Contest over Meaning: Frame Ownership and Narrative Party Competition with the Radical Right in Central and Eastern Europe

Saturday, April 16, 2016
Assembly E (DoubleTree by Hilton Philadelphia Center City)
Bartek Pytlas , Geschwister Scholl Institute of Political Science, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich
Mainstream strategies of party competition have recently been acknowledged as a crucial factor affecting electoral results of niche parties, including the radical right. Nonetheless, there is still disagreement over the exact effects of mainstream strategies on niche party electoral fortune. Does issue co-optation by mainstream competitors result in voter ebb away from the radical right? Or does it legitimize core radical right issues and hence facilitate radical right electoral success?

This paper argues that, contrary to previous assumptions, the electoral effect of shifts towards radical right positions is not static. It depends on whether mainstream parties accommodated solely the issues of their niche competitors, or also resonant radical right frames applied within these issues. The narrative optic of differentiation between the “what?” and the “how?” of mainstream strategies therefore supplements previous findings of the research on party competition, as well as issue and frame dimensionality.

By combining issue-based vote choice theory with the framing paradigm, the paper hence aims to analyse the role of narrative shifts and mechanisms of frame ownership takeover, as well as their effects on radical right electoral fortune. Socio-cultural issues of collective identity (nationalizing, morality, and minority policies) in Hungary, Poland and Slovakia serve as best cases to identify and evaluate these concepts. The QCA analysis is performed using original data on radical right narratives coded via computer-assisted qualitative data analysis (CAQDA), combined with election studies and expert surveys.