How Law and Justice Stays Popular in Poland

The nationalists have raised social spending and portray their opponents as either corrupt or fanatical.

Polish Law and Justice party leader Jarosław Kaczyński gives a speech in Białystok, October 23, 2015
Polish Law and Justice party leader Jarosław Kaczyński gives a speech in Białystok, October 23, 2015 (PiS)

Remi Adekoya explains in Foreign Affairs how Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party has been able to remain popular despite truncating democratic norms and institutions and antagonizing the EU:

  • It has raised social spending, specifically for poor rural families with children.
  • It portrays its domestic opponents as corrupt elites fighting to preserve their influence.
  • It portrays its European critics as fanatical multiculturalists and militant secularists who are so obsessed with political correctness they have lost all sense of self-preservation.

Nationalist genie

The challenge for liberal and left-wing opposition parties is how to deal with this eruption of Polish nationalism.

If they adopt Law and Justice’s ideas and rhetoric, there will be nothing to differentiate them from the ruling party. But if they try to paddle against the current, they risk being out of power for as long as this atmosphere prevails.

“A nationalist genie has been let out of the bottle,” writes Adekoya, “and there are few forces that could help restrain it anytime soon.”