An opinion poll published on Sunday showed that “Podemos”, a new left-wing populist party, had emerged as the largest political party in Spain with nearly 28% of voters supporting the party. Similarly, Irish opinion polls have shown Sinn Fein conquering the top spot ahead of the traditionally dominant Fianna Fail and Fine Gail.
Obviously, Denmark isn’t Spain or Ireland which both saw massive employment and growth crises following the financial crises, but the country has been severely hit by the fall-out of the 2007-08 Financial Crisis and basically economic growth and employment has been flat for the past 5-6 years. So it is perhaps less surprising that parties outside the established centre have won support with the Danish People’s Party competing with the Social Democrats for second place and the Red-Green Alliance enjoying record levels of support?
“Populism” is a tricky concept – do voters support a party like DPP because of the leader’s charisma, because of the party’s stance on immigration and the European Union or because of a general feeling of unease about the development of the Danish economy and society? (Something similar could be said for the RGA). Still, even in a stable democracy like Denmark we may be witnessing the effects of some very deep forces and concerns unleashed by social and economic changes (eg. globalisation) and crises (eg. the financial crises) and not addressed by the traditionally governing parties who have worked on the assumption that problem-solving and administrative competence would be sufficient to mobilise voters.