Protest party

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The term protest party describes a party that tries to channel existing protest attitudes against the prevailing conditions in parts of an electorate. There is the thesis that protest parties concentrate (too) much on one topic and neglect other areas of politics. Voters of a protest party (“ protest voters ”) often make their choice out of an emotional protest, anger and / or dissatisfaction with the policies of other parties. Protest parties are characterized by loud behavior, radical demands and a spontaneous emergence from a social conflict.

Although the concept of the protest party already implies a cognitive bias in favor of established parties and existing norms (source / evidence?), It is used in some social sciences (e.g. political science) and is used to determine structure, voter base and behavior to describe by parties.


There are different concepts for defining the term. Often the term is used diffusely and used for parties that experience strong support in elections and thus gain in meaning. The basic characteristics of protest parties are:

  • “Spontaneous” emergence: Protest parties are not the end point of a social movement ; they are formed in order to be able to use current moods. Usually they only exist for a short time.
  • Monothematic: A few points are overrepresented in the party program; Statements on other relevant areas of politics are hardly dealt with or are missing entirely.
  • Opposition to the mainstream: Protest parties question current norms, regulations or attitudes in politics and present themselves as the only alternative to the existing parties. They underline this friend-foe scheme with a provocative demeanor and radical demands.
  • Voter base: The voters of protest parties have little ties to them; Their behavior at the polls is assessed as a “punitive action” or a “protest act”.

In Germany, for example, the Pirate Party , the Rule of Law Party , and in Austria the list of Dr. Martin or the auto party in Switzerland as protest parties. But the Greens also met the criteria for a protest party in their early days.


The political scientist Kai Arzheimer criticizes the emotional connotation of the term protest. Disappointment, anger or frustration are by no means the sole motives for choosing a protest party; This could just as well be explained with a rational calculation, for example if regular voters no longer want to support the course of their party and therefore give their vote to a party that is more likely to represent its ideas - even if it does not appear to be capable of governing. This would signal to the original parent party that the voters wanted a change of course. In addition, the protest mostly refers to the parties that are considered established.

The political scientist Florian Hartleb sees the concept of the protest party as unsuitable when it comes to describing parties in terms of their content or their appearance: It is unclear “what is at the center of the protest or whether the protest occurs fundamentally or only selectively . The term “protest party” can be used for a pragmatic, albeit one-sided, distinction, but not for typological purposes. ” Everhard Holtmann credits the term with precisely this because, for example, when examining right-wing and left-wing populist parties , the focus is not one-sided on the right half of the Party spectrum is narrowed.


The majority vote makes it difficult for protest parties to emerge. They can only win a seat in parliament if they achieve a majority of the votes cast in a constituency. See for example UK Independence Party (UKIP), Great Britain.

The media coverage can have a massive impact on success or failure. In Germany, the Pirate Party received great media interest in 2011 and 2012; after this had subsided, their values ​​dropped sharply in relevant surveys.

For many years, politics in Greece was shaped by two people's parties: the Nea Dimokratia (ND) and the social democratic PASOK . In the parliamentary election in May 2012 , a party called SYRIZA ran and became the second largest party. SYRIZA can be seen as a protest party. Even when it was re- elected six weeks later , it was the second strongest party (with 26.9%); far ahead of PASOK (12.3%).

See also

Sources and References


  • Kai Arzheimer: Disaffection with politics. Meaning, use and empirical relevance of a political science term. Westdeutscher Verlag, Opladen 2002. ISBN 3-531-13797-2 .
  • Florian Hartleb: Right and left populism: a case study based on the Schill party and PDS. VS, Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2004. 361 S., ISBN 3-531-14281-X .
  • Everhard Holtmann, Adrienne Krappidel, Sebastian Rehse: The drug populism: On the criticism of political prejudice. VS Verlag, Wiesbaden 2006, ISBN 3-531-15038-3 .
  • Christian Neuner-Duttenhofer: Bündnis 90 / Die Grünen in the federal election campaign 2002. LIT Verlag Münster, 2004. ISBN 3825875202 .

Individual evidence

  1. Holtman et al. 2006 , pp. 20-21.
  2. Neuner-Duttenhofer 2004 , p. 7.
  3. Arzheimer 2002 , p. 86.
  4. Hartleb 2004 , p. 25.
  5. May 2013: The success of the euro-skeptics puts Cameron in distress
  6. November 26, 2012: The pirate excess of the media. - 250 journalists for 2,000 pirates: The federal party conference was also a battle for resources for the press. Why are they so rushing to the Jung Party and who benefits from it?