The European Perspective: Poland’s lurch to the right

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The European Perspective: Poland's lurch to the right
PiS Party leader Jarosław Kaczyński. © Piotr Drabik (Flickr)/ CC BY 2.0-License

The conservative right-wing party Law & Justice (PiS) has won the election. What does the victory of the party led by Jaroslaw Kaczyński mean for Poland’s relationship with the European Union? Below you can see the reactions of our respective Editors.

An unsurprising shift to the right

Marcel Wollscheid - Editor-in-Chief of

"The victory of the national-conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS) in the parliamentary elections in Poland truly came as no surprise. In May, their candidate Andrzej Duda prevailed in the presidential election; meanwhile, the Christian Democratic prime minister Ewa Kopacz never succeeded in sharpening her profile during her short term in office. The reactions in Germany mainly range from outrage to defamation: Zeit Online sees “Poland on Orbán’s Way”, an ARD journalist even called the Polish people "stupid".

Instead of vilifying the Polish voters, one should be aware of several reasons for their decision. First, the PiS top candidate Beata Szydło hit a nerve during her campaign with the statement: “Statistics will not not feed us”. Although Poland recorded high growth rates in recent years, a large proportion of people in the country is dissatisfied with low wages and precarious employment. Therefore, many young, well-educated Poles leave the country. The right-wing conservative opposition was able to mobilize on this discontent. Second, the majority of Poles rejected a liberal immigration policy amidst the refugee crisis in Europe. The Kopacz administration already fought against an obligatory allocation system for refugees in the EU. The new national-conservative government will maintain this position and considerably toughen its stance in the tone of the debate. After all, the influx of refugees to Europe not only poses an identity-issue for many central and eastern European countries, but also touches on the preservation of their young national independence.

Scolding and fulmination by the European neighbours are not the right answer to the democratic vote in Poland. A constructive partnership will be possible – even with the Kaczynski-party. But the complicated system of gears in European politics will only work if the common solutions actually benefit and respect all members of the community.“

Blockage in the East

Hervé Moritz - Editor-in-Chief of Le Taurillon

"On Sunday, the Polish electors gave a governmental majority to the president Andrzej Duda. The Law and Justice Party (PiS), conservative and eurosceptic, has won 238 seats out of 460 thanks to the legislative election in Poland, with 38% of the votes. The campaign focuses mainly on the refugees crisis. The party of the new president (PiS) has capitalised on the fears of Polish citizens, has amplified them without dispensing with criticising the European migration policy inaugurated by the Commission and the European Parliament, a responsible policy which measures the size of this humanitarian crisis. Poland should be up to their responsibilities and a pragmatic and tempered debate would be preferable compared to some populist rhetoric and electioneering, playing on fears.

Furthermore, the election of this new presidential majority marks a blockage for the European integration of Poland. While the country stays divided about accession to the Eurozone, the debate will now remain at a standstill, because the new government doesn’t rely on joining the Economic and monetary union and will ensure that Poland won’t meet criteria to the accession.

Poland is also strategic partner, a key machinery of the Franco-German motor of Europe. The triangle of Weimar has never had as much importance for the progress of the European Union. While the European Union puts on the table many questions, like questions about the embryo of a common European army and a real European diplomatic strategy, in particular during the Ukrainian crisis, the Polish voice is important. This election augurs the marginalisation of Poland, leader of Eastern States of the European Union. A hard blow to this country as well as to the European Union, which needs a wilful and ambitious Poland in Europe..

Few alternatives on the table

Christopher Powers - Managing Editor of The New Federalist

"On the ground in Poland, nobody seems to be surprised about the election results. For weeks now, Poles seemed to have resigned themselves to a PiS victory as an inevitability, and in thinking this it did become inevitable. Looking at the propaganda campaign during the election campaign, the result is of very little surprise. PiS posters on the metro, billboards, etc, were everywhere and are still yet to be taken down. PO on the other hand, seemed to arrive to the party late, with few posters in comparison, only appearing in the last few days before judgement day. From this Editor’s perspective, living in Warsaw, it felt like there was only token resistance to the forthcoming result.

In the rural areas too, the predominance of PiS and parties to the right is all too clear. Visiting a monastery at Wigry, in northeast Poland, I was impressed less by the Papal chambers of John Paul II that were preserved there, and more by the sheer amount of media imploring people to vote for PiS in the region, with no alternative anywhere in sight. However, the election result shows the party has reached beyond their conservative rural heartland, and has tapped into the discontent of many Polish people, wherever they live. Polish political parties of all colours and creeds are going to have to take into account the frustration that Poles have when they compare their salaries with those of workers in neighbouring Germany. Most Europeans visiting Switzerland wince at how painfully expensive things are, imagine that being the case when you visit any country in Western Europe and you have an idea of how Poles feel. Crucially, what remains of Poland’s left-wing (very little), now has to ensure it sheds itself of its ties to the Communist past, and offer credible policies to alleviate these concerns. Nowoczesna, the ALDE representative and barely a year old, now has to politically mature and work on amplifying its messages.

In short, the message sent to the political parties by these elections must be taken on board and they must work to create and maintain a stronger and more balanced political debate over the next four years and beyond."

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