Plutocratic leadership in the electoral arena: three Mitteleuropean cases of personal wealth in politics
Two of the most consequential trends in European politics over the past decade have been the rise of populism and the progressive personalization of elections. The present article seeks to link them by focusing on a third phenomenon: the entry of plutocrats (individuals with systemically relevant material resources, who can afford to finance their own campaigns and parties) into direct political competition. The phenomenon is analyzed with reference to the literature on new and entrepreneurial parties, stressing the strategic freedom financial independence affords. The weakening of the traditional mediation function of political parties is identified as the initial structural shock allowing for plutocratic entry. Plutocratic politicians’ activities are studied with regard to party organization, ideological stance, communication style, and institutionalization chances. The theoretical framework is developed inductively from a close contextual analysis of three Mitteleuropean cases: Frank Stronach and Team Stronach in Austria, Andrej Babis and ANO in the Czech Republic, and Christoph Blocher and the SVP in Switzerland.