‘Do we really have a democracy, or is that primarily a façade? Let the people speak for they know more than the left’
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With populist parties increasingly participating in national governments, the empirical question of whether they undermine ‘real existing democracies’ has gained significance. Yet, the international academic debate on the threats of populism is currently dominated by theoretical and normative arguments. This study investigates the populist features of the Dutch populist party PVV and whether they undermined liberal democracy based on both theoretical and empirical arguments, emanating from the studying of qualitative and quantitative sources, like the PVV’s elections manifestos, website and official statistics on popular sovereignty. It builds upon recent academic findings that at a theoretical level, populism is essentially democratic, but it is ambivalent towards liberal democracy. As the core of populism ‘that politics should be an expression of the volonté générale (general will) of the people’, is only democratic in a majoritarian sense. The PVV’s abundant measures to limit those who are not a part of ‘the people’, indeed undermine the liberal democracy, though these measures are recognized as characteristic right-wing parties. This research identifies PVV’s monist populist party structure to have predominantly undermined liberal democracy. Based upon these findings, this study concludes the need for the clear discerning of the populist measures and a focus on the populist party structures in the international debate on the relation between populism and the liberal democracy.