Bauska’s Chairmen: Party Leadership and Twitter Engagement in Estonian and Latvian Populist Far-Right Parties

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Abstract

Political parties in the Baltic states remain largely understudied, especially when it comes to the populist radical right (PRR). Currently, two of the three Baltic countries have PRR parties represented in their national parliaments, Nacionā lā apvienī ba (the National Alliance, henceforth the NA) in Latvia and Eesti Konservatiivne Rahvaerakond (the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia, henceforth EKRE) in Estonia. Both parties have charismatic leaders and are led in a top-down manner, keeping in line with the literature on this party family. Many political actors in numerous countries make ample use of Twitter and other social media, and the PRR in particular has proved very successful at using social media to their advantage.

My article provides a comparison between the leadership of the two aforementioned parties, using a paired comparison method, highlighting the position of the party leader; how each leader is selected; the political activity of party leaders; the electoral activity of each leader; and, finally, an analysis of how each party leader uses the social media microblogging site, Twitter.

The NA and EKRE are similar in that they are both parties which can be categorized in the PRR party family and are nationalist parties in countries which experienced Soviet occupation as well as the policy of Russification. Further, until quite recently1, both have directed nativist policies around language issues and the Russian-speaking population (Auers and Kasekamp 2013, Wierenga 2017). Therefore, the NA and EKRE make for an ideal comparison.2

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