Prime Minister Beata Szydło and Jarosław Kaczyński (Leader of PiS), JANEK SKARZYNSKI / AFP
It has been almost two months since the results of the Polish parliamentary elections have been revealed to the public. The overwhelming victory went to the Law and Justice party (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość, PiS), which earned 37.58% of the total votes. This succes allowed the party to have 235 seats out of 460 – that is to say that they managed to seize the absolute majority of the Sejm (one of the Polish chambers) which is 230 seats plus another seat. The party also gained the absolute majority in the Senate with 61 seats out of 100. It is significant to note that the party that came in second place, the Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska, PO), which is also the party that won the two previous elections, gained only 24.09% of the votes, namely 138 seats out of 460 seats in the Sejm and 34 seats out of 100 seats in the Senate. The third and fourth parties’ results do not exceed the 50 seats mark and have no seats in the Senate. No left-wing party has won any seat in the parliament – a fact that is utterly inconceivable in Western European democracies.
The significant difference between the results is not to be taken lightly since it illustrates the position of Poles towards the administration of their country : they have entirely trusted PiS with its promises and have provided it with all the tools needed to rule the country (we should not forget that the political affiliation of the incumbent President of the Republic of Poland, Andrzej Duda, is PiS). To sum up, PiS has received enough seats to govern alone.
Every victory shall be congratulated, particularly when it is an overpowering victory. Polish press magazines have mentionned the party PiS as the main winner and have praised its considerable success. However, words of congratulations could not be found in Western European countries’ newspapers. The words used in the headlines on French, English, Spanish and Italian newspapers were very negative. The words „Eurosceptic, conservative, nationalist, ultranationalist, populist, extremist, extreme right-wing, far-right party, xenophobic” were used to depict the winner of the elections.
The Western European countries’ opinions
Jarosław Kaczyński and Beata Szydło celebrating its victory (AFP Photo/Janek Skarzynski)
Western European countries’ newspapers have explained PiS’ victory as the result of an anti-migration campaign, an anti-internationalisation of the country, a promise to keep young Polish people from moving to other countries because of unemployment, a return to the nuclear family with a ban of the modern Western family, the support of the Roman-Catholic church, a pro-rural campaign and helping poorer areas of the country. They have warned that the possible constitutional reforms could immerse the country into disastrous relations with the European Union (EU). Medias have shared their worries about the future of Poland regarding its membership of the EU. The tensions between Paris/Berlin and Warsaw may arise. Since the pro-European Polish government (composed of PO members) is no longer in office, the relations between EU institutions and the new „excessively” conservative and nationalist government could be turbulent. Moreover, the fact that PiS claims to be more of a pro-American party is very worrisome in the eyes of Western European countries. Poland is gradually looking towards the United States of America, meaning that it seems to be willing to have an ally against the „permanent Russian threat” they’re facing. Poland asked the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to focus on providing it with missile shield – as the EU does not have a common army or defence plans, the only solution found by Poland was beyond the Atlantic ocean.
Jarosław Kaczyński (ALIK KEPLICZ / AP)
The media of Western European countries assimilate the electoral campaign of PiS as propaganda, using fear as its main tool. Every means is good to illustrate how dangerous this party is. The most quoted sentence by Jarosław Kaczyński that can be found in the newspapers is basically that immigrants are like parasites that will bring various diseases. Medias remind the population that this kind of xenophobic speech was used against Jews during Hitler’s ascension to power. The leader of the Polish party is compared to the totalitarian personalities of the XXth century. Authors of these articles say they foresee his eventual coup d’état because of his undeniable thirst of power – Beata Szydło, the current Polish prime minister, is more of a screen to Kaczyński’s actions rather than an independent figure.
After the results of the parliamentary elections were out, Mr Kaczyński’s first words during his speech were a tribute to his late twin brother who died along with his wife in a plane crash while he was President of the Republic of Poland. In addition to the fact that their daughter was also present, the media of Europe perceived this as a means to move the population by reminding them of their well-liked late President.They remarked that he did not speak of the promises the party made.
Online version of the Italian nawspaper „La Stampa” right after the results
The media said his speech was not appropriate for a winning speech. Moreover, Mr Kaczyński’s admiration for the Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, who is perceived as Hungary’s next dictator, worries the Western European journalists. They are afraid that Poland’s politics and diplomatical relationship with other European countries would become similar to Hungary’s. The fear of authoritarian government and the weakening of democracy values can be found in every article talking about this subject. The constitutional reforms were the first step Orbán took to cement his position. „Kaczyński’s party is willing to do the same” can be seen in the press in Western Europe. Furthermore, the medias tend to remind that Poland needs the European funds in order to develop itself. Thus the idea of electing a Eurosceptic government should be unthinkable for Poles. French researcher, essayist and political commentator Jean-Yves Camus has said in an interview with Le Figaro (a French newspaper) that member states from the Eastern part of Europe think they are like lower-ranking associates – however it is untrue, he claims, since they are represented by important European commissionners (the former Polish prime minister Donald Tusk (PO) who is now the President of the European Council, is a revealing example of it).
Poland’s response to the accusations
„Indestructible – what will Jaroslaw Kaczynski do now?” says Polish magazine Do Rzeczy
Nevertheless, all of these negative views of the winning party are not shared by the Polish people nor Polish media. In theory, PiS is a right-wing, national-conservative party. PO is also a right-wing party. The true far right, Eurosceptic party of Poland is KORWiN (Coalition for the Renewal of the Republic – Liberty and Hope). But PiS’ campaign was depicted as caring about the interests of Poland and of Polish people. In the public opinion, Poland has indeed received a huge amount of funds but in return their political moves were dictated by the EU’s most powerful governments, which are Western European countries. Poles reckon that the PO government has sold everything (especially banks and supermarkets) to foreigners and speculators, thus Polish little companies have perished. The reason why Polish people have voted for PiS is that they have wished for some changes in the internal situaiton of the country but also in their everyday life. PO being pro-EU was not well-perceived by Poles in the end. Harsh critics has been made against the President of the European Council Donald Tusk and the former prime minister Ewa Kopacz, depicted as puppets of the EU. Poland is starting to refuse the authority of Western Europe, for instance regarding the quotas of migrants it is told to welcome. The new government promised to make the voice of Poland to be heard. Right after the elections, Polish newspapers have written that Poles are looking at the new government with hope for a better change.
The main motto of the Western European medias is „be aware of PiS governing Poland”. It is not well accepted that a conservative, Eurosceptic and xenophobic party, as they call it, was allowed to form the new government representing Poland. These are the statements that can be found in Western European countries’ newspapers and their influence on the population is huge. They know they play an important role in shaping the public opinion. The position of the media will divide the EU more and more. However, we cannot hide the fact that this government has been elected in a democratic way. This is the answer of the Polish people towards their difficulties and worries. So rather than being a Polish crisis, as we can read in the newspapers in Western European countries, it should be called a European crisis, and more specifically a European identity crisis : Poles feel before anything else Polish rather than European. The national values got the upper hand on the European unity. We could sense it during Poland’s new prime minister Beata Szydło’s speech : only Polish white-red flags could be seen. No European flag. Not anymore.
Newspaper wSieci nr 46 16-22 november 2015 : article „Niezły rząd wielkich nadziei”, Piotr Zaremba
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