In 2017, new political movements surprised most of us by defeating traditional parties in Europe. One year later, what have we learned?

 

1. Sending clear anti-establishment messages

We witness how Italian youth is drowning to the Five-Star Movement because of its clear anti-establishment message. Actually, one Italian out of two supports anti-establishment and anti-European Union and anti-traditional parties. Indeed, after decades of economic recession, and growing migration-based concerns which have been grossly amplified online, Italians turned their back on mainstream political movements and opted instead for the Five-Star Movement. 

In effect, several political entrants claim that are anti-establishment but they have failed to win the trust of the population, Why? Simply, because the message that has been sent to the public was not clear. The Five-Star Movement has clearly shown its readiness to address all those concerns that any traditional political force should have, but failed to clearly tackle.

With clear speech, many social and political issues and interpersonal conflicts never have an opportunity to manifest. Likewise, a clear message can help set more realistic expectations for its outcome. Clarity builds trust that can be leveraged in ways that benefit both citizens and political parties.

 

2. Focusing on neglected topics

Understanding the voters must be a priority for any political movement. The new political entrants should focus on exceeding voter expectations and needs. The Five-Star Movement, like the French Movement “En Marche”, are considered as new movements that were capable to capitalize on citizens’ emotions by providing representation to their most urgent demands. They managed to politicize social issues that had been neglected in the past. Issues such as environmentalism and renewable energy, and unemployment are examples of social issues that were not well represented before these movements placed them on the political agenda.

 

3. Attracting youth 

European youth have long felt excluded and ignored by the political establishment. The new political movements knew that young voters are fed up with the current systems that are in place and are desperate for something new, and convinced a significant percentage of them that change is possible. Economic frustration has driven young people from their traditional affiliation with the left to the far-right populist party. However, the optimism of these political start-ups has still resonated with students and beat the other main contenders to take their vote.

 

4. Playing on Anti-party sentiment

Party failure is particularly strong in Italy and France, and this may be associated with the long-term attitudes of “anti-partyism” and the legacy of the crisis of the party system experienced during the 1990s. This same anti-partyism has been used by the new political movements to increase their electoral ability and caused the fall of the traditional political parties which had alternated in government since the mid-1990s. For example, Emanuel Macron portrayed himself as an alternative to the traditional right and left parties that have disappointed a significant segment of French society. This segment of “partyless” citizens has represented the main target audience of his presidential campaign and has propelled his emergence as the most likely candidate to become president. As an independent who promises change, Macron has succeeded in rallying support from across the political spectrum.

 

5. Using digital platforms 

There are many reasons for the electoral successes of new political movements in the EU and elsewhere, but this rapid success would not have been possible without the political communication by social networks. The decrease in trust in the political establishment is unevenly distributed: The Edelman 2017-Trust Barometer finds out that across the Western world a widening gap in terms of trust in the political system is emerging between the “mass population” (85 percent of the population) and the “informed public” (15 percent of the population).  While it is impossible to establish a causal relationship between the two phenomena, the correlation between the loss of trust in the “establishment” (media, politics and experts) and the rise of social media is strong.  

Over the last two years, political start-ups have increasingly been able to turn social networks into effective political communication platforms. These digital platforms allowed them to send political messages which bypass established media outlets,constantly mobilize their supporters and talk directly to the voters.