Post-National Elections: Poland

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?

6 thoughts on “Post-National Elections: Poland

  1. The level of Polish employment is nearly 5% up on this time last year…and I guess it wasn’t just young unemployed people who left to the West anyway. No doubt many of the more qualified already in good jobs left.

    Of course the current good economic headlines, arguably, have little to do with the current government.

  2. Hi Keith,

    “The level of Polish employment is nearly 5% up on this time last year…”

    Yes, and unemployment is also way down year on year. But this problem is much more complex than it seems, since large parts of the east european economy are in danger of significant overheating, and guess why? Due to labour shortages.

    The Baltics are the best known and most obvious case, but Romania and Poland may not be far behind (see these preliminary calculations Claus Vistesen did earliet in the summer). Ukraine is even starting to suffer from what we might call the Baltic syndrome (see post to come later today).

    The core of the issue is very strong out-migration in societies who have now had nearly twenty years of very low fertility. There just aren’t enough people in the right age groups to do all the work that the strong growth is producing. Poland has had to release people from prison to work on the 2010 football stadiums, and has been sending missions to India to look for labour.

    The problem is only added to, ironically, by all the remitances. The IMF have ben the first to pick this up in the Moldovan case and again I have a post in preparation on this very topic. Essentially the incoming remittances fuel domestic demand, but at the same time there is a shortage of labour. This position is made even worse by the fact that a lot of the money goes into construction activity, and again many of the mortgages people take out are not denominated in zloty, so if the thing bursts at some point there will be a mess.

    Of course, all those Poles are very good news for the UK and Ireland, but that, I feel, is beside the point. Where did all those old “your country needs you” posters end up? Maybe it’s time they were brought out of cold storage.

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