Prof. Dr. Lenka Bustikova

Summer Semester 2015 (May/June)

Prof. Dr. Lenka Bustikova (Arizona State University)

Current Academic Position
Assistant Professor of Political Science, School of Politics and Global Studies

Host: Prof. Dr. Kai Arzheimer (Political Sciences)


Policy Hostility, Group Hostility and Voting for the Radical Right: Micro-Level Evidence from Slovakia

June 10, 2015

The Slovak National Party (SNS) is one of the most successful radical right parties in Europe. At its peak, it has amassed at least 12% of the popular vote in 1990 and 2006. At its lows, in the elections of 1994 and 2012, its support has dwindled around 5%. Currently, the SNS does not occupy a single seat in the Parliament (Gyarfasova and Meseznikov 2015). Yet, after the SNS skyrocketed on the Slovak political scene in 1990, it did not perish within with two to three electoral cycles, as opposed to many other radical right parties now gone from the electoral arena, such as the League of Polish Families, Czech Republicans and the Hungarian Life and Justice Party. The party has shaped the course of Slovak politics for more than 25 years and the relationship between the Slovak majority and Hungarian minority (Deegan-Krause and Haughton 2009, Carpenter 1997, Gyarfasova 2013, Gyarfasova and Meseznikov 2015, Hanley and Sikk 2014, Haughton and Ryba 2008, Meseznikov et al. 2008, Ucen 2007).
SNS party representatives have served in three governing coalitions since the independence of Slovakia in 1993. Whether governing or not, the party has fought tirelessly against laws that expanded the language rights of the Hungarian minority. To some extent, the party dug its own grave: the pushback against the minority rights was eventually successful, which has undermined SNS’s reason to exist. On the surface, it would be tempting to conclude that voting for SNS reflects xenophobia. This contribution however shows that prejudice is too prevalent among voters of other parties, so it cannot account for the uniqueness of the SNS’s appeal to voters. The distinctiveness of the radical right voters, it is argued here, stems from their opposition to the status elevation of politically backed minority groups. The electoral support for radical right parties is driven by hostility towards politically organized minority groups that extract concessions from the dominant majority and not by a ubiquitous prejudice.


During her stay as Guest Professor at the Center for Intercultural Studies (ZIS) Prof. Dr. Lenka Bustikova will give two courses on “Nation Building and Far Right Parties” as well as “Issues in Comparative Politics” and held a public speech.


Further she will be involved as a cooperation partner in the starting research project “Sub-national context and radical right support in Europe” of Prof. Kai Arzheimer, who is working together with project partners in France, the Netherlands and United Kingdom, inserting the expert knowledge of East European Countries.

The focus of her research area on her stay and beyond will be wider regarding general circumstances. Revealing the main questions this project aims to explore the linkage between far right parties’ electoral success and the processes of nation building. Paradoxically, far right parties are often quite weak in “late modernizing” states or in states where national boundaries have not (yet) been firmly established. Countries such as Greece, Portugal, Spain, Albania, Georgia and Ukraine has either utterly “failed” to produce far right parties or “new” radical right party politics is a relatively new phenomena in their political systems. The empirical puzzle of the project would be to explore why radical right parties often do well in polities with firmly established ethnic boundaries.

The project evolves around the following fundamental questions: Is a completed process of nation building as well as settled ethnic boundaries a pre-requisite for the emergence of electorally successful radical right parties? Why do some countries with large ethnic minority groups fail to produce radical right parties? Under what conditions do unresolved ethnic boundaries facilitate political polarization?

This leads us to generate the following theoretical expectations that link far right mobilization and nation building: far right party mobilization is facilitated by the completion of nation building processes at the onset of democratization. The most extreme cases of violent ethnic clashes should be observed in cases where democratization and increased political competition coincided with the unfinished process of nation building. Far right politics is, according to this theoretical framework, a peaceful institutional reaction to the changing balance of powers between ethnic groups after the process of nation building has been completed and therefore it is not a symptom of nation building.

Lenka Bustikova is already working together with colleagues of Mainz University since many year; she and the former ZIS-Guest Professor Prof. David Siroky (2012), her colleague from Arizona State University, already published together – partly with Mainz University researchers – some articles. The aim of this work in progress is to compose an article manuscript prepared for an international peer-review journal, too.

Visiting Positions and Past Positions

Summer 2014 Visiting Researcher, Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague
Summer 2012 Visiting Fellow, Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany
2009-10 Pre-Doctoral Fellow, Harriman Institute, Columbia University, NYC
Summer 2007 Visiting Fellow, Alexander von Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany

Education: Duke University, USA, Political Science, Ph.D., 2012

Research: Comparative politics, nationalism, political extremism, voting behavior, ethnic relations, governance, Eastern Europe.

Lenka Bustikova, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Political Science, School of Politics and Global Studies
Faculty Affiliate, Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict
Faculty Affiliate, Melikian Center: Russian, Eurasian & East European Studies
Arizona State University