Poland And Slovakia Pivoting To The Right?
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There are two important elections in central Europe in the next few weeks – on the 30th September Slovakia, a euro-zone state, goes to the polls and then on the 15th October Poland votes. In each country, illiberal parties are in the lead – Robert Fico’s Smer has 20% support in the polls while in Poland the incumbent PiS has 37% support with Donald Tusk’s liberal Civic Coalition party on 31% and the three main smaller parties each with close to 9-10%.


A victory for the ‘illiberals’, especially in Poland could have significant implications across European politics – it would deepen the divide between the Commission and countries like Hungary and Poland that do not adhere to the ‘European values’ framework, it could well complicate policy on Ukraine (though ultimately the main Polish parties are resolutely anti-Russian), and it might open up a new ‘Republican’ style debate on European economics.

Here, Polish politicians with some justification, have been lecturing other countries on the strength of Poland’s economy (low debt and high growth). Overall, it signals the rise of an eastern power bloc of different sorts, and one that France and Germany need to pay more attention to. Of note, eastern countries like Poland are also close to the US diplomatically and increasingly in terms of military coordination and equipment.

Poland’s election is, even by the standards of other ages and countries, is a very dirty, contested one, that was poisoned by the introduction of a number of referenda on divisive topics like immigration. In addition, the PiS have not shied away from anti-Germany sentiment and this will have long run consequences.

A bribery scandal where members of the PiS have been found to have offered visas to immigrants for cash has complicated matters further and provoked a row with Germany which has threatened to closely police its border with Poland. Another strange incident has been the banning of Ukranian grain by Poland, Hungary and Slovakia (ostensibly a sop to local farmers) and the brief bn on arms exports by Poland to Ukraine.

In sum, Slovakia’s forthcoming election is an important bell weather, in a Russophile country, and it current likely that Fico will top the polls but not have a majority (Slovakia’s political system is fractured and driven by the rise and fall of new parties).

Poland is more important and a scenario where PiS manage to form a government – with the right-wing Confederation party, will be problematic for the EU, with a great deal of diplomatic damage having already been done.

The next near -term key event in Poland is a march by Tusk’s party on the 1st October that focuses on liberal values, notably women’s rights.

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