Historically, Europe’s political parties have relied on an active membership to achieve and maintain influence. However, with the rise of professional communications management, political parties must increasingly seek influence and relevance through other means. Florian Hartleb looks at the emergence of ‘virtual politics’ in Europe and finds that social media and online engagement offer new opportunities and challenges for political parties. Also in the future, parties will claim a monopoly on linking citizens and political institutions, people´s interests and political decision-making. With less penetration in society, the question is whether parties in this form still possess the necessary legitimacy. Traditional programmatic parties gradually give way to new, situational political players. In this brave new world of populist politics there is no need for coherent party platforms and stable loyalties. In an era of “populist zeitgeist”, political parties are challenged to lose their deep-rooted functions in society and the way that they transform people’s interests (inputs) into the decision-making process (outputs).
The rise of virtual activism means that Europe’s political parties must embrace digital technologies as campaigning tools, London School of Economics blog “EUROPP”. European Politics and Policy, 27. November 2012,