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SPOTLIGHT ON POLAND: THE RISE OF KONFEDERACJA

By Agnieszka Mikulska-Jolles

In the last parliamentary election in October 2019, the far-right coalition party Konfederacja Wolność i Niepodległość gained 6.8% of the vote, gaining them 11 seats in Parliament. In October 2020, Konfereracja put forward its candidate for presidential elections – Krzysztof Bosak. He achieved a similar result as the parliamentary election, but importantly was chosen by 20% of voters under the age of 30. 

After these election results, the politicians of Konfederacja started became more visible on the political scene and media, including both public media (TVP Info) and liberal private media rather than just alternative, non-mainstream media as previously. This has allowed them to promote their ideas to a broader audience. At the same time, they have modified their rhetoric to be less overtly radical. 

In addition, Konfederacja is increasingly active on social media, with its follower counts and engagement steadily increasing. According to the research done by journalists of OKO.Press, Konfederacja’s Facebook page was the only one to increase in reach and activity in what would otherwise have been a post-election lull. It gained 2.8 million reactions between July and September, far higher than that of other political parties such as Civic Platforms or Law and Justice, which received much higher vote shares.

The most strong and most visible far-right narratives in Poland are those that concern the issue of LGBT rights and gender equality. One can say that, in general, all right wing politicians are against giving equal rights to the LGBT community and against women rights and gender equality. We can see, however, a kind of diversity among them. In the political program of Konfederacja, the issues of gender and LGBT rights were linked with the issue  of reform of educational system and the rights of the parents to educate their children in their own way, such as suggesting that schools should be private and the parents should decide to which kind of schools they want to send children – these promoting “gender ideology” or “traditional values”. There is also a very strong narrative based on religious argumentation – LGBT and gender equality is against a so-called “natural world order”, and thus cannot be accepted by Catholics. There are also some ideas to introduce a constitutional ban on civil partnerships. There are also some, like Konfederacja parliamentarian Grzegorz Brown who have expressed support for making homosexuality illegal. 

The refugees/migration issue is much less visible in comparison to the situation five years ago, but it still occurs and contains very strong anti-Islamic traits, with Islam portrayed as a threat to Polish culture, religion, public order and as source of terrorism. Far- right media frequently publish articles about crimes committed by migrants or other social problems as being the results of liberal migration policy. Along those lines, the theme of this year’s Polish Independence March, the largest far-right gathering in Europe which counts numerous Konfederacja activists among its organisers, was “Our civilization, our principles”. 

Konfederacja has attempted to capitalise on the pandemic by crticising the measures taken by the government, mainly the restrictions on businesses and movement, as well as lack of sufficient support for small businesses. Some of them, including one of the leader of Konfederacja Grzegorz Braun, have publicly questioned the existence of the pandemic and took part in the demonstrations against Covid- related restrictions both in Poland and Berlin. This agenda has recently included anti-vaccine rhetoric.

Having become a parliamentary party, Konfederacja Wolność i Niepodległość will attempt to strengthen its position in the political mainstream and build their regional structures such as local branches and social clubs. They will also try to attract more middle class voters that are disappointed by the current government, and the worsening economic situation of many people will likely result in a greater interest in radical movements. 

Written by Agnieszka Mikulska-Jolles

State of Hate: Far-Right Extremism in Europe

State of Hate: Far-Right Extremism in Europe is a landmark report exploring the state of far-right extremism across Europe. It is a collaboration between three leading European anti-fascist research organisations: HOPE not hate Charitable Trust (UK), EXPO Foundation (Sweden) and Amadeu Antonio Foundation (Germany). The report includes contributions from 34 leading scholars, researchers and activists from across the continent and 32 country profiles. The report includes an exclusive survey of 12,000 people across eight major European countries (Sweden, France, Germany, UK, Hungary, Poland and Italy), measuring attitudes toward immigration, minoritised communities, feminism and political disaffection.
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