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Pytlas, Bartek (2016): 'We, the People'? The Diffusion of the Populist Anti-Establishment Narrative in Poland. ECPR Joint Sessions. Workshop The Causes of Populism: Cross-Regional and Cross-Disciplinary Approaches, 24. - 28. April 2016, Pisa.
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In the 2015 elections, Poland saw not only the return to power of the national-conservative Law and Justice (PiS), but also a success of the populist anti-establishment movement of Paweł Kukiz. Anti-party sentiment is not a new phenomenon in Poland. Yet, unlike in the case of previous political challengers, the Kukiz movement impacted the political discourse of the mainstream. Both PiS, and the hitherto ruling conservative-liberal Civic Platform (PO) adjusted to Kukiz’ rhetoric of “bringing citizens back into politics”, making it an underlying narrative of their electoral campaigns. This paper asks about the character and reasons of the discursive diffusion of anti-establishment populism in Polish mainstream politics. Seeing populism as a narrative rather than ideology or socio-technique, its argument follows the logic of the emerging discursive approach to studies of populism and niche party competition. The paper combines the macro-perspective on the discussion of the changing character of representative democracy (Blühdorn, Tormey), the meso-perspective of changing opportunity structures (Koopmans et al.) and the micro-perspective of framing and frame resonance (Benford and Snow). It argues that existing discursive opportunity structures, such as previous competition narratives (concurrent collusion and strategic polarization by the PO, simultaneous segmentation and competitor de-legitimization by PiS) enhanced the resonance of the frame of “representative populism” presented by the Kukiz movement. To test the argument, a quantitative evaluation of electoral surveys shall be combined with systematic qualitative frame analysis of the presidential campaign discourse. These steps will hence allow to map the character and to trace the process of the diffusion of the resonant populist frame of the Kukiz Movement into mainstream politics.