This webinar event, “Heading towards the 2024 EP Elections: Lessons Learnt from the Parliamentary Elections in Slovakia and Poland” was held on 25. October 2023. Guests tuned in to hear how the highly polarising recent parliamentary elections in Slovakia and Poland may influence the June 2024 European Parliament elections, and what impact they have on the EU landscape in general. Three experts were invited to share their perspectives: Michal Vašečka, sociologist at the Bratislava Policy Institute in Slovakia; Maria Skóra, research associate at the Institut für Europäische Politik in Berlin, Germany; and Roland Freudenstein, VP and head of the Brussels GLOBSEC office. The discussion was moderated by Vladislava Gubalova, Senior Research Fellow at GLOBSEC.
The main takeaways are as follows:
- The result in Poland was decidedly positive from an EU perspective and shows that populists with aggressive campaign strategies do not always win. According to Ms. Skóra, the strength of the coalition which outweighed votership for PiS was not only unexpected, but it coincided with unusually high voter turnout overall, and higher number of votes from women, young people, and the Polish diaspora. Despite potential future policymaking hurdles faced by the coalition government due to President Duda’s closeness to the PiS and the presence in the governance system with loyal supporters of PiS the prognosis is generally a positive one in both Polish and EU circles.
- The result in Slovakia, while not necessarily unexpected, was marked with unexpected/unprecedented features which “crossed a red line” in terms of democratic political conduct. According to Mr. Vašečka, the open flirtation with extremist narratives, relying heavily on information manipulation and inflammation of public opinion has resembled the campaigning of far-right fringe parties by EU standards. The newly named government strategy of “stability” could also placate voters in the short-term, but severely stagnate Slovakian society, economy, and politics relative to other EU countries in the middle- to long-term.
- It is evident that public communication and campaigns are changing. The ‘human face’ strategy is gone and communication based on socio-psychological characteristics, plying on alienation, fear, anger, distrust has found broad reach. Erosion of democracy is a necessary but not sufficient condition for disinformation-driven, populist and extreme narratives to succeed. While in both Poland and Slovakia the campaigns were ‘brutal’ the electorates chose differently.
- Whatever can be said about Poland or Slovakia cannot be translated 100% into predictions about EU-wide elections, according to Mr. Freudenstein, but their cases do remind us of the importance of reducing political fingerpointing as far as information is concerned, refocusing on domestic and everyday issues, strengthening integrity in political actors and understanding the great collective responsibility of everyday voters. In the end, it is possible to counteract and beat extreme populism, when the right conditions exist.
Watch the recording of the event below.