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Seminar: Challenging the Establishment from Within: Analysing Challenger Party Strategies in the Parliamentary Arena

Spring 2022 Seminars: 16th February

Challenging the Establishment from Within: Analysing Challenger Party Strategies in the Parliamentary Arena 

Speaker: (opens in a new window)Markus Kollberg (University College London)

Wednesday, February 16, 14:00–14:45 (GMT)

If Covid-19 guidelines allow, all events take place at UCD and are also live-streamed on Zoom. Please register (opens in a new window)here to receive the link and password to the online meeting and information on the room at UCD.

Abstract: Challenger parties in Europe are on the rise. Previous scholarly work is primarily concerned with how challenger parties get elected but overlooked the consequences of their success for democratic institutions. This is a serious shortcoming because challenger parties’ strategies within institutions – especially, in parliament – matter for democratic deliberation and representation. This article analyses how the policy and rhetorical strategies of challenger parties play out in the parliamentary arena. It argues that parliamentarians’ incentives regarding rhetorical choices differ systematically depending on their status as members of challenger or dominant parties. Whilst the latter need to balance policy-, office-, and vote-seeking strategies, the former’s primary goal is to maximize electoral success. This makes challenger party parliamentarians engage in anti-establishment rhetoric and issue entrepreneurship conditionally on the expected electoral returns. The analysis tests this argument on a new dataset of speeches given in the European Parliament between 1999 and 2017. The article develops a novel measure of anti-establishment rhetoric and issue-entrepreneurship in parliamentary debates combining word embeddings and dictionaries. It also innovatively links this measure to public opinion and expert survey data. By highlighting the situational and strategic element of challenger parties’ communication, this article makes an important contribution because it improves the understanding of challenger party success and its consequences for democratic, legislative institutions. 

About the speaker: Markus Kollberg is a PhD candidate at the Department of Political Science at University College London. His PhD research, titled “Populist Persuasion in Parliament and Beyond”, analyses the strategic usage of populist rhetoric by politicians and seeks to understand the effects of populist arguments on voters.