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EPP-ECR conservative coalition project could break down in Poland

Thousands of Poles with pro-European banners march to celebrate Poland's 15 years in the EU
Thousands of Poles with pro-European banners march to celebrate Poland's 15 years in the EU Copyright Czarek Sokolowski/Copyright 2019 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Czarek Sokolowski/Copyright 2019 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Sergio Cantone
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According to the Euronews Super Poll, Polish conservative forces are to win the European elections in the Eastern European country. However, deep rifts between the two main parties could affect the creation of the European Parliament's conservative coalition.

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The deep rift between the right and the centre-right in Poland could hinder the making of an overarching EU conservative coalition despite overwhelming popular support for Polish conservatives, according to the Euronews Polls Centre's analysts.

The Euronews Superpoll examining odds ahead of the 6-9 June European elections predicts a neck-to-neck race between the nationalist right-wing Law and Justice or PiS party chaired by Jarosław Kaczyński and the moderate conservatives of Civic Coalition (Koalicja Obywatelska, KO), the current ruling party in Poland.

According to the most recent projections, the ultra-conservative PiS has surpassed, for some few voting intentions, the EPP's affiliates' ruling coalition of Prime Minister Donald Tusk between early March and late May.

Since March, the far-right and outspokenly anti-EU party, Konfederacja (non-attached), has lost some vote intentions that have apparently migrated to PiS, allowing this ultra-conservative force to undertake the pro-EU KO.

At the European Parliament, PiS remains a key member, along with the Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni's Brothers of Italy, of the nationalist right-wing group European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), while PM Tusk's KO is one of the most important European People's Party (EPP) affiliates along with the German CDU and the Spanish PP.*

The Polish political framework remains important in observing the dynamics, contradictions, and potential for crafting a wider ruling euro-conservative coalition between the EPP and the ECR, as hinted to by the political entente de facto sealed by the president of the European Commission, the German Ursula von der Leyen (EPP), and Meloni.

The figures are crystal clear: Poland, politically speaking, is steadily settled on the right side of the EU political spectrum. The sum of the conservative voting intentions reaches almost 80%. However, the political reality of the conservatives in this country is deeply divided.

Why is this the case?

Diverging visions of the EU's principles and values are the primary source of tensions and antagonism between KO, PiS, and Konfederacja.

The power games among leaders are also a cause of the deep rift among Polish moderate and ultra-conservative forces.

They have a solid common ground based on patriotic values, a quite active anti-Russian approach to the Ukrainian war, and strong pro-US and pro-NATO sentiments.

Members of the new voluntary Territorial Defense Troops march with Poland's national flags
Members of the new voluntary Territorial Defense Troops march with Poland's national flagsCzarek Sokolowski/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved

Yet, despite their conservative roots and a huge convergence on defence and security matters, both PiS and KO remain unlikely to band together in a potential coalition at the European Parliament level, Tomasz Kaniecki from the Euronews Polls Centre suggests.

"It's purely about tactics and mechanisms; on paper, the situation could look more or less the same, but these are parties that are in eternal conflict, a conflict on the basis of political values, respect of the rule of law, independence of the institutions, respect of their partners," Kaniecki said.

The left and the centre-left in Poland have been weak for years, meaning that the only real rivalry has occurred between moderate conservatives and ultra-conservatives in Poland.

The rule of law question has been a polarising factor between Poland's two main parties for almost a decade.

Kaczyński's PiS party entered into open conflict with Brussels on issues such as the judiciary's independence when it ruled Poland.

The ultraconservative government staunchly opposed the migration policy of the bloc and the continent's values regarding women's rights and freedom of choice by pushing for restrictive national legislation on abortion.

While often going head-to-head with Brussels, however, the ultra-conservatives are not against Poland being an EU member state.

On environmental issues, Poland and its ultra-conservative forces have acted as vocal critics of the EU's decarbonisation pledges.

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"The ruling party will be, in theory, way more pro-renewable sources because they believe it's the right way to go. PiS would be deploying renewables at the same time, defending the coal industry," Kaniecki said.

Simply put, it all boils down to rhetoric. In Poland, even the ultra-conservatives believe that Poland cannot turn its back on EU funds and the financial benefits of its Green Deal.

Poland held a national election last October, followed by local elections in April. In both electoral races, the ultra-conservatives received more votes than their moderate rivals.

But last autumn, the centre-right became the ruling force only because the ultra-conservatives failed to form a coalition due to internal disagreements.

The issue of individual liberties and the personal rivalry between Tusk and Kaczyński have been constant divisive factors between their respective parties. On paper, they are both uncompromising forces, Kaniecki explained.

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"On any number of topics, both KO and PiS might be voting exactly the same, as well as on some specific regulation. But it will never happen in a formal coalition. And we go again to politics: they would never be together," concluded Kaniecki.

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