Poland’s far right Andrzej Duda will go into the second round in the presidential election with an increased vote, while the fascist vote has also risen sharply. And in France, the municipal elections have produced one key gain but otherwise mixed results for the cleaned-up fascists of the Rassemblement National, formerly the Front National.
Provisional results (with 99.78% of votes counted) for the first round of Poland’s presidential election on Sunday 28 June put Duda, the outgoing president who comes from the far right PiS party, in first place but without passing the 50% threshold needed to avoid a second round. He stands on 43.7%, up from the 34.8% he took in the first round in the previous election of 2015.
Duda’s main challenger is the liberal mayor of Warsaw, Rafał Trzaskowski, who took 30.3% of the vote and will face him in the run-off. Another 13.8% voted for independent candidate Szymon Hołownia, a TV personality and former journalist.
But alongside the rising vote for far right Duda, the polls also saw gains for the Konfederacja – the lash-up between fascist Ruch Narodowy and hardcore far right politician Janusz Korwin-Mikke. It took 6.8% of the vote.
Last time around, Korwin’s self-titled party took only 3.26%, while a tiny 0.52% cast their votes for RN – an electoral alliance between two mainly paramilitary groups, the National-Radical Camp (Obóz Narodowo-Radykalny – ONR), the modern successor to a pre-war Polish fascist movement of the same name and the All-Polish Youth (Młodzież Wszechpolska – MW).
These fascist organisations lead the huge marches through Warsaw on Poland’s Independence Day each November, on which we report regularly.
In an election that was largely a two-horse race between Duda and Trzaskowski, the 6.8% taken by Konfederacja candidate Krzystof Bosak, a former chair of the fascist MW, is a significant vote.
Analysis of exit poll data from Ipsos shows that support for the fascist candidate was far higher among the youngest segment of the electorate, with 21.7% of voters aged between 18 and 29 giving Bosak their support.
There is a dynamic relationship between Duda and his PiS government, and the RN fascists, with the RN acting as a ginger group urging Duda and the PiS rightwards, while every shift by the ruling party in turn legitimises and boosts the fascists.
Targeting LGBT and Jewish people
As with last year’s parliamentary elections, Duda fought a presidential election campaign that tapped into the homophobic theme pushed by the fascists – the supposed dangers of “LGBT ideology”.
The Konfederacja also campaigns on the antisemitic slogan, “Stop 447” – opposition to a US law requiring US authorities to report to Congress on different countries’ progress in compensating Holocaust survivors (or their heirs) for property seized during the Holocaust.
Such rhetoric has also been echoed by the PiS. And in the presidential elections, Poland’s public broadcaster TVP has wheeled out a series of antisemitic jibes in propagandistic coverage aimed at boosting Duda.
As the votes were counted, the Konfederacja announced that it would not endorse either candidate for the second round run-off, allowing it to maintain a critical stance towards Duda.
But it also suggested voters should “follow their conscience” – so Konfederacja voters could transfer their allegiance to Duda, in a run-off contest that is too tight to call.
The total far right and fascist vote combined in the first round is 50.5% – enough to give Duda the win if he is able to marshall all of it behind him in the second round, and a very worrying indicator of the continuing rightward direction of politics in Poland.
The Rassemblement National has seized control of the major town of Perpignan – its first gain in such a large town – in France’s municipal elections for local councillors and mayors across the country.
That is a worrying development, allowing the new mayor, Louis Aliot – vice-president of the RN and partner of its leader Marine Le Pen – to use the town with a population of more than 120,000 as a test-bed for RN’s viciously racist policies. Perpignon was a key target in the previous election too and is in the party’s southern heartland.
But elsewhere the party’s fortunes were more mixed.
The election headlines were about a “green wave” as discontent with austerity president Emmanuel Macron saw a series of triumphs for the EELV ecology party in major cities, while Macron’s LREM slumped. In Paris, the centre left Parti Socialiste candidate Anne Hidalgo took the mayoral position, with support from the greens and the left.
Although RN leader Le Pen is still riding high in the opinion polls for the next presidential election – at between 26% and 28%, just above Macron – her party has not been the main beneficiary of discontent with the president and his austerity measures.
And the RN’s vote this time did not see a continuation of the sharp upward trajectory the party has been on since Marine Le Pen took the helm from her father Jean-Marie Le Pen in 2011 and ran in the presidential election a year later.
Marine Le Pen’s strategy of “de-demonisation”, seeking to hide the party’s fascist nature behind a squeaky clean, election-friendly facade has been hugely successful, effectively bringing the party into the mainstream as it has risen.
In the last local elections, in 2014 – analysed in detail here – the then Front National took the substantial towns of Béziers and Fréjus as well as a district of Marseille to add to the former mining town of Hénin-Beaumont that it won on an absolute majority in the first round.
The party also won the smaller towns of Mantes-la-ville, Le Pontet, Hayange, Beaucaire, Cogolin, Villers-Cotterêts and Le Luc.
Fascist splinter group the Ligue de Sud, led by FN founder member Jacques Bompart, took three more towns: Orange, where Bompart has been mayor since 1995, Bollène and the tiny Camaret-sur-Aigues.
This was a breakthrough for the fascist party at town hall level. Its previous best results had seen it take three towns in 1995, gaining a fourth in a 1997 byelection.
In 2014, the FN won 1,496 seats in 463 local councils – up from just 60 in the previous polls.
Gains and losses
But despite the headline gain of Perpignan, the party has failed to build on its 2014 gains in the town halls and has lost support across the country.
Its number of mayoral positions remains much the same. The fascists have retained mayors in Béziers, Fréjus, Hénin-Beaumont, Hayange, Beaucaire, Cogolin and Villers-Cotterêts. And the RN has gained mayors in the towns of Bruay-la-Buissière in the north of France and Moissac in the south.
But it has lost its mayoral positions in Mantes and in Le Luc, as well as its control of the 13th and 14th Marseille districts. The Ligue de Sud has retained Orange and the tiny Camaret-sur-Aigues, but lost Bollène.
This time around, the RN has taken just 840 seats in 258 local councils, a substantial fall on its 2014 results.
Given the French fascist party’s sharp rise in support since the presidential election of 2012 – see our stories here – the fact that its step forward this time is limited to Perpignan offers some respite from its upwards trajectory. And it is encouraging that its base of local councillors has declined.
The party has lost a degree of upwards momentum. But with the far right on the rise internationally, it would be a mistake to write off Europe’s most electorally successful fascist party just yet.