The third wave of radical right parties that emerged in Western Europe during the 1980s and 1990s has gener ated renewed schol arly atten tion for the study of this party family.1 In compar at ive designs and case studies polit ical scient ists have attemp ted to explain why this type of party has been relat ively success ful. Much atten tion has been given to the elect oral appeal of the radical right, that is, to the compos i tion of its elect or ate and the partic u lar appeal of its message to this group of voters (e.g. Betz, 1994; Perrineau, 2001). Recently, studies have also focused on the struc tural factors that have enabled the break through of the radical right (e.g. Ignazi, 2003; Jackman and Volpert, 1996; Jungerstam-Mulders, 2003). One of the most compre hens ive studies so far is Herbert Kitschelt’s The Radical Right in
Western Europe: a Comparative Analysis (1995), written in collab or a tion with Anthony J. McGann. This book has been widely recog nized as an import ant contri bu tion to the liter at ure on the radical right; thus, Cas Mudde (1999: 188) suggests that it offers ‘the most elab or ate theory’ of the rise of radical right parties. At the same time, it has provoked crit ical reac tions. Several authors have refuted some of the main ideas presen ted by Kitschelt, like that of his winning formula (a combin a tion of neolib eral and author it arian appeals) that is said to make the radical right so success ful (Eatwell, 2003; Mudde, 1999). In a recent study written for the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Kitschelt (2004) responds to his
critics and asserts that although the applic ab il ity of his theor et ical frame work is not confined to a specific time period, his analysis of the elect oral success of the radical right is. The radical right made use of its winning formula in the 1980s, because it was only effect ive given the config ur a tion of parties in West European party systems in this period. Since the 1990s new polit ical devel op ments have altered the config ur a tion of West European party systems and there fore also the appeal of radical right parties, who now campaign on a more cent rist economic programme, still combined with author it ari an ism. Although Kitschelt’s initial analysis has received consid er able atten tion, and has been
tested empir ic ally (Abedi, 2002; Ivarsflaten, 2005; Veugelers, 2001), his follow-up study has been ignored so far. My article sets out to address this by testing whether the radical right does indeed have a new economic appeal. In three West European coun tries (France, Belgium and The Netherlands), the polit ical programme of the radical right is analysed and compared with that of the other parties in the party system. On the basis of this comparat ive analysis, the valid ity of Kitschelt’s new predic tions concern ing the radical right is determ ined.