What the EU Elections Mean in POLAND and the CZECH REPUBLIC – the Right under Pressure
Arnold Le Goeuil talks to Stanisław Skarżyński, Gazeta Wyborcza’s correspondent in the UK, about how a new centre left coalition is challenging Law and Justice
Poland is dominated by the Law and Justice party (PiS – Eurosceptic far-right) which could get around 35 percent according to a recent Politico Europe poll. And indeed, according to Stanisław Skarżyński from Gazeta Wyborcza, there is little chance that PiS could get shaken as the party controls an overall majority in both houses of the Parliament.
Law and Justice’s single-party majority in 2015 was mostly luck
However, a pro-European coalition formed of the liberal centre-right PO (Civic Platform) and the Social-democrats has emerged as a serious contender – the difference between the Koalicja Europejska (European Alliance, KE) and PiS is within the polls’ margin of error, both can expect to come out with about 35 percent of votes.
But Mr Skarżyński explains that Law and Justice’s single-party majority in 2015 was mostly luck.
“The two left-wing parties have cannibalized each other, so none of them reached the threshold to be given MP seats, but also because formerly ruling party Platforma Obywatelska (Civic Platform, PO) was in much a deeper crisis than it is now and was challenged by Modernity (Nowoczesna, .N), a newly formed centrist-liberal party.”
Polish divided political landscape inspires and the absence of any major party in the left have led to the creation of Wiosna (Spring, centre-left) that has become a major political force – in Poland’s standards for centre-left parties. They would receive between 7 and 10 percent in the next GE due to take place in November, but according to Mr Skarżyński the “concentration of the pro-European, centrist-liberal parties along with Wiosna’s strong presence will probably reduce PiS’ domination, allowing them only to create a minority-backed government.”
Along with Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, the Czech Republic is a member of the Visegrad Group created in 1991, initially to reinforce cooperation between the four countries. But times have changed and especially since 2015, the group has been vocal in its opposition to the quotas method promoted by the EU Commission to address the refugee crisis.
Unlike Poland and Hungary, Czech is not ruled by far-right but instead by a coalition composed of ANO (‘Yes’ – populist) led by Andrej Babis and the social-democratic ČSSD.
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Initially a pro- EU movement taking votes from the right and seating in the ALDE group, ANO rapidly adopted more Eurosceptic tones, closer to Orban and the Visegrad Group.
On immigration, ANO joined the group in refusing the quotas as well as opposing further political integration within the EU. But this comes with no surprise when we now know that the European Commission is investigating Prime Minister Babis for alleged conflict of interest due to his business activities and over an EU funds fraud at home.
It remains that a far-right party has recently emerged and is set to compete with the traditional right-wing party. Freedom and Direct Democracy (Svoboda a přímá demokracie) would receive between 10 and 12 per cent at this point – the double compared to a month ago. This sharp increase is due to the decline of ANO which is losing support among Eurosceptic voters.
Another peculiarity of the Czech Republic political landscape is the presence of an atypical force, the Pirates Party founded in 2009 in opposition to the massive corruption practiced by established parties. It is currently the second force, polling at 15 per cent, representing centrist and centre-left voters.
Like Slovakia, Czech is particular in that it is not ruled by the far-right but instead by a centrist – centre-left coalition. However, like Robert Fico (former Slovak PM), this coalition has been noticed for its opposition to immigration and Euroscepticism, telling a lot on the level of social and cultural Euroscepticism in the country.