According to a survey released Monday, Poland’s far-right New Right Congress is now the country’s third leading political party, after nearly doubling its support in one month (from 6% to 11%).
The results of the poll are not surprising in the context of the rise of far-right parties in Europe (see above), as demonstrated by last month’s European elections: the anti-E.U. Front National (FN) won 26% of ballots in France, or twice as many votes as the ruling Socialist Party; in England, Nigel Farage’s Ukip also swept the election, garnering 27.5% of votes, beating both the Tories and the Labour Party; the Danish People’s party (DPP) doubled its MPs in the European Parliament after scoring nearly 27% of the votes in Denmark; the Euroskeptic New Right Congress obtained 7.5% of votes, leaving it with four seats in the European Parliament…and so on.
In April we discussed the relevance of the European ballot, which saw voters reject not only austerity measures and recession, but also the idea of an ‘ever closer union’ as they turned towards the political fringes in unprecedented numbers. True, the ramifications of the far-right’s strong showing on the workings of the European Parliament may have been overstated – indeed, the much-feared Euroskeptic coalition led by the FN’s Marine Le Pen has failed to materialize – but look out for its impact on domestic politics, i.e., in France where the Socialists and the center-right opposition are both veering right in an effort to counteract the FN’s gains.
A similar disruption could occur in Poland, where the center-right government helmed by the Civic Platform party has faltered in the wake of scandals involving top officials, amid calls for early elections. Although the Civic Platform earned a recent boost in popularity thanks to its handling of the Ukraine crisis, the overall atmosphere in Poland remains one of frustration as opportunities for social mobility dwindle – leaving the door open for fringe parties. So, the New Right Congress is banking on its European victory to sweep it into the national parliament in 2015 general elections; if it succeeds, the far-right party may well persuade the conservative opposition to form a coalition.
Here, the New Right Congress leader Janusz Korwin-Mikke could borrow a page from Le Pen’s playbook. The FN leader adopted a mainstreaming strategy to bring her party in from the cold, so to speak, in a strategy that helped the FN make serious inroads in France. In contrast, Korwin-Mikke has made little effort to dilute his radical stances on women’s rights, Moscow and Adolf Hitler — a decision that has already cost him influence in Brussels: last week saw the FN and its Dutch partner, Geert Wilder’s Freedom party, prefer to renounce a powerful parliamentary group rather than partner with the Polish party, citing “incompatible” values.
Given his party’s bumpy debut in the European assembly, which meets for the first time this week, it remains to be seen if Korwin-Mikke can ride the Euroskeptic wave long enough to cement the New Right Congress’ lasting presence in Poland’s parliament. For now, the far-right leader is promising that in his first three months in Brussels, “I will raise so much hell that they will remember me there for a long time”.