European Election Fever

23 10 2007

Photo: Lech Kaczynski (left) just sworn in his brother as Prime Minister of Poland, 2006

In a truly remarkable national election, the Polish people rejected the far-right coalition government: The autocratic rule of the ‘potato heads’ in Poland has reached its end, as the far-right PiS of President Lech and Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski (see picture above) lost not only its pole position, but also its right-extremist coalition partners, such as the League of Polish Families and the populist, rural-based Self Defence Party, did not pass the 5% threshold. Nevertheless, Lech Kaczynski’s term ends in 2010.

But one has to credit the conspiratorial and religious conservative Kaczynskis: They have mobilized the electorate, particularly the young generation absent at the ballot in previous general elections. The voting was extended for a few hours and police had to provide urgent needed supply of ballot papers to polling stations in the large cities like Warsaw or Danzig. In a voter turn-out unknown of since the fall of communism in 1989, the Polish voters put Europe again at its heart, ousted a far-right government crumbling under corruption allegations and also increasingly isolating themselves within the European Union. After two years in office, a political ‘experiment’ ended and the far-right in Poland lost out. The country has the chance of a new start with Donald Tusk and his liberal Civic Platform Party (PO), which earned about 42% of the vote share. Just like Austria in 2002, where the Jörg Haider’s FPÖ lost 2/3s of its electoral share, so did the far-right here; but Austrian politics took a different path with a prolonged political ‘experiment’, even more scurrile than the political beliefs of the two ‘potato heads’. But this has all come to an abrupt and welcoming end to the international community.

Of course, the story in Switzerland, where also national elections took place that day, was vastly different. The electorate evidently supported a disgusting hate campaign against asylum seekers and foreigners instigated by the far-right SVP under its leadership of Christoph Blocher, who covers the Justice and Police Affairs in the Swiss government. The SVP again extended its pole position in the Nationalrat with about 28% of the share of the popular vote. Nevertheless, the Green Party was the second winner in one of the most controversial election campaigns in the country’s history, and the party secured about 10% of the votes.

It might be seen as a positive sign that all the other political forces in parliament discuss options of excluding the SVP from power, consequently abandoning the country’s tradition of a concordance democracy, where all parties represented in parliament for am national government. The danger of that strategy is, of course, a victimization of the SVP, which might even rally more support for its xenophobic leadership.

But there was a sign of hope. For the first time, a black candidate was elected to the Nationalrat. Ricardo Lumengo, a former national of Angola, found refuge in Switzerland in 1982 where he gained a law degree. “I am happy and proud”, he said, to carry the African and Swiss culture in his heart. Lumengo thinks that the support was to send out a signal for a different Switzerland, rejecting the messages of hate and fear spread by Blocher and the SVP. Despite the loss of 3.80% of the vote share and now reduced to 19.50%, the Socialdemocrats made clear gains in the political arena with Ricardo Lumengo.

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One response

23 10 2007
Tom Hansen

I think this is good for Europe :-)
Those twins are really mad.

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