A Letter from Warszaw
„If there was ever any doubt that perseverance pays off, this doubt dissipated during this year’s European election in Poland where the Law and Justice party (PiS) gained the most votes. A party of euro-sceptics, nationalists, ultra-conservatives wishing to relegate the position of women back to the Dark Ages; a party of homophobes who gives neo-Nazis nothing more than a slap on the hand for hijacking peaceful parades during national holidays – this party has taken the European Elections in Poland by storm, despite record-high participation levels. Why? Because they put in the biggest effort, and they believe in what they do.
Thousands of hours spent on campaigning, meeting with constituents in the most remote corners of the country, thousands of billboards on buses, private fences and roadsides, and – especially – not giving up the fight even in the centres of large cities, home to thousands of liberal-minded, educated voters, despite their chances for support being flimsy at best. The Law and Justice party (PiS) did not shrink in the face of unlikely odds, if you like it or not. This is the power of conviction for one’s cause in all its glory.
I regularly travel to different parts of the country for business and for family reasons. For the past month everywhere I went, I saw PiS posters, flyers, and billboards. I heard about PiS candidates touring the area or planning to visit with constituents. This was true for literally every single part of the country I was in, whether north, south or centre. In contrast, I saw very little presence of PiS’ rivals. The European Coalition concentrated its campaigning efforts in areas it pre-emptively assumed to be supportive, such as big cities – ceding all other territory to PiS candidates. One could say that the liberals let whole communities of voters go without a fight. Without so much even as an attempt.
Neither PiS nor Wiosna, a new pro-European party, had a problem with a lack of conviction. However, opinion polls show that while the main motivation for supporting PiS was that voters truly believe in the party, its programme and its leaders, the same was not true for voters of the European Coalition. Constituents voting for the European Coalition were mostly motivated by “stopping the other parties”. This does not mean that the European Coalition – consisting of the moderate Civic Platform (PO), the rural-minded Polish Folk Party (PSL), the Left Democratic Alliance (SLD), the liberal Nowoczesna, and the Green Party – failed completely. However, it is doubtful that the compromises, which the liberals made, really paid off.
Being a liberal, I must admit that PiS has won this fight honestly. The sheer amount of hours on the road and the blood, sweat, and tears put in by its party members have made PiS the winners of this election – because voters appreciated the effort invested in them. People cannot help but respect opponents coming into their den even when they know that this is enemy territory. People respect clearly articulated values and beliefs, even if they are just emotionally charged slogans designed to manipulate the public.
If liberal values are to prevail in Europe anytime soon, we must watch, learn, and stop apologizing for what we truly believe in – if we indeed believe in liberal values. Wiosna's third place and PiS's first place testify to hard work and true conviction being the winning recipe for political gains. What also becomes clear is that compromise is “out” this season.”
Wahlbeteiligung Europawahl 2019: 46%
Sitze im Europäischen Parlament: 51 Sitze
- Nowoczesna, im Wahlbündnis mit der Bürgerplattform, Democratic Left Alliance, Polish People’s Party, Green Party (38,47%): 22 Sitze, darunter 0 ALDE-Sitze