Policy Study: The transformation of the mainstream right and its impact on (social) democracy

Discover our new policy study that examines the alleged radicalisation within European mainstream right parties and its implications for the broader political landscape.


Are centre-right parties in Western Europe drifting to the (far) right?

In recent decades, the Western European political landscape has undergone profound changes. Much analysis has centred on a detailed examination of the decline of social democracy and the rise of far-right challenger parties. However, the development of mainstream right-wing parties has often received far less attention. In our new study, we aim to fill this gap by examining whether centre-right parties in Western Europe are drifting to the (far) right and how the transformation of mainstream right parties impacts the broader political landscape and, particularly, (social) democracy.

Using statistical analyses and detailed case studies of Germany, France, Austria, Poland, Spain and Sweden, we examine the evolving political positions of centre-right party families and compare them with the populist radical right and social democratic parties. We also analyse which party families are liked and disliked by citizens and how this impacts on their electoral ceiling and potential.

One threat: adopting more radical agendas

The study concludes that while centre-right parties in Western Europe have so far largely maintained their commitment to liberal democratic institutions, the threat of adopting more radical agendas requires attention. In particular, the threat of centre-right and far-right party coalitions and their influence on the normalisation of illiberal and exclusionary discourses in Western Europe is significant.

The good news: Despite the electoral decline they are facing, there lies an untapped potential for social democratic forces when it comes to navigating the aforementioned challenges. Our study shows that social democratic forces could expand their support base through compelling narratives and the inclusion of an increasingly diverse electorate. In addition, social democratic forces enjoy a very positive image among voters despite their electoral decline.

The case study of Germany and Austria are also available in German. 

The transformation of the mainstream right and its impact on (social) democracy

The transformation of the mainstream right and its impact on (social) democracy

Brussels, 2024

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