Conservative and nationalistic, the Law and Justice Party has taken advantage of the people’s discontent promising change that may come at a very high price

 

Major change is about to sweep across Poland, and the effects could ripple throughout the rest of Europe.

The election of a Law and Justice Party majority in the Polish Parliament could see the growth of anti-immigrant, anti-EU, and nationalistic sentiment throughout Poland—the likes of which are extreme even for the primarily right-wing country.

The recent election signals a dynamic shift in the social and political climate of the country. The Law and Justice Party has been playing on the frustrations and disillusionment many Poles experienced with the previous majority party, Civic Platform, as well as Germany and the EU. And it didn’t take long for party leaders to declare their victory with Jarosław Kaczyński taking to the stage as soon as the preliminary exit polls were released.

‘Polish life can be different. We can be proud of it. We will never have to be ashamed of ourselves, as we did many times in the past, through no fault of ours’, Kaczyński explained to a crowd of supporters on Sunday night.

Taking a majority of the votes, a landslide 37.58 per cent according to analysts, the conservative, Eurosceptic party is expected to control a staggering majority—holding 235 seats in the 460-member Parliament. This comes as a crushing blow to the previous ruling party, Civic Platform, which was only able to secure about 24.09 per cent of the vote.

This election ends the eight-year reign of the party, and marks the first time since the 1989 disestablishment of the communist regime that a single party held such a majority in government.

Described by many as fiscally liberal and socially conservative, the new ruling party rose to power with its simple, but effective, policy platform that played on lingering frustrations. Vowing to crack down on corruption, increase welfare spending, and stop the flow of immigration, the party was very vocal about the changes it wanted to bring to a growing Poland.

But with the party’s hopeful promises comes speculation on how much Poland as a whole will change while under the control of a Justice and Law majority Parliament.

The party itself has close ties with the Roman Catholic Church and hopes to instil those religious values throughout Poland through a policy on abortion, same-sex marriage, gender reassignment, stem cell research, and in vitro fertilization. It’s also very nationalistic, fostering a belief that Poland should hold on to its roots as tightly as possible, rejecting any overwhelming change in race or religion, and pushing out foreign business through tax hikes.

On the current refugee crisis, party leader Jarosław Kaczyński adamantly opposed the acceptance of any migrants, claiming that these refugees bring with them diseases and parasites. He has said that because of these immigrants, there is now ‘cholera on the Greek islands, [and] dysentery in Vienna’.

Law and Justice party leaders have also been very adamant in their disdain for the EU, claiming that it does more harm than good for the county, and does nothing for the average Pole. There’s a severe disenchantment with other European powers—especially Germany—and this election seems to suggest that tensions between Poland and the rest of the EU will only continue to intensify.

And while Poland has grown to be the largest, and most prosperous ex-communist economy in Western Europe—the sixth most populous nation in Europe—there are still significant gaps in earnings and pockets of poverty throughout the country that have many wondering why they haven’t prospered from the growing economy. The Law and Justice Party based most of their platform on rectifying these discrepancies, stressing a need for more governmental assertiveness in foreign affairs and putting  heavy blame on the rest of Europe and the EU.

The party has put forward Beata Szydło as the candidate for Prime Minister, hoping her low profile would gain more support across party lines. But there is no doubt that party leader Jarosław Kaczyński will have major say in governmental proceedings. Many even believe he will take up the position of Prime Minister in a few months time, once the election euphoria has died down.

Even though the results are officially in—ballots counted and seats distributed—there are still so many questions revolving around this election and the newly elected Law and Justice Party that have yet to be answered. With a majority hold in government, it is likely that any policy they are adamantly in favour of will pass through Parliament with ease. That could be a good thing, economically, as the minimum wage will rise, taxes will drop, and more money will go into helping small business. But with common rhetoric of the party revolving around leaving the EU and amending the constitution, many are worried about the fate of the country once this term has run its course.

Will Poland remain in the EU? Will it adopt the Euro? Will it aid in the current refugee crisis?

Only time will tell—and the Law and Justice Party isn’t wasting a single second of it.

 

Sources:

http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/10/22/uk-poland-election-eu-idUKKCN0SG0ES20151022

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/26/world/europe/poland-parliamentary-elections.html

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/25/poland-lurches-to-right-with-election-of-law-and-justice-party

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/10/26/us-poland-election-idUSKCN0SJ00J20151026

http://www.politico.eu/article/polands-government-defeated-in-parliamentary-elections-2/

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/10/15/us-europe-migrants-poland-idUSKCN0S918B20151015

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-10-25/poland-ousts-government-as-law-justice-gains-historic-majority

http://edition.cnn.com/2015/10/26/europe/poland-election/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-34648575