Instrumentalising Referendums? Assessing the Strategies of the Swiss People's Party
CERiM Online Paper No. 6/2018
32 Pages Posted: 18 May 2018
Date Written: May 4, 2018
Recent popular referendums gave rise to increased public and scholarly debate on how civic participation affects traditional democracies. Particularly, the debate revolves around the question as to what opportunities referendums hold for populist parties. Referendums can be regarded either as tools for populists to increase their political influence or as an instrument to diminish protest votes and thus the support for populist parties. This paper contributes to the debate by analysing how the Swiss People’s Party (SVP) employs referendums as a tool to pursue its political strategies. Switzerland serves as a ‘populist laboratory’, because the country is outstanding concerning the number of performed referendums. Moreover, the SVP constitutes one of the most radical and successful populist right-wing parties in Western Europe. Through the analysis of 155 referendums and a subsequent discourse analysis of party manifestos, the paper shows that the SVP extensively employs referendums as part of its political strategy.
Keywords: Populism, Swiss People’s Party, Referendum, Strategy, Issue-Positioning
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