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European Populist Parties Surge in Popularity, Especially on the Right

By GZR News on June 10, 2024

European populist parties are experiencing a significant rise in vote share, particularly those on the right. Recent elections in Italy and Sweden highlight this trend, with right-wing populist parties achieving notable successes and increasing their influence across the continent.

Key Takeaways

  • Right-wing populist parties have seen significant electoral gains in Italy and Sweden.
  • Populist parties, especially on the right, are increasing their vote share across Europe.
  • Despite their electoral success, many populist parties remain broadly unpopular.

Italy and Sweden: Case Studies of Populist Success

In Italy, the right-wing populist Brothers of Italy party secured the highest vote share in the recent election, positioning its leader, Giorgia Meloni, as the likely prime minister. This marks a significant shift in Italian politics, with around four-in-ten voters casting their ballots for one of the three major right-wing populist parties: Brothers of Italy, Forza Italia, and Lega.

Similarly, in Sweden, the Sweden Democrats emerged as the second-most popular party in the recent election. Their strong performance is the culmination of steady growth over the last six parliamentary elections, nearly doubling their vote share since 2014.

Broader Trends Across Europe

Across Europe, populist parties, particularly those on the right, have been winning larger shares of the vote in recent legislative elections. This trend is evident in several countries:

  • Spain: The vote share for populist parties doubled between 2015 and 2019, with the right-wing Vox party increasing its share from around 10% to 15%.
  • Netherlands: Right-leaning populist parties garnered around 16% of the vote in 2021, a high not seen in nearly a decade.
  • Hungary and Poland: Right-wing populist parties have surged to power, with Hungary’s Fidesz party securing a supermajority and Poland’s Law and Justice Party (PiS) quadrupling their vote share since 2001.
  • Belgium and France: Both right- and left-leaning populist parties have seen substantial gains. In Belgium, the right-leaning Flemish Interest party and the left-leaning Worker’s Party of Belgium have both increased their vote shares. In France, the National Rally party on the right and La France Insoumise on the left have both seen significant increases in their vote shares.

Exceptions to the Trend

Not all countries follow this trend. In Germany, support for the right-leaning Alternative for Germany (AfD) fell in the most recent election, though it remains influential in eastern Germany. In Greece, while populist parties still garner a large share of the vote, their popularity has been declining slightly in recent years.

Popularity vs. Electoral Success

Despite their electoral gains, most populist parties in Europe remain broadly unpopular. For instance, in Italy, only around a third of Italians view the Brothers of Italy, Forza Italia, or Five Star favorably. However, low voter turnout and the limited popularity of other parties have allowed populist coalitions to achieve electoral success.


The rise of populist parties, especially on the right, is reshaping the political landscape in Europe. While their popularity among the general public may be limited, their electoral success cannot be ignored. As these parties continue to gain influence, their impact on European politics will likely grow.


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