A few times I’ve seen the present Polish government included in the list of parties that represent rightwing backlash against the globalist technocracy that is largely in charge of Europe. This is wrong as most of the population remains firmly in favor of the EU and migration issues played almost no role in the election.
What happened was a bit different. Everybody had gotten sick of the Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska) which was wrapping up eight years of rule that was more successful than not. But, the head of the party Donald Tusk had gone off to Brussels and his successor lacked the political savvy to keep the fractious members in line.
There had also been some scandals (not worse than other governments but they were there). Essentially the party had run out of steam and was phoning it in.
The Law and Justice Party (PiS) seemed to have been changing. It had been the domain of Jarosław Kaczyński, a poisonous little toad without a shred of diplomacy or tact of democratic feeling. But he seemed to fade into the background along with the rest of the rest of the toxic fossils in his inner circle. In his place a young (comparatively speaking) more dynamic cohort was coming to the fore headed by Beata Szydło. She was the mastermind of the brilliant campaign where the young and hungry Andrzej Duda upset PO’s Bronisław Komorowski*, who looked the part but was prone to gaffes and lethargy.
Polish voters overwhelming wanted her, but they got him….
Szydło also led PiS’s campaign for parliamentary elections which saw the party appealing to broad parts of the public that had avoided it. It seemed to be morphing into a standard Christian Democrat party like those of Western Europe (a natural for Poland given its history and local values). She had promised that certain figures would not have a place in her government and promised to concentrate on improving Poland’s traditional skimpy social safety net and stimulating the economy to create better paying jobs. They even gained a lot of support from younger urban voters with higher education (a traditional weak spot for PiS).
They won the election handily and on election night moments after the polls closed Kaczyński returned taking credit for winning and all but physically shoving Szydło to the sidelines. A day or two later “rumors” surfaced that Szydło might not be prime minister after all. The public reaction was very negative and she ended up becoming prime minister but has mostly been kept out of the spotlight.
Kaczyński even brought back the Smolensk obsessed Antoni Macierewicz one of the most toxic and polarizing figures in the country to head the military.
Many younger voters felt betrayed by the turnaround and cynics like me did their best imitations of a black lady in hindsight:
That’s me on the left, just after the election talking to everybody I knew
Poland does not yet have enough migrants to stir anti-migrant feeling (though the number is growing and there was strong opposition to settling the “refugees” Angela Merkel invited to Europe in Poland.
I’m not saying PiS will never become a nationalist anti-foreigner party but that’s off the radar at present. The best description of PiS would be “Socially conservative socialists” and a big part of their agenda since the election has been to return elements of the Polish People’s Republic.
*technically a sitting president is not allowed to belong to a political party, but each party supports a particular candidate in presidential elections