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Little Luck for the Left in Central and Eastern Europe

Little Luck for the Left in Central and Eastern Europe

Little Luck for the Left in Central and Japanese Europe

Proper-wing events, nationalists, populists, and Euroskeptics gained seats in final month’s European elections, particularly in Hungary and Poland. The left, in distinction, suffered quite a few defeats.

Sławek Blich ▪ June 12, 2019
Viktor Orbán speaks at a European Individuals’s Get together occasion. (European Individuals’s Get together/Flickr)

Proper-wing events, nationalists, populists, and Euroskeptics in CEE carried out strongly in final month’s European elections, particularly in Hungary and Poland, the place they gained greater than half of their nations’ respective seats. The outcomes recommend the continent is heading towards extra fragmentation and instability. However for all of the potential ramifications, the extra strong presence of the far-right—about 25 % of the seats—within the European Parliament signifies that the social conflicts already existent on the nationwide degree at the moment are mirrored in Europe-wide establishments. “That is what illustration is all about,” Polish thinker Andrzej Leder famous after the outcomes got here in. “In any other case, these establishments can be lifeless.”

The excessive turnout in CEE—for instance, over 40 % in each Hungary and Poland—signifies that the EU is not perceived as a distant, cold-hearted paperwork obsessive about regulatory trivia, like making an attempt to ban straight bananas (a well-liked anti-Europe fable). It now seems that the voters in CEE determine with the EU and need to interact in each supportive and important debate over European establishments and insurance policies.

That’s the excellent news. In the meantime, it has turn into clear to many who Europe should change. The dangerous information is the left all through your complete area has discovered itself an insignificant participant on this debate.

The next are snapshots of election leads to Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, and Slovakia.



“We’re witnessing the top of the normal divide between a social-democratic working class and a conservative center class that votes for Christian democracy,” wrote journalist Kaja Puto for Krytyka Polityczna.

For many years, the political consensus within the European Parliament has been dominated by one in every of two political teams, the European Individuals’s Celebration (EPP) or the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D). However on this yr’s elections, neither group got here out with a transparent majority.

For thinker Andrzej Leder, the collapse of the centrist consensus signifies that the political state of affairs in Europe has turn into extra harmful. However, he says, it has additionally turn into extra genuine: “Actual social conflicts have surfaced and demanded political illustration.”

The Euroskeptics did nicely in Poland, the place the ruling, right-wing Regulation and Justice Celebration (PiS) acquired 46 % of the vote. Headed by Jarosław Kaczyński, PiS was particularly profitable in smaller cities and villages, the place its right-wing populist message fell on receptive ears. The demographic make-up of PiS’s voters is dangerous information for the left; the social gathering gained robust help not solely amongst rural populations, but in addition among the many unemployed and people with low ranges of schooling. In distinction, European Coalition, the most important liberal and pro-European rival of PiS, carried out greatest amongst enterprise house owners, professionals, and people with greater schooling, ending with 37.9 %.

The left, nevertheless, was demolished. Even with an financial redistributivist and pro-Europe program, it as soon as once more did not cross the electoral threshold. “We dissatisfied 16 million working individuals in Poland,” says Piotr Ikonowicz, a social employee and candidate of the Razem (Left Collectively) coalition, which garnered simply 1.three % of the vote. “For thirty years, I’ve been repeating that a poor individual shouldn’t be free. And nobody listened to me. Then Kaczyński got here, stated the identical factor, and gained.”

Kaczyński has taken benefit of Poland’s relative financial success to introduce quite a few social insurance policies designed to assist the poorest individuals. He lowered the retirement age, and launched probably the most vital social switch program because the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989—a advantage of 500 złoty ($150) a month for each baby.

Behind PiS and the European coalition got here new political social gathering Wiosna (Spring), led by former Słupsk mayor and outspoken homosexual activist Robert Biedroń. Biedroń based his social-democratic and pro-European social gathering in February in a bid to revive the Polish left and tackle the nation’s conservative political institution and the affect of the Catholic church. “I would like Poles to lastly have a selection” he stated in interview with Krytyka Polityczna. “I would like them to lastly have the ability to vote for somebody—and never towards somebody. I would like the Spring get together to advocate for the progressive European requirements: clear air, separation of state and church, equality and better wages.”

However Wiosna gained simply 6.1 % of the vote (solely PiS, European Coalition, and Spring crossed the electoral threshold). Spring’s disappointing efficiency displays the persistent bifurcation of Polish politics; excessive voter turnout additionally deprived events that tried to transcend the pro- or anti-PiS divide.

Fortuitously, the Polish neo-fascists carried out poorly as nicely. Preliminary exit polls confirmed the extreme-right Confederation—a radical formation that challenged PiS from the proper with an ultra-religious, nationalistic, anti-Semitic, and anti-abortion agenda—with properly above 6 %. Finally, although, they didn’t cross the electoral threshold, ending with four.55 % of the vote.



