After Spain’s post-national elections, Poland is shaping up to be another case of post-national democracy in Europe: the Civic Platform leader Donald Tusk turned up in London this weekend to launch a campaign swing pitching for the votes of thousands of Polish expatriates. The polls suggest the Poles are quite narrowly divided; the contribution of the emigrants might be decisive.
As an Polish academic points out, they are also likely to swing towards the Civic Platform:
“They are generally students or graduates and pretty open-minded. It’s hard for a xenophobe to live in London, for example, for too long,” he said.
“And these people are Donald Tusk’s electorate. His party, Civic Platform, believes in openness in Europe and doesn’t play on a strong ethnocentric/nationalist discourse, unlike the ruling Law and Justice Party.”
Is this a case of demographic politics as well as European integration? Arguably, the Kazcynskis have been keen to ease their unemployment problem whilst not doing anything to worry an older electorate by shipping annoying young people to the UK. Whether Tusk can bring off the reverse manoeuvre with their votes is a good question – only 6,000 Poles in the UK voted in 2005, the peak year for Polish immigration. However, this phenomenon will probably lag substantially.
Unsurprisingly, given the probable balance of forces, the Polish government hasn’t really done much to ensure that expatriates can vote – there is no postal voting – although emigration and expatriation are hardly rare in Polish history.
There have been repeated expectations that this year, or this decade, will see a “European generation”; but usually, the people who are expected to be this turn out to enjoy the benefits of integration without thinking about it very much. If there ever is, perhaps it will be Tusk’s people?