Explaining the EP election result: Poland

EP election results in Poland proved to be both predictable and paradoxical

EP election results in Poland proved to be both predictable and paradoxical

 

Turnout

The hopes that Poland would see better election turnout than 2009 (24 percent) were disappointed. Only half as many showed up to the polls as in the national elections. This also marks the third consecutive drop in EP election turnout.

The Campaigns

The Ukraine crisis clearly dominated the electoral campaign. The Tusk government which had suffered from a declining support in the last two years showed activism at the EU level (energy union proposal, Weimar mission in Kiev, two “tours” through the EU capitals to explain Polish position) and also benefited from the perception of a rising geopolitical insecurity in the society.

Winners, Losers, and Eurosceptics

Not surprisingly for the pollsters, the two largest parties came out on top – the ruling Civic Platform (Donald Tusk) and the main opposition party Law and Justice (Jaroslaw Kaczynski) – a similar percentage of votes (respectively around 32 and 33 percent) and the same number (19) of seats in the European Parliament. It can be seen as a symbolic success for the Civic Platform which has not been defeated in the elections since 2007 – despite the increasing support for the opposition in the recent years.

Also, Law and Justice may become the strongest national group in the EP faction European Conservatives and Reformists. However, Law and Justice has to face a new and much more radical rival emerging in the right-conservative milieu: the Congress of the New Right whose result of more than 7 percent (4 seats) is clearly the most ground breaking result of this election.

The rise of the Congress of the New Right is the paradox of this election. In a country in which the support for the EU is the strongest in Europe (around 80 percent) the main winner of the EP election is a party whose leader (a well-known provocateur and folkloristic veteran of Polish politics Janusz Korwin-Mikke) openly declares the he wants to destroy the EU, welcomes the annexation of Crimea by Russia, and runs a highly xenophobic, anti-feminist campaign. This radically anti-mainstream party, which merges economic libertarianism with an extremely nationalistic and anti-EU rhetoric, won Poland’s protest votes.

The other side of the electoral paradox in the largely Europhile Polish society, is that the main loser of the election is “Your Movement” of Janusz Palikot – the only openly pro-federalist political force, which openly called for a speedy accession of Poland to the eurozone as well as for a European army. It did not win a single seat in the EP and with 3.7 percent its political future is highly uncertain. Your Movement lost to competition on the left against the ex-communist (social-democratic) Alliance of Democratic Left (almost 10 percent, 5 seats). Also the Peasants Party (PSL) will send 4 representatives to Brussels (7 percent).

Upshot

Tusk cannot be relaxed about the 2015 national elections. His party managed to reduce the distance to the Law and Justice, which was clearly leading in the polls for most of the time since 2012, but the competition between the two major political camps will remain tough.

PiS’s Kaczynski did achieve a small political triumph as none of his main competitors on the right managed to overcome the threshold of 5 percent, which most likely means their complete marginalisation. On the other hand, the New Right emerged as a new political force in the Polish party system but it remains to be seen if it is going to defend its position until the Autumn 2015.

This article was updated on 27 May 2014 after the announcement of the final results.

The European Council on Foreign Relations does not take collective positions. ECFR publications only represent the views of its individual authors.

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