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Romanian has recently held the general elections and a far-right party managed to enter the Parliament. This is not a surprise in itself since the COVID-19 crisis helps rising the popularity of such parties.

However, what was more surprising is that there many journalists, analysts, and even politicians that were quite surprised by the party entering the Parliament:

Few had heard of the far-right populist party the Alliance for Romanian Unity (AUR) until Sunday evening when it stunned Romania at the ballot box in parliamentary elections.

The little-known AUR, an ultranationalist party that proclaims to stand for 'family, nation, faith, and freedom,’ rose from obscurity to take almost 9% of the overall vote.

This happened because they did not use any classic channel such as national TV or radio stations and focused on social media. Even there, many simply did not hear about AUR party because their "bubble" was not targeted by their campaign.

I am wondering if this has ever happened in Europe before or Romania sets an interesting first time in entering the legislative body by relying almost exclusively on social media.

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    Euronews doesn't seem to say AUR campaigned only on social media, but rather that it "ran a targeted, strategic online campaign". Since Trump got elected in 2016 and the FB / Analytica thing, it must have been obvious for other aspiring populists what to do.
    – Fizz
    Dec 17 '20 at 17:11
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    The article says they allied with the Orthodox church, so I'm guessing they might have used some of that as a channel too. Electoral recommendations from the pulpit is a much older technique seen in many other places.
    – Fizz
    Dec 17 '20 at 17:18
  • Hungarian Jobbik is a potential candidate and they entered the Hungarian parliament 10 years ago cambridge.org/core/services/aop-cambridge-core/content/view/… Dec 17 '20 at 23:30
  • Depending on how exclusive your definition of "exclusive" is, you should look into the Belgian New Flemish Alliance / Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie (N-VA)
    – chris
    Nov 24 at 19:13
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According to another source, on-line campaigning wasn't the only thing AUR did:

the Church, an established political player, refused to obey most governmental restrictions and endorsed world-wide conspiracies that the pandemic was being used against it.

Summoned to services and gatherings by priests, and then fined by police for not respecting restrictions, part of the population was radicalized against the mainstream political parties. The outlet for this dissatisfaction was the AUR, which not only used that dissatisfaction but, with the help of the Church, managed to run a traditional campaign, especially amongst worshipers.

Presumably their on-line efforts might have been more targeted toward voters abroad, but even there it seems AUR had presence on the ground:

AUR quickly opened branches in the countries with big Romanian communities. For example, in the UK, the party opened 20 local bureaus. As a result, AUR took 25% of the votes of Romanians abroad in the parliamentary elections, almost the same score as the National Liberal Party (PNL), while the USR-PLUS alliance was first, with 30% of the votes.

I'm not sure how religious the Romanian diaspora is, but I'd venture a guess some were ready to express a protest vote after all those quarantines and substantial fines they were subject to back in the Spring and summer when returning to Romania. So it probably didn't take a lot of campaigning to capture a good share of their vote.

According to Wikipedia (which cites some source in Romanian)

In the 2020 Romanian legislative election [...] the party came first among Romanians in Italy, the largest group of the Romanian diaspora, and ran a close second among Romanians in France and Romanians in Spain. It also scored first in Cyprus.

but I can't find any details how AUR campaigned or organized in Italy, specifically. I'm guessing it was somewhat similar to what they've done in the UK.

(Yeah, this is a frame challenge argument.)

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