20st Conference of Europeanists

Council for European Studies, University of Amsterdam, 25-27 June 2013

126. Populist Parties as “Normal” Parties: Survey on Territorial Representation and Organization of Populist Parties.

11:00 to 12:45 PM - PC Hoofthuis 5.60

Chairs: Reinhard Heinisch, University of Salzburg; Susi Meret, Aalborg University


  • Party Organization and Representative Roles in the Post-Haider Austrian Freedom Party. Reinhard Heinisch, University of Salzburg
  • Not So Different After All? The Party Organization of the Norwegian Progress Party in a Comparative Perspective. Anders Jupskas, University of Oslo
  • The Lega Nord: Organization and representative roles in a personalized populist party. Duncan McDonnell, European University Institute
  • The Swiss People Party: Between the leader and the organisation. Oscar Mazzoleni, University of Lausanne
  • ‘Not going away’: Inside the Danish People’s Party. Party organization, representation and role of the party leadership. Susi Meret, Aalborg University
  • The organizational developments inside the populist radical right Vlaams Belang: Dealing with electoral decline. Teun Pauwels, Université Libre de Bruxelles

Discussant: Sarah de Lange, University of Amsterdam 


Oscar Mazzoleni, Carolina Rossini, The Swiss People Party: Between the leader and the organization


Abstract Text:

This paper will focus the case of the Swiss People Party (SVP), which has been the most electorally successful Western European populist party over the past two decades. The party has participated in the Swiss government since the 1920s and, despite its radicalisation in the 1990s, has continued to be involved in the federal and cantonal government coalitions. Its populist turn has been promoted by a new leadership led by a multimillionaire “charismatic” leader, Christoph Blocher, whose direction of the party and image are also key factors in explaining the party’s success. At the same time, the SVP is also a very complex organisation with multiple subnational (cantonal and communal) branches in which autonomy is particularly important. This paper will try to show the limits of an exclusive focus on the party leader – especially the individual leader - and will discuss and detail how and why the party organisation matters.

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