Ideological stances in Western Europe : contemporary populism in the Low Countries in the light of the European context
Faculty of Social Sciences. Communication Sciences
Politics, culture & socialization. - Leverkusen
, p. 230-250
University of Antwerp
This article aims at locating populism in todays political spectrum of Flanders (the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium; henceforth: Belgium-Flanders) and the Netherlands. The current state of Belgium-Flanders and the Netherlands (together also known as the Low Countries) can be characterized by their political crises in recent years, in which traditional electoral loyalty has become volatile and rare, whereas new, straightforward and radical parties, like N-VA (Belgium) and PVV (the Netherlands) achieve significant electoral successes. In both contexts, the sudden rise of certain radical parties is seen in the light of the general new populist wave that washes over Europe in recent years. In this in-depth study we explore the concepts of populism and ideology more extensively, and elaborate on the presence of populism in the political contexts of Belgium-Flanders and the Netherlands, as two specific cases in the Western European emergence of (often) similar populist parties. Populist ideology can be summarized as (I) an idealized image of the people's democracy, (II) the proposition that the people is abandoned or even betrayed by the political establishment, and (III) that this basic principle must be restored or regained that can be found in the classification. These utterly moral principles are represented in serial political parties in both Belgium-Flanders and the Netherlands, as similar to many other Western European countries. Ideologically speaking, it becomes clear that populism in Western Europe including Belgium-Flanders and the Netherlands exists almost exclusively as a right wing, economically and morally conservative and in an almost fascist-like shape. However, populist ideology is, as we will argue, ambiguous in presence, (therefore) sometimes difficult to detect and often evaporated in a mix of populist beliefs, discourse and strategy.