UPDATED: 23 November
Fascists and far right parties have seized on the fiasco of Poland’s local elections – in which results were delayed for a week after the poll last Sunday – to occupy the national electoral offices and demonstrate in cities across the country.
A failure of the computerised counting system means votes had to be counted by hand for the elections to regional assemblies and for city mayors. The results have now finally been announced. In some areas, voters may have to go to the polls for a second round in the elections for city mayors.
The ruling conservative Civic Platform (PO) party won 179 regional assembly seats, putting it ahead of 171 seats for its conservative rival the Law and Justice (PiS) party – a surprise result defying an Ipsos exit poll that may stir the election controversy further.
But PiS won the highest vote, with 26.85%. The PO took 26.36%. The Polish Peasants’ Party, a junior coalition partner in the government, won 159 seats with 23.68%, while the centre left Democratic Left Alliance gained 28 seats with 8.78%.
A shocking 17.9% of the total votes cast for the regional assemblies have been declared invalid.
In the six days before the results were issued, the hardcore fascist National Movement (Ruch Narodowy) and the Congress of the New Right (KNP) jumped on the debacle, along with the nationalist Solidarni 2010 organisation.
On Thursday, fascist and far right demonstrators stormed the headquarters of the PKW election authority where counting by hand was under way, temporarily halting the count. They demanded a re-run of the elections, claiming that in addition to the counting fiasco the elections had been manipulated.
On Saturday, with the election results still undeclared, Ruch Narodowy and the KNP staged demonstrations in Warsaw and cities across Poland. While these demonstrations have been small – up to 100 or 150 people at each – it is worrying that the fascists are able to capitalise on the crisis without challenge.
It is also striking that the KNP is collaborating so closely with Ruch Narodowy.
The National Movement is an alliance of hardcore nazi groups All-Polish Youth (Młodzież Wszechpolska) and the National Radical Camp (Obóz Narodowo-Radykalny). It was formed to fight elections but also maintains its streetfighting cadres, and Nazi-style flags and symobols.
Ruch Narodowy is the organisation that hijacked Poland’s Independence Day celebrations earlier this month, leading off their own march of thousands of fascists and ultra-nationalists to the national football stadium. Rioting broke out against the police en route.
The KNP is a far right organisation with politics that are a mix of ultra-neoliberal economics and extreme social conservatism. It is heavily dominated by its leader Janusz Korwin-Mikke, an MEP, who is against votes for women and claims that Hitler did not know about the Holocaust.
Another KNP MEP, Robert Jarosław Iwaszkievicz, is a key ally of Britain’s far right racist UKIP in the European Parliament. He signed up to the UKIP-led Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy group, staving off its collapse after it was reduced to members from only six states – not the seven needed to form an official group and scoop up millions of euros in funding. Iwaszkievicz has also defended Hitler, in support of his party leader.
The KNP took four seats in the May European elections, with 7.15% of the vote. Ruch Narodowy failed to get an MEP elected, with only 1.39%.\
Neither party won any seats in the regional assemblies after failing to beat the 5% threshhold, the belated local election results have shown.
The Ipsos exit poll last Sunday showed the KNP on just 4.2%, with Ruch Narodowy’s vote predicted to be marginal.
But despite their poor electoral showing, the fascists’ ability to mobilise on the streets – and the alliance formed with the KNP over the local election farce – is cause for serious concern.