The New Defenders of Gender Equality? When Do Radical Right Populist Parties Incorporate Women's Interests

Ana Catalano Weeks, University of Bath


In recent years, many radical right populist (RRP) parties have expanded their issue base beyond immigration to advocate new issues. Under what conditions are RRP parties more likely to shift their party programs to incorporate womenโ€™s interests? We investigate the role of women representatives and leaders, and strategic electoral needs in party agenda expansion. We rely on the most comprehensive dataset to date on women as MPs and leaders of parties across Europe from 1982 to 2018. The data include 26 RRP parties in 22 countries. We complement this dataset with text analyses of party manifestos, both using data from the comparative Manifesto Database Project (MARPOR) and original data coding for RRP partiesโ€™ attention to womenโ€™s interests over time. Our analyses reveal that, unlike the general relationship we observe within all parties, women MPs and party leaders do not alter the RRP partiesโ€™ emphasis on women’s interests. Rather, we find that RRP parties increase their attention to certain womenโ€™s interests only when they are struggling electorally. While uncovering the strategic nature of the supposedly ideological RRP parties, our results suggest that women’s presence may not be synonymous with women’s power, and that gender diversity does not necessarily lead to inclusion.