Research project: Niche Parties in Office (Daniel Bischof)

Studies interested in parties of niche origin – Green, Regional and Radical Right parties – have noted that these parties hold executive office less often than mainstream parties. Since these parties emerged and acted on the periphery of party systems it is oftentimes assumed that while these parties pursue vote and policy goals much like other parties, they place a lower value on office-holding.

Yet we have little empirical corroboration of these assumptions concerning niche parties’ strategies. Since the 1990s the percentage of such parties achieving public office is on the rise. Thus, it appears that while some Green, Regional and Radical Right parties adapted their strategies to successfully seek office, others remained true to their anti-system origins.

We challenge the theoretical arguments put forward by existing research understanding these parties mainly as policy-seekers. We suggest that once we drop the unitary actor assumption for these parties, we come to realize that the members and leaders of these parties are often fractionalized in groups seeking office and groups seeking policy. Subsequently we analysis which strategies and organizational shifts brought parties of niche origin into coalition governments and which kept them at the periphery of party systems. Furthermore, in future research we will ask a range of other questions to understand how parties of niche origin behave in office:

  • Do these parties manage to keep their electoral promises?
  • How will these parties be affected if they deliver policies solving their core issues (e.g. nuclear energy for Green parties)?
  • Does incumbency affect the party organization?


  • Patrick Dumont, Albert Falco Gimenó, Indriði H. Indriðason & Daniel Bischof. “Pieces of the Puzzle: Coalition Formation & Preference Compatibility.” Presented at MPSA 2017 (Chicago) & EPSA 2017 (Milano).
  • Daniel Bischof & Markus Wagner. 2017. “What Makes Parties Adapt to Voter Preferences? The Role of Party Organisation, Goals and Ideology.” British Journal of Political Science: forthcoming.
  • Paper by Bischof, Daniel, Patrick Dumont and Kaare Strøm (2016). Niche Parties Between Policy, Votes or Office, presented in Bamberg and at the EPSA, Brussels.