Poland, the Presidential Election, and the EU: Is Democracy Dying in Poland?

Poland, the presidential election, and the EU: Is democracy dying in Poland?

The Incumbent president Andrzej Duda has won the Polish presidential election by a narrow margin it was announced on Monday even if overseas votes have not yet been counted in full.

He narrowly beat the pro-European liberal Warsaw mayor Rafal Trzaskowski with ca 51.2% of the vote, the country’s election commission said on Monday.

The turnout for the second round of the Polish election was reported to be 68.2%, the highest rate of voter participation of any presidential election since the first free election in post-communist Poland in 1989.

The electoral commission stated on Monday morning that they were unsure when the final and official results would be announced, with some polling stations yet to submit their results but with over 99% of the votes accounted for, the final result was not expected to change in terms of who will be the victor.

The incumbent president Andrzej Duda is backed by the ruling right-wing Law and Justice party and his political agenda is one of the traditional values and social spending in the mostly-Catholic Poland.

When Duda Declared victory overnight on Sunday he stated in his victory speech the importance of his followers’ turn out to the ballot. He stated “all my compatriots who voted in this election, those who made a lot of effort to be able to cast their ballots.”

The result of the vote is of great importance for the Eastern European country, which has become increasingly polarised under the current government led by Duda’s political allies, the nationalistic and conservative Law and Justice party, (PiS).

The ruling party has been gained support by many Poles for their social policies which have lifted many in the population out of poverty, particularly those living in rural communities in poorer regions. Critics, however, have accused the government of exacerbating social rifts by targeting minorities, like Jews and the LGBT community, as well as eroding democratic norms since it took power in the 2015 elections, a grip that has tightened by the passing of time.

The policies of PIS has brought Poland into a deepening conflict with the European Union, over controversial judicial reforms that have put the court system under political control and a deepening infringement in rights such as press freedom. If elected, the pro-EU candidate Trzaskowski vowed to repair the relationship between Warsaw and the EU, a promise that will not become reality.

Instead, strengthened by their latest victory PIS will be less likely to fold to the demands of the European Union and a deepening rift is a high probability.

The EU has previously mulled sanctions against Poland and Hungary if they do not respect the core values of the EU. A scenario that has become more likely after the latest election. Poles are increasingly divided, a division that can be seen across Europe with liberal pro-EU forces on one side and nationalistic right-wing parties on the other, a conflict that almost mirrors the deepening rift in the US between the democrats and the republicans.

Duda-wins-in-presidential-election in poland

The political battle no longer stands just between the left and the right and the liberals and the conservatives but also between those who want a more open world and those who drive a more nationalistic agenda. This is mirrored by the so-called GAL-TAN scale, The capital letters here indicate the endpoints of the “scale” they stand for Green-Alternative-Libertarian and Traditional-Authoritarian-Nationalist respectively.

Whatever will happen in the wake of this election, one thing is for sure and that is that the rift between the EU and Poland will by no accounts be healed.  With anti-EU forces gaining momentum in some parts of the EU, Perhaps Britain will not be the last country to leave the union?

Leaving the EU will come at a price, not being part of the inner market will come at a heavy price for those who leave. However, the populist message and the promise of a quick fix is often more appealing than addressing the actual issue, an issue that in most EU countries have little or nothing to do with the EU but rather with internal problems or conflict. Blaming someone or something else, however, has often proven to be a successful strategy. Division on the other hand or breaking up a larger unit have however during the course of history seldom proven to be a successful strategy.

In the case of Poland and other East European countries, however, the move towards authoritarian rule might be the end of the democracy so many fought for, and at the same time, Poland risks losing their place in the European family of nations.  A fight so many not only fought for but also died for during the course of history.

Perhaps the words of writer and philosopher George Santayana, who wrote “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” is something we as humans should read and repeat to our self’s over and over and over again.

The author Henrik G.S. Arvidsson is an award-winning researcher and lecturer in international business and marketing. He has over 25 years of experience as a business consultant and currently owns businesses in the fields of business consultancy, fiduciary, recruitment, and logistics.

The co-author Ruslana Arvidsson is a political scientist and business consultant, specialised in innovative governance and innovation.