Presidential Elections in Poland and the future trends in the foreign policy

July 4, 2020

Next week Polish citizens will be voting in the second round of the Presidential Elections. The candidate who will achieve the most votes in the second round will be appointed as a President. In Polish parliamentary system, the function of The President is to represent the country internationally. The head of state is also responsible for the official diplomatic relationships with the other countries. The future president will, therefore, have an important influence over the shape pf Polish relationships with other countries.  

On 29th June the media announced the preliminary results of the elections. The first round which took place on 28th June was won by the current president,  Andrzej Duda with 43.7 % of votes. Since 2005, Andrzej Duda’s political career was associated with the presently ruling, Law and Justice Party.  The Second best result in elections was achieved by Rafał Trzaskowski, the current  President of Polish Capital, Warsaw. He had received 30.3% of votes. Rafała Trzaskowski is a candidate associated with another popular political party – the Civic Platform. The second round of elections is planned on 12 July. The candidates who will a receive majority of votes will be elected as a next president of Poland.                                                                                                                                             The current candidates have their roots and are coming from two very different political parties. Those parties, in the past, have been presenting diametrically different views on polish foreign affairs and Poland’s place in Europe.  Before the elections, it is worth to analyse and present the different standpoints on foreign affairs which those parties are holding. The main narratives, as constructed by the political parties aim at the construction of a certain type of state/ nation and improvement of Poland’s position on the international arena. The common ground for competing interpretations is the shared vision of Poland as one of the European leaders.

The first narrative is constructed and circulated by the organisations and politicians located at the right-wing political spectrum. In this narrative, the vision of the foreign policy is inspired by the politics conducted by Jagellonian dynasty of kings who established the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 16th century, by the ideas of Józef Piłsudski, Giedroyc and Mieroszewski. The essence of this politics is a conviction that Poland should cooperate closely with other Eastern European countries (CEE) and become its leader to counterbalance Russian influences in the region. Securing a strong leadership position in Eastern Europe will  simultaneously allow Poland to improve its standing in regards to another strong neighbour – Germany. 

In this narrative Poland aspire to the role of a leader and aim to achieve this position by creating an alliance between Eastern and Central European countries. Poland supports pro-Western trends in the eastern neighbourhood and is acting as a leader which can guide and facilitate the change. 

Poland as the largest country can foster the development of the region and advocate its interests at the European forum. The example of this approach to foreign policy is the establishment of gas connections between the majority of Eastern European countries and securing steady shipments of LNG gas with American companies to replace Gazprom deliveries. 

The Atlanticism, close ties with the United States and the United Kingdom are the most important element of this foreign policy vision. NATO plays an important role in ensuring stability and security in Eastern Europe. The alliance with the UK on the other side can become the counterweight to the growing power of France and German within the EU. Recent Brexit complicated slightly the main assumption of this strategy. 

The principal aims of the right-wing vision of foreign policy can be summarised as follows: close cooperation with NATO, support to the sovereignty of other CEE states, active advocacy for the enlargement of NATO and EU and preventing the renewal of Russian domination in the region. The narrative place in the centre of Polish national interest and stands in opposition to the direction presented by more left-wing or liberal parties.   

The second narrative in Polish foreign policy was formulated and promoted by more liberal or left orientated political actors. This vision of foreign policy often referred to as “Piast” means the westward orientation of foreign policy. The view criticizes over-reliance on the US in construction of foreign policy and promotes openness, dialogue and cooperation with neighbouring countries. The narrative expresses the sceptical attitude towards Polish direct and active leadership in Central and Eastern Europe, arguing that the country does not possess enough economic resources, soft power or cultural attractiveness to become the regional leader. The analysis of the narrative observed the development of a more rigid position toward Russia after the annexation of Ukraine in 2014. However, the narrators associated with this trend still anticipate some possibilities of dialogue and cooperation between Poland and Russia. The vision recognizes the dangerousness of the growing power of Russia in the region and the possibility of Poland’s exclusion from a direct collaboration. Therefore, narrators promote Poland as a partner who can foster relations and negotiation between Russia and Europe.  This narrative present more pro-European direction in Polish foreign policy. Critics describe it as ‘’ Euroentusiastc’’. In this narrative, Poland aspires to become one of the European leaders but through the use of adapted cooperation and dialogue. Poland can also play an important role in EU negotiations to end the Ukrainian conflict. Polish politicians are well aware of the realities of the East but at the same time are a part of the West, therefore, could act as a mediator in relations with Russia. According to sceptics, Russia does not need such a connection and can conduct direct talks with the EU through its longstanding partner, Germany.  

To sum up the main points, similarly, as the previous narrative, this vision prioritises the transatlantic relations. Poland primary aim is to strengthen its eastern flank and increase NATO presence in Europe. The narration sees the European Union as a close partner and envisions extensive cooperation within the Weimar Triangle (Poland-France – Germany). The narrative opts for acceptance of Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia into EU and NATO however prefer less direct approach through influencing the policies of the European Union in this matter. Poland here is presented as a country which can foster the implementation of EU eastern policy, support economic reforms or development of civic society movements in Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe

It is unknown to what extend those views on foreign policy may influence the decisions and schedules of the future president. Before casting the vote, it is, however, important to examine the main visions and standpoints on foreign policy as they were presented by the political parties in the past few years. 

Alicja Prochniak

Sources:

  1. Cela & Krisafi, Heranova & Vondra,  Redtowska, Holeindre, Jensen, Tuckute & Zdanavicius ‘’NATO 1949-1999-2019, The 20 Years of Poland in the 70 Years of the Alliance’’, Institute for Eastern Studies, Warsaw, 2019
  2. Chancellery of the President of the Republic of Poland ‘’Plan Działań dla Polski. Co Osiągnęliśmy i co Dalej?’’, 2015.
  3. Chancellery of the President of the Republic of Poland ‘’Warto Być Polakiem’’, 2010.
  4. https://www.radiozet.pl/Co-gdzie-kiedy-jak/Wybory-2020-lista-kandydatow.-Na-kogo-mozna-glosowac-w-wyborach-prezydenckich-KANDYDACI
  5. Maciążek P. ‘’Rządowa Wizja Polskiej Polityki Wschodniej’’, Geopolityka.org, April 2011. 
  6. Turkowski A. ‘’Polityka Zagraniczna Prawa i Sprawiedliwości: W Poszukiwaniu Podmiotowości’’, Centre for International Relations, 2016.

 

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