Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


International Relations

Reader 1

Professor Appel

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This study examines the rise of populism in Hungary and Poland through the Fidesz and Law and Justice (PiS) parties. As a relatively new terminology, the study begins by dissecting the various definitions of populism to establish a universal set of criteria to define the ideology. The majority of experts suggest that populist leaders campaign using a rhetoric of “us versus them” that encourages the population to feel that its general will is not being accurately represented. This strategy is particularly effective in Eastern European nations whose USSR roots makes them skeptical of globalization and paranoid of any loss of sovereignty. The study outlines three major underlying themes that led to the rise of populist parties in Poland and Hungary. First, the neoliberal reforms enacted during a post-communism shock therapy era created a level of poverty and wealth disparity that made citizens eager to return to the leftist economic platforms of Fidesz and PiS. Second, the newness of Poland and Hungary’s political system and continued communist elite system led to a level of corruption in the new government that left citizens with a growing distrust towards more traditional parties. Finally, both PiS and Fidesz capitalized off of the European migration crisis to stoke socially conservative fears and rally nativism. This study finds that these populist parties are successful due to their ability to capitalize off of the frustrations and fears of the common citizen who feels forgotten in a globalized society.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.