How Law and Justice Stays Popular in Poland

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. Read more “How Law and Justice Stays Popular in Poland”

Salvini Would Pick Populists Over Center-Left for Coalition

Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy's Northern League, gives a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, April 29, 2015
Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy’s Northern League, gives a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, April 29, 2015 (European Parliament)

Italy’s Northern League would rather go into coalition with the populist Five Star Movement than the mainstream center-left, its leader, Matteo Salvini, has said.

Speaking in Palermo on Monday, the conservative lamented that the Five Stars are “showing their incompetence where they govern.”

But, he added, “if I were to call someone, I wouldn’t call Renzi or Alfano” — referring to Democratic Party leader Matteo Renzi and Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano, the leader of the small center-right Popular Alternative.

Renzi’s Democrats are polling neck and neck with the Five Star Movement. Salvini’s Northern League is vying with former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia to become the largest party on the right. Support for the Popular Alternative is in the single digits. Read more “Salvini Would Pick Populists Over Center-Left for Coalition”

Why Marine Le Pen Turned on Her Right-Hand Man

Marine Le Pen
Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s National Front, listens to a news conference in Brussels, June 16, 2015 (European Parliament)

Florian Philippot’s ouster from the National Front makes political sense.

Philippot was for years Marine Le Pen’s right-hand man. Together they transformed the reactionary party, which has deep roots in the French Algerian exile community, into a broad Euroskeptic and nativist force that could appeal to rust-belt voters.

They de-demonized the National Front. Le Pen won 34 percent support in this year’s presidential election, doubling her father’s record from fifteen years ago.

But it still wasn’t enough. Read more “Why Marine Le Pen Turned on Her Right-Hand Man”

Duda Hasn’t Stopped Law and Justice from Subjugating Poland’s Courts

Polish president Andrzej Duda answers questions from reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels, January 18, 2016
Polish president Andrzej Duda answers questions from reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels, January 18, 2016 (NATO)

Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, has surprised observers by vetoing legislation from his own Law and Justice party that would have defanged the judiciary.

Closer scrutiny suggests Duda’s opposition is less meaningful than it is made out to be, though.

The president has said he will sign the bills if they are amended and Leonid Bershidsky argues at Bloomberg View that his proposed changes don’t deviate from the legislation’s objective: “to put the judiciary, which the party argues has turned into an elitist caste, under more political control.” Read more “Duda Hasn’t Stopped Law and Justice from Subjugating Poland’s Courts”

Poland’s Ruling Nationalist Party Steps Up Assault on Judiciary

Prime Minister Beata Szydło of Poland listens to a reporter's question in Warsaw, June 28
Prime Minister Beata Szydło of Poland listens to a reporter’s question in Warsaw, June 28 (KPRM)

Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party pushed through more changes to the court system on Wednesday:

  • One bill takes power to appoint members to the National Judicial Council, which is responsible for appointing lower-level judges, away from the judiciary itself and gives it to parliament, where Law and Justice has a majority.
  • The same law removes fifteen of the 25 judges currently serving on the National Judicial Council.
  • A second bill gives the justice minister the power to unilaterally replace court presidents. Read more “Poland’s Ruling Nationalist Party Steps Up Assault on Judiciary”

National Front Has Most to Gain from Becoming Conservative

Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's National Front, listens to a news conference in Brussels, June 16, 2015
Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s National Front, listens to a news conference in Brussels, June 16, 2015 (European Parliament)

France’s National Front will have to reinvent itself after a disappointing election result on Sunday.

The nationalists were hoping to get 40 percent support or more in the presidential runoff, but Marine Le Pen got stuck at 34 percent. Still double her father’s performance when he qualified for the second voting round in 2002, but a letdown nonetheless.

In her concession speech, Le Pen promised voters “profound reform” of her party in order to create “a new political force” for all French “patriots” who oppose the globalism of Emmanuel Macron, the incoming president.

Whether this means starting a new party or rebranding the National Front remains to be seen, but change is in the air. With it could come a struggle for the movement’s identity. Read more “National Front Has Most to Gain from Becoming Conservative”

Germany’s Alternative Succumbs to Infighting as Popularity Fades

With five months to go before parliamentary elections, Germany’s nationalist party is imploding.

Frauke Petry, the charismatic leader of the Alternative für Deutschland, has said she will not lead the election campaign in the fall, in effect conceding defeat in a long-running power struggle.

Petry is officially one of two party leaders, but she sought to become its sole candidate for the chancellorship.

Even if the Alternative would have stood little chance of prevailing in September’s election anyway, a role as Spitzenkandidat could have given Petry more influence.

Her opponents argued for a team of leading contenders representing the various tendencies in the party. Read more “Germany’s Alternative Succumbs to Infighting as Popularity Fades”

The Forces Shaping the French Election: Populism, Pride and Prejudice

Elysée Palace Paris France
The gate of the Elysée Palace, the residence of the French president, in Paris, June 1, 2013 (Nicolas Nova)

And why is it so critical? Nothing less than the European Union is at stake — and with it, the geopolitical contract that has bound Germany and France together since World War II.

After the defeat of anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders early this month in the Netherlands, it is reasonable to ask if populism as shaped by the alt-right has hit its limit. Europeans have watched the confusion in Britain over Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump. Now they are revisiting both their Euroskepticism and their willingness to gamble on ideologies not yet fully tested.

Yet France is subject to powerful forces quite different than the Netherlands, which has only a fraction of its population and international obligations. A large, unassimilated Muslim and African population simmers; an aging, conservative voter base roils; a discredited, weakened left wavers; and nobody knows what to do with the neoliberal threads that hold together the European Union yet impoverish just about anyone not in the upper classes. Read more “The Forces Shaping the French Election: Populism, Pride and Prejudice”

Geert Wilders Isn’t Really Interested in Governing

Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders attends a memorial ceremony in Almelo, March 2, 2015
Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders attends a memorial ceremony in Almelo, March 2, 2015 (RTV Oost/Rogier van den Berg)

The absence of a serious manifesto did not suggest that the Netherlands’ Geert Wilders had any intention of governing after the election on Wednesday. Now two former elected officials of his Freedom Party have confirmed that he isn’t interested in power — especially the responsibility that comes with it. Read more “Geert Wilders Isn’t Really Interested in Governing”

Invisible and Unhinged, Wilders Loses Support in Netherlands

Geert Wilders
Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders speaks at a news conference in Brussels, June 16, 2015 (European Parliament)

Geert Wilders’ strategy of not showing up isn’t doing his Freedom Party much good.

Support for the party, which wants to take the Netherlands out of the European Union and stop immigration from Muslim countries, has gone down in the polls from a 21-percent high in December to 16 percent today.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s liberals are on track to surpass the Freedom Party as the single largest. In some surveys, they already have.

Even if the Freedom Party does place first, it is unlikely to join a coalition government. All other major parties have ruled out an accord. Read more “Invisible and Unhinged, Wilders Loses Support in Netherlands”