Who will run in the European Elections from Poland in 2019? Here’s a quick preview of the political actors.
In 2019 there is one dominant party in Poland, Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość, PiS). PiS’s is a ruled by Jarosław Kaczyński, a former prime minister (2006-7), party co-founder and leader since 2002. PiS is a nationalist-conservative party with a predominant focus on the nation. It was created on the popularity of the then-ousted Justice Minister Lech Kaczyński, who was the party’s main front man until his death in 2010. Lech Kaczyński was elected Warsaw’s mayor (2002-2005) and Poland’s President (2005-2010).
Since the Smoleńsk tragedy (on 10 April 2010 96 people died in a plane crash in Russia, including Poland’s President along many other political figures and veterans) Law and Justice has been re-focusing its center-right positions into more nationalistic and populist stance. Antoni Macierewicz, party’s vice-president, was a leading voice in criticizing the official investigation insinuating that the tragedy in fact was an orchestrated successful assassination of the head of the Polish state. Mr Macierewicz served as Poland’s Minister of Defence between 2015 and 2018.
By combining a policy of national narrative and a strong social redistribution (lowering retirement age; introducing a new financial support for parents) the Law and Justice is able to remain a solid popularity with a support at about 35-40%. Current European affiliation of PiS is ECR.
As a side note, PiS has two junior coalition parties within its coalition. The first is United Poland (Solidarna Polska, SP) under the leadership of Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro, a former MEP. The second is the Agreement (Porozumienie) under the Science Minister Jarosław Gowin, who once was the Civic Platform’s… Justice Minister.
The main opposition party is the Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska, PO). Following its loss of power in 2015 the PO’s leader is Grzegorz Schetyna. Before him the party leadership was Donald Tusk’s (prime minister 2007-14) and Ewa Kopacz (prime minister 14-15). For many years this party was in government pursuing centrist policies. Sometimes the Civic Platform advocates unpopular policy choices (during Tusk’s term the retirement age was risen, salaries in the public administration frozen) and is openly pro-European. One of its leaders, Rafał Trzaskowski, mayor of Warsaw since late 2018, campaigned on a platform of inclusiveness and openness, stability and continuity. Nationally, the current PO support is about 25%. PO’s European affiliation is the European People’s Party (EPP).
A second smaller EPP member in Poland is the Polish People’s Party (Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe, PSL). PSL is an agrarian party and enjoys about 6% of public support. It’s leader Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz is among the most respected across the entire opposition. Hence he is sometimes mentioned as potential future prime minister, should the Law and Justice fail to win 50% of seats in the Sejm following the fall 2019 elections.
The left in Poland is divided. The biggest party is the Democratic Left Alliance (Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej, SLD). This is a party that used to be a dominant force in Polish politics until a major corruption scandal in 2002/3. Since then the party has never recovered and enjoys about 7% support today. Among its most prominent leaders are Aleksander Kwaśniewski (former President of Poland, 1995-2005), Leszek Miller (prime minister 2001-4) and Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz (prime minister 1996-7, MFA 2001-5). Currently SLD has no MPs in the Sejm. The SLD MEPs seat with the S&D group.
The new left-wing party is being established by Robert Biedroń, a former MP and a former mayor of Słupsk, a city of 90,000 people. Biedroń’s party is in their early stages, but the buzz suggests it may result with electing Members of the European Parliament.
On the right-side to the Law and Justice there is the Kukiz’15 formation, which does not have a European affiliation yet. Kukiz’15 entered the Polish politics in 2015 following the success of Paweł Kukiz, a popular rock star, who campaigned on an anti-establishment platform and introduction of directly elected MPs in the presidential race. Mr Kukiz obtained over 20% of the vote. Among his alternative candidates were some far-right politicians of the National Movement. Five of them became MPs in 2015. It was the first time when far-right politicians campaigning with racial slurs became members of the Polish Sejm. Since 2015 the 5 far-right politicians of the National Movement have left Kukiz’15. Kukiz’15 today polls at about 6%.
There are also some smaller parties with limited chances of success in the European elections. .Modern (.Nowoczesna) is a liberal party whose support erode from above 10% in 2015 to below 5% today. Its leader is Katarzyna Lubnauer, but the party was created by a banker Ryszard Petru, who has left the party since. Current Petru party is caller Now (Teraz). Both .N and Teraz best hopes are linked with creation of a major coalition of most of the opposition forces, which is expected to be prepared ahead of the European elections. This was the experience of the local and regional elections in late 2018; PO-.N and other partners campaigning together on a joint list were able to master a better result and push back the Law and Justice out of the cities.
There is also the party Together (Razem), which is a far-left formation, though not a post-communist one. The “new left” was created in 2015 and is polling at about 3%. Its leader is Adrian Zandberg. There is another small political force of Barbara Nowacka called the Polish Initiative (Inicjatywa Polska), which joined the opposition in the local and regional vote last November.
On the far-right there is a number of initiatives. The National Movement, now separated from Kukiz’15, runs under the leadership of MP Robert Winnicki. Janusz Korwin-Mikke, once an outspoken MEP, runs a party called… KORWiN. There are two side-movement from Kukiz’15. The first is called Liberty and Effective (Wolność i Skuteczni), while the next is called Free and Solidary (Wolni i Solidarni) – the last one’s interest steams from the fact that its leader is Kornel Morawiecki, father of the Polish prime minister.
The last actor that might be created for the European elections is the Movement of True Europe (Ruch Prawdziwej Europy, RPE). It has a leader – MEP Mirosław Piotrowski (ECR) and it has the political support of father Tadeusz Rydzyk, director of the omni-influential Radio Maryja. It is unclear if the RPE runs in the European elections. For now many commentators see the talk about its creation as a way to pressure Jarosław Kaczyński’s Law and Justice to include Rydzyk’s affiliates on PiS lists.