Authoritarian Populism Index.

The Authoritarian Populism Index is developed by Timbro.

Timbro is the leading free market think tank in the Nordic countries. Our mission is to promote and disseminate ideas supporting the principles of free markets, free enterprise, individual liberty and a free society. Timbro was founded in 1978 by Sture Eskilsson and the Swedish Employers’ Association, a precursor to the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise.  Since 2003, Timbro is financed by the Swedish Free Enterprise Foundation.


International outreach and translation supported by Friedrich Naumann Foundation and Atlas Network.

Populists and authoritarians in power

Populists and authoritarians in power

There is no cohesive party family that can be described as populist, let alone as authoritarian populism. The parties detailed in this report differ from each other both in terms of their position on the left-right spectrum and in their approach to the democratic system.


However, there is both analytical and political value in assessing the support for all these anti-establishment parties. It provides insight into the extent of the threat to established parties, both for those who want to understand the ongoing processes of change in European politics purely on academic grounds and for those who, for political or ideological reasons, want to address the threat.


The average support for left and right-wing parties in Europe advocating populist and/or authoritarian ideologies currently stands at 25.1 percent. While this figure represents a historically high level of support, 2023 signifies the fifth consecutive year without any additional growth. At present, there is evidence suggesting a consolidation of support for populist parties, but no indication of further expansion.


Only two countries – the UK and Malta – have support levels below 10 percent. The trend is increasing in Finland, Ireland, Sweden, Croatia, Latvia, Italy, and France. The trend is decreasing in Greece, Cyprus, Lithuania, and Denmark. In several cases, however, the trends are weak, and given the fluctuating support in most countries, there is no reason to believe that any of these trends would be sustainable.


A more significant change concerns government participation. Authoritarian parties – exclusively pro-Soviet communist parties – participated in approximately every other Western European government in the early post-war years. In 1946 and 1947, seven Western European democracies had communist parties in government. However, this was a quickly passing phase. By 1950, the number was down to 0. During the 1950s and 1960s, there were only two cases of authoritarian parties’ participation in government: in Iceland and Finland. In the 1980s, there were between two and four such collaborations each year, in addition to Iceland and Finland, also in France, Cyprus, and Greece.


The 1990s brought about a doubling (from 1993 between 4 and 6 countries each year), largely due to democratisation in Eastern Europe. Estonia, Romania, Slovakia, and Latvia had at various times far-right parties in government cooperation. In addition, Italy and, at the turn of the millennium, Austria, joined the list. During the first decade of the 2000s, there was a further increase, reaching a peak in 2006 with 10 parallel government collaborations in Europe. Two years later, the number was down to 5 again, before steadily increasing to a record high of 14 countries in 2019, in addition to 5 cases of confidence-and-supply. That is, as recently as five years ago, almost every other country in the study had a populist or authoritarian party in government and more than half of the countries had a populist or authoritarian party that exerted influence.


However, since then, most collaborations have been terminated, and fewer have been added. As of March 2024, populist and/or authoritarian parties are participating in seven governments across Europe, namely Hungary, Italy, Spain, Slovakia, Slovenia, Finland, and Switzerland. In addition, there is one case (Sweden) of a confidence-and-supply agreement. This marks the lowest level of government participation since 2014, down from 14 countries in 2019.


Here too, there is no reason to believe that this would be a sustainable trend. However, it is worth noting that we are currently at about 50 percent of the influence these parties had five years ago, based on government participation.