner political support, women’s right is being instrumentalised to generate “equality.” The question is when the targeted group of female citizens realizes that the camouflaged ethnocentrism strategy relies on falsified commitments, instrumentalised by the patriarchal far-right policy. 


Bennoune, K. (2017). Statement at the 34th Session of the Human Rights Council. United Nations Human Rights Office of The High Commissioner. April 3, 2017. (accessed on October 27, 2021).

Bennoune, K. (2017). Statement the Seventy-second session of the General Assembly Item 73 (b & c). United Nations Human Rights Office of The High Commissioner. October 25, 2017. (accessed on October 27, 2021).

Chrisafis, A.; Connolly, K. & Giuffrida, A. (2019). “From Le Pen to Alice Weidel: how the European far-right set its sights on women.” The Guardian. January 29, 2019. (accessed on October 27, 2021).

Fangen, K. & Skjelsbækb, I. (2021). “Editorial: special issue on gender and the far right.” Taylor & Francis Online. January 5, 2021. 

Iyer, P. & Jain, S. (2021). “An unlikely match: Women and the far right.” Observer Research Foundation. January 4, 2021. (accessed on October 27, 2021).

Miller-Idris, C. (2020). “Triumph of the Women?” Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. 2020.

Provost, C. & Whyte, L. (2018). “Why are women joining far-right movements, and why are we so surprised?” Open Democracy. January 31, 2018. (accessed on September 2, 2021).

Taube, F. (2018). “Women increasingly drawn to right-wing populist parties: study shows.” Deutsche Welle. August 30, 2018. on October 27, 2021).