EP Election - Waiting for Beast?

Ten years after joining the EU, the Polish society presents constantly high level of public support for Europe and European integration (89% according to the CBOS pools from March 2014)  and general sense of satisfaction with the effects of membership (62%). Poland is still the biggest beneficiary of  the European money – since 2004, 61.4 bln euro net fuelled our budget and this amount can be followed by numerous examples of modernisation attempts boosted by the EU. What also stands out is the political agenda where Poland, is projected to be a leading new member state, representative of the CEE countries and  a promoter of the Eastern Partnership, which has recently been coming down to mediation and expertise on Russia-Ukraine conflict.
On these social and political levels Poles and substantial part of the Polish elites turn to be strongly europeanised. Even the political opposition offers alternative that fits in the European framework – neither conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS) nor other parliamentary opponents of the centre-right government claim to withdraw. What is  an object of the European programme of the opposition is not the EU as such but the direction and speed of the European restructuring. In other words, the EU, even in the time of financial and political crisis is hard to deny, therefore the main axis of political conflict that polarizes opinions was, and still is, placed on domestic ground. This is what we constantly experience during the electoral campaigns, also those, proceeding the European Elections 2014.

The concentration on domestic affairs does not mean, however, that the cleavage between the European and national identity and scope of a domestic sovereignty is out of political question. On the contrary, it has been constantly played by both (pro-European and eurosceptic) sides but most significantly by actors of the political margin. That was a case of radical right League of Polish Families (LPR) and populist Self-defense (S) in 2004 and Libertas in 2009. Now, it helps to gather support by two, relatively new actors.

On May 25 Poles will cast their votes in the European elections for the third time. So far, the chance to create a Polish delegation to the EP has not arisen much interest or commitment among 30 mln Polish voters – 24% of them went to the pools in 2009 and the current forecasts basically repeat this share. The low turn-out here is nothing surprising - the parliamentary elections since 1991 have attracted average 50% of the eligible voters; in the most recent parliamentary elections, 2011, the turnout figure was 48.9%. All prior to European, national referenda also had failed to achieve a 50% turnout.

This year political market consists of 9 electoral committees present in all 13 districts and 3 smaller ones, that run in 2 up to 6 districts, electoral campaign by now has been criticized by commentators as boring, focused on naming and blaming political contenders rather than important issues, to some extend overshadowed by turbulent situation in Ukraine or a test made by the parties facing three elections in a row (local elections in fall 2014, than parliamentary and presidential elections in 2015).

The topic of the national identity and sovereignty is being exploited mostly by two entities, both alternative to the mainstream and of growing importance –  the New  Right led by Janusz Korwin Mikke (NP) and populist radical right - National Movement (RN). In the electoral forecasts both are on the uptake. The New Right appears to be a black horse of electoral run with scores estimating around 7% (3-4 MEP seats), what means the historical breakthrough for the party and important change of the political setup. The National Movement, populist radical right movement established in 2012  in pools does not meet the threshold (2% of support), but proves to have recently grown in power on the local level and become better and better organized in terms of internet marketing and communication.

The New Right is a relatively new enterprise with numerous links to the past organizations and parties whose common denominator was their leader - Janusz Korwin Mikke. The party’s leading figure has been known as a radical and controversial activist since the ‘60s, who in the time of transformation became a prolocutor of a free market combined with radically conservative worldview. Since the ‘90s he has run in all types of elections and supported several political organisations, acted as MP, columnist and political performer. His latest child – the New Right party can be described as antiestablishment party that centers its appeal on liberal economic solutions accompanied by orthodox stance toward society and lifestyle (anti-LGBT, pro capital punishment, anti-feminism). The party also stands as a biggest opponent of the European Union, that is decsribed as euro-socialistic bureaucratic institution occupying the Europe, understood a Latin civilization of shared universal western values. The aim of the party is the eventual liquidation of the EU, and replacing it with the European Economic Community (EEC). The question of the Polish/Latin identity is put in a frontline and consist of individual freedom, primacy of the family and Polish nation over the state and its institutions. The national sovereignty in the party documents is crucial in order to secure them.

The National Movement was the first official attempt in the past seven years to pool the resources of the two main Polish radical right organizations. The movement's official aim is to  protect the national identity and sovereignty, it celebrates nation and family oriented stance that comes directly from the mid-war nationalist programmes of Roman Dmowski and Endecja, as well as xenophobic and law and order attitudes. On the contrary to the New Right, for the National Movement, economy is of second importance. The RN declares as its main aim the protection and strengthening of a Polish, Catholic-based national identity and its culture both domestically and internationally. They declare themselves to be the only entity that can face the threats of cosmopolitism, misunderstood modernity, the power of bureaucrats, corrupted elites, oligarchs, and “ignorants pursuing those goals of non-national alien groups and left-liberal propaganda that threatens Polish youth”. Their vision for the EU’s future assumes support for the federalist model of the independent member state and free-will economic cooperation. Other priorities for RN include keeping Poland out of the euro-zone, independence from foreign energy suppliers, state control over strategic resources, and economic growth to halt the brain-drain and its consequences. Individual freedom is, in their view, constituted by and only within the national community, and cannot be separated from what the community defines as the ‘common good’. Therefore, “the fight against liberalism” is a necessary part of RW activity. Freedom of speech is thus understood as “a struggle against the media sphere that promotes political correctness and challenge nationalism”.

Both the New Right and National Movement take advantage of their image of political outsiders and use political performance to slowly but constantly bolster support of mostly young and antiestablishment, male electorate. The biggest advantage and constrain in one is the fact, that the main communication channel is the internet. On one hand this substantially limits the scope of actions (around 60% of Poles use the internet on daily basis) on the other, the message that consists on issues marginalized by the mainstream (like national identity, ani-EU stance) and targeted directly to the group of electorate, young and most active on the internet can be a successful strategy in the long run. Therefore, in spite of the low turnout and not spectacular achievements of the old-newcomers, the forthcoming EP elections shall be an important indicator of the change of the Polish political context.