The new age of fear: an analysis of crisis framing by right-wing populist parties in Greece and France

Rizakis, Miltiadis (2022) The new age of fear: an analysis of crisis framing by right-wing populist parties in Greece and France. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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From the 2009 Eurozone economic downturn, to the 2015 mass movement of forcibly displaced migrants and the current COVID-19 pandemic, crises have seemingly become a ‘new normal’ feature of European politics. During this decade, rolling crises generated a wave of public discontent that damaged the legitimacy of national governments and the European Union and heralded a renaissance of populism. The central message of populist parties, which helped them rise in popularity or enter parliament for the first time, is simple but very effective: democratic representation has been undermined by national and global elites. This has provoked a wealth of studies seeking to explain the rise or breakthrough of populist fringe parties, without adequate consideration of how crises transform, not only the demand side, but also the supply of populist arguments, which has received scarce attention.

This thesis seeks to address this imbalance by synthesising insights from the crisis framing literature, which facilitates an understanding and operationalisation of populism as a style of discourse. To assess how far-right parties employ this discourse, and the implications of this for their electoral prospects, a comparative case-study design is employed, exploring the discourse of parties, the National Rally (NR) in France and Golden Dawn (GD) in Greece. Their ideologically similar profile but differential electoral performance, allows for a more nuanced analysis of their respective framing strategies.

The thesis examines the discourse of the two parties MPs on month by month basis over a four year period, 2012-2015 for GD and 2012-2013 and 2016-2017 for NR, via the use of the NVivo software. Their respective discourses are quantified and broken down into four key areas associated with Foreign Policy, the Economy, the Political System and Society, analysing the content, frequency and salience of key crisis frames. Discourse analysis of excerpts adds a qualitative element to the analysis that showcases the substantial differences between the two case studies. The analysis demonstrates that references to ‘the people’ and anti-elitism were the centrepieces of each case study’s discourse with strong nativist and nationalist elements.

The two parties were extremely similar in the diagnostic stage of their framing and the way which they attribute blame for the crises. However, their discursive strategies diverge regarding their proposed solutions to the crises. Golden Dawn remained a single issue party in terms of discourse, since it never presented a comprehensive plan for ending the crises. As a result, Golden Dawn’s discourse remained one-dimensional throughout its brief period of success, being centred solely on attributing blame and attacking its political opponents and the European Union. On the other hand, National Rally’s framing was more elaborate and ambitious both in terms of the variety of issues raised and, especially, the proposed solutions if advocated. This, it is argued, contributed to the evolution of RN into a mainstream competitor that is no longer dependent on a niche part of the electoral market, while the inability of GD to develop equally successful crisis frames offers a unique understanding as to why the party failed electorally and was unable to enter Parliament in the 2019 elections. The overall analysis produces a rich framework that maps out the key elements of populist crisis discourse by far-right parties, which has implications for electoral politics and for our understanding of populism, more broadly.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences
Supervisor's Name: Lundberg, Dr. Thomas and Karyotis, Prof. Georgios
Date of Award: 2022
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2022-82699
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 11 Feb 2022 15:19
Last Modified: 08 Apr 2022 16:51
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.82699

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