Fidesz, the ruling right-wing social gathering in Hungary, acquired 52.1 of the vote, crushing the atomized opposition. Fidesz beat the runner-up left-leaning Democratic Coalition by 36 proportion factors, whereas the liberal Momentum Motion completed third with almost 10 %. For the primary time ever, Momentum will ship representatives to the European Parliament.

The previously anti-Semitic, ultra-nationalistic, and xenophobic Jobbik celebration collapsed, profitable only one seat and roughly 6 % of the vote. Jobbik’s current try to hide its far-right previous and re-emerge as a centrist group did not win voters’ confidence. Aside from some minor satellite tv for pc events, there’s presently no pressure to the appropriate of Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz in Hungarian politics.

“In Orbán’s political creativeness, the Fidesz social gathering is the political incarnation of the Hungarian nation, representing the all of society and fulfilling a historic mission in its identify,” stated Szilárd-István Pap, an editor at Hungary’s Mérce on-line day by day.

Viktor Orbán’s get together once more ran a marketing campaign dominated by anti-migrant rhetoric. “Victory within the elections imply that Hungarians have entrusted us to stem immigration in all of Europe,” Orbán advised his supporters at a victory rally in Budapest. In the course of the marketing campaign, he once more used the slogan “Let’s cease immigration!” and promised to guard “Christian tradition” in Europe.

“Orbán’s get together invested the entire state equipment in inducing worry of Muslim immigration within the individuals and mobilising them to vote for Fidesz,” says Pap. Bolstering the phantasm of a homogenous Hungarian nation supporting Fidesz brings lots of political advantages, Pap concludes. “You possibly can remove smaller political opponents, singlehandedly change the structure, and in Brussels, you possibly can veto each decision claiming that’s what the nation needs.”


The Czech Republic

What does a rustic not historically concerned about European affairs need? The established order, it appears. The Czech European elections have been as soon as once more gained by the center-right ANO 2011 social gathering, headed by billionaire prime minister Andrej Babiš, with 21.2 % of the vote.

The dynamics of Czech politics haven’t modified considerably because the final nationwide elections in 2017. The conservative Civic Democratic Get together (ODS), which got here in second place with 14.5 %, will be a part of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) grouping within the European Parliament. The Polish PiS is among the most essential members of ECR, which Czech filmmaker and journalist Apolena Rychlíková calls the “mild far proper.”

“I’m afraid that ODS is true in terms of one factor,” Rychlíková advised me. “Conservatives and nationalists have extra to supply at present than the left, which received burnt in so many nations that the European Socialists and Democrats have scored their traditionally worst outcome.”

The leads to the Czech Republic have been grim certainly for the left. The most important loser was the Social Democratic Social gathering (ČSSD), which gained slightly below four % of the vote, failing to cross the electoral threshold. Many citizens have turned away from the social democrats since they joined the ruling coalition authorities with the controversial Babiš, who’s mired in a corruption scandal. And whereas the social democrats lend legitimacy to Babiš, the oligarch prime minister has been capable of declare the success of the ČSSD’s social insurance policies as his personal.   

The professional-European, anti-establishment Pirate Celebration, which anticipated a greater end result, additionally had a disappointing third place displaying, with roughly 14 %. Nonetheless, says Rychlíková, the one advantage of these elections is that Pirate managed to mobilize younger voters and put environmental points on the agenda. They’re the one progressive celebration that may compete with Prime Minister Babiš’s get together.



Lastly, a constructive shock in neighboring Slovakia. Right here, the elections have been gained by a coalition of political newcomers—the liberal, pro-European actions Progressive Slovakia (PS) and SPOLU (TOGETHER), which ran on a joint record and acquired 20.1 % of the vote. They beat the nominally social democratic ruling social gathering SMER, which is mired in a nexus of allegations of enterprise crimes and political corruption.

Help for SMER quickly decreased after the 2018 double homicide of investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and Kuciak’s fiancée. The 2 have been each twenty-seven years previous. Kuciak had uncovered authorities corruption and alleged authorities hyperlinks to the Italian mafia. After information of the murders broke, lots of of hundreds of Slovaks took to the streets. Robert Fico, the chief of SMER who was then serving as prime minister, resigned. In March 2019, Zuzana Čaputová, an anti-corruption lawyer and activist (and deputy chair of Progressive Slovakia), was elected prime minister, buoyed by the anti-corruption protests.

The murders of Kuciak and his fiancée hit a nerve in Slovak society, says Marta Šimečková, a journalist and member of the Central European Discussion board whose son, Michal Šimečka is a newly elected MEP and Vice-Chairman of Progressive Slovakia. The 2 younger individuals turned symbols of innocence and repair to their nation. The long-lasting mass protests in Slovakia united individuals throughout totally different political ideologies, led to the autumn of the federal government, and made area for brand spanking new political forces.

Like in Poland, the Slovak elections have been dominated by pro- and anti-EU dichotomy. However, Šimečková informed me, these outcomes have modified the political map in Slovakia.

Sławek Blich is an editor and journalist at

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