The Rise of Authoritarian Populism in Europe: A Comparative Analysis

Date of Award


Degree Type

Archival Copy

First Advisor

Joseph Coelho


In the aftermath of the “Brexit” vote, terrorist attacks across France and Germany, and economic stagnation across Europe, right-wing movements have gained political momentum throughout the European political landscape. To compound matters, the recent US presidential victory of Donald Trump has raised the idea of a so-called “Trump effect” in European politics. These events raise concerns over the possible resurgence of right-wing populism in Europe. In this paper, I will examine how the current immigration flow from Syria and other war-torn Middle Eastern countries and economic anxiety have contributed to rise of political parties and movements that espouse values and policies that are antithetical to European norms. This “euro-skepticism” challenges the post-war liberal world order that has stabilized European politics for the past 60 years. In the UK, UKIP were able to defy odds and convince the majority of the UK to leave the EU. In the string terrorist attacks that have occurred in France, Marine Le Pen and the National Front nationalist policies have gained more ground in the country. Geert Wilders in the Netherlands has gained popularity with Islamophobic rhetoric. Along with Germany also seeing an increase in terrorism, Angela Merkel and the CDU have tried to stave off the surging tide of right wing parties. Greece, suffering difficult economic hardships since the 2008 recession have seen numerous right wing parties gain seats in the Greek government. These factors, along with others, can help explain the resurgence of “authoritarian populism” in Europe.

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