On the whole, clas sical approaches to extreme right parties have analyzed the ques tion of their rela tion ship to European demo cratic polit ical systems in four differ ent ways: first, by consid er ing extreme right move ments as a danger for demo cracy (e.g. Taguieff and Tribalat 1998); second, by examin ing the responses of demo cratic regimes to extrem ist chal lenges (e.g. Capoccia and Pedahzur 2003); third, by eval u at ing the impact of extrem ist form a tions on polit ical systems (e.g. Schain 2001); finally, by inter pret ing the phenomenon’s emer gence in Europe as the consequence of factors such as the trans form a tion (Kitschelt and McGann 1995) or the crisis of West European party systems (e.g. Ivaldi 1999a). In this chapter, I would like to suggest another way of explor ing the rela tion ship between extrem ism and demo cracy, and more specific ally its consequences for extreme right parties. Some of these parties can now be considered as full members of the polit ical arena. This

is partic u larly true in Belgium, Austria, Italy, and France. However, it does not entail that the rela tion ship between these parties and European demo cratic systems is less prob lem atic. Although based on an ideo logy whose roots are in contra dic tion to essen tial liberal democratic prin ciples, such parties have nonethe less tried to win power through proper consti tutional means. How have these parties managed, and how do they still manage, to deal with this contra dic tion – insti tu tional logic versus doctrinal ortho doxy? My hypo thesis is that the manner in which these parties have managed this contra dic tion partly explains their present evol u tion. I will try to test this hypo thesis through the compar at ive analysis of four organ iz a tions – the French National Front (FN), the Flemish Block (VB), the National Alliance-Italian Social Movement (AN-MSI) and the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ). The compar at ive approach to the extreme right in Europe raises several taxo nomic prob lems (Backes 2001; Mudde 1996). However, using Piero Ignazi’s (1992, 1994a) defin i tion, I will consider these as extreme right parties.1