APE Parties - A Viable Threat or An Inherent Contradiction?
A Quick Survey
What do you think of APE Parties?
APE's Are Loose!
APE Parties, or Anti Political Establishment Parties have only been very briefly looked at in political science. Despite the very finite research and theories regarding them political scientists generally hold the belief that these are the next step in the chain after the “Cartel Party” model. However, just because they are not definitively documented does not mean these parties are rare. The UK is a good example of a nation which has a vast number of such parties.
APE Parties stand for a wide range of views and range from extreme right to extreme left on the political spectrum. There is nothing which unites each of these parties; they often do not share ideas, rarely will they co-operate and often they differ vastly in party membership. If there were two features which do link the parties at all it is these:
They are often excluded from their respective political legislative establishments due to unrepresentative voting systems. (See UK's majoritarian system or Germany's 5% seat threshold)
They view the mainstream large parties as using their dominance in the political system to establish rules and regulations which only help big parties. They also highlight how cartel parties spend vast amounts of money on public relations and publicity effectively making them more like corporations or a cartel than a political party.(America is either ruled by Tweedle-dum or Tweedle-dee) Due to this they believe the current institution is unrepresentative, too homogeneous and risks putting voters off politics altogether.
Wrong Type of APE
APE's On The Rise!
Where are these parties found?
The answer is all across the world where a democracy has become run by cartels. The APE parties are obvious in the United Kingdom, however in the USA they are less so. I'll highlight the parties for you now:
UK APE Parties
UK Independence Party (UKIP) – UKIP is probably the best example of an APE Party. It opposes the European Union and criticises all major parties for their involvement in it. The main platform which the party runs upon is the reduction of the establishment.
BNP - The BNP has also been referred to as an APE party for its views far outside the norm of most mainstream politial parties. However, in the recent European Parliament election the BNP secured two MEP's. So it does appear they are a rising power.
Green Party – The Green Parties (English Greens, Scottish Greens and Northern Irish Greens) in the UK have been viewed as an APE party by some people. In the UK the Greens dislike the main parties allegedly cosy relationship with big businesses. They also disapprove of national electoral campaigns with budgets running into millions and instead focus upon local democracy. In the 2010 UK election the Greens made their mark on Westminster by getting their first MP.
National Parties (Plaid Cymru, Scottish Nationalist Party, Sinn Fein) – The Nationalist Parties are hard to classify, but political scientists have put them in APE Parties as it is where they best fit. The SNP, who want an indepenant Scotland and Plaid Crymu, who want an independent Wales (But don't seem to be putting much effort into achieving it!) both oppose the UK's mainstream parties.
The problem for APE Parties
Yes, it is extremely easy and effective to campaign on an anti-political establishment agenda. But what happens if you win and effectively become the establishment you were elected to fight against?
Now a few options exist here:
Following the 2011 Scottish parliament elections the SNP (An APE party by some people's definition) found themselves for the first time with an outright majority and governing alone. Luckily for the SNP due to the UK's multi-layered democracy they are able to blame any problems of the establishment upon the national government (Westminster) and divert attention away from the regional one (Scottish parliament).
I will use the TEA Party of America for this example. If theoretically the TEA Party wing of the Republican Party won a majority in the House of Representatives, the Senate and the Presidency it seems they have a mandate to govern. But how can they possibly govern when government was what they campaigned against? The answer for them is not to blame anyone else, but to actively dismantle government from within. Reduce the size of the state and begin destroying the Cartel Party model.
The Future of APE's?
It is a fact clear and obvious:
APE's are gaining ground.
The Greens recently got their first seat in Westminster, the SNP achieved a majority in the Scottish Parliament, the BNP win two MEP's, etc. We should not ignore these parties as fringe groups which will not affect the majority. In the UK it was estimated that the BNP and UKIP cost the Conservatives the 2010 election in "stolen votes".
Unless the mainstream parties can reform to their ideological roots and distance themselves from each other we will find a continuous rise in APE parties. Are APE Parties necessarily a bad thing? Not necessarily. Yes, there are racist fringes, such as the BNP, however, the UKIP, Greens and SNP and all respectable parties proposing a variety of rational economic, social and political solutions to modern day problems.
To end on a lighter note I wish to bring attention to the Monster Raving Loony Party. This is a party which dedicates its existence to mocking the UK political system. To that extent it is anti-political establishment. However, it does show that APE parties do not always run in elections to win, but rather to attract a protest vote, promote a single issue, or sometimes just have a laugh at the ridiculousness of politics!