In the recent Polish elections which took place last week, the right wing Law and Justice party won an overall majority in the lower house of Parliament, the Sejm, meaning that for the first time in Polish post communist history a party can govern without external support from another party. While the dominating party prior to the elections was the Civic Platform, a centre right party, and thus the shift further to the right may not be an entirely dramatic shock, the Law and Justice party platform is still much more nationalistic and Eurosceptic than that of the Civic Platform, which could have serious repercussions on EU stability at a time when it is vital. The fact that no left wing parties can participate in electoral coalitions, failing to achieve the eight per cent threshold necessary, is indicative of the somewhat flailing state of the left across large parts of Europe and the need for a radical overhaul of its strategies as increasingly right wing parties are achieving considerable success across the continent.
One of the central campaigns of the Law and Justice party in the run up to the elections was its anti-refugee rhetoric, which clearly resonated with a lot of voters. The new government’s opposition to accepting large numbers of refugees despite the crisis across Europe, and given that economically Poland is still enjoying expansion, was the only European state not to fall into recession in 2008 and as of present has taken next to no refugees, the position of the Law and Justice party will certainly further inhibit the development of a united EU strategy on tackling the crisis, and potentially cause friction with fellow EU members. Along with Cameron in Britain, the right wing minority government formed in Denmark, and Hungary and several other states who have been hostile to the migrant quota’s proposed and are seeking to redirect refugees to other countries, consensus is becoming increasingly unattainable on the issue.
What is certainly more concerning though is the pattern across Europe of the rise of right wing parties. The Swedish Democrats, who in an August poll were voted the most popular party in Sweden, began as a white supremacist group, and the neo fascist group Golden Dawn came third in Greece’s last elections. Not only do these parties exacerbate the refugee crisis, but also social harmony and integration, as there have been increasing numbers of anti-Islamic protests across the continent. The right in Poland also gained support from frustration of younger generations who have not benefited from the economic prosperity in the country. The right within Poland clearly harnessed popular discontent much more successfully than the left, stressing the need for a potential re-evaluation of the left’s tactics.
However, all is not lost for the left of Europe. Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal and Romania are all currently governed by centre-left or left wing parties, and the tremendous success of Corbyn is also reassuring. Mobilisation is vital, as while there has been huge mobilisation protesting against refugees, grassroots left wing movements such as Momentum in Britain have proved hugely successful. During this time of economic and demographic crisis, centrist politics appear to be failing to address the concerns of citizens. Strong messages of anti-austerity have proved to be just as popular as anti-refugee rhetoric, and so the left in Europe needs to assert itself more on a radical agenda to prevent the far right dominating European politics.
Image: Piotr Drobik