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Europe

Polish Euroskeptics Stand to Win in EU Vote

Voter apathy is likely to result in low turnout across Europe in the upcoming European Parliament elections. In Poland, apathy mixed with distrust may result in a crop of anti-EU candidates heading off to Brussels.

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The EU Parliament may have to make room for Polish euroskepics

Far from the busy streets of Warsaw, 40-year-old Kosma Zlotowski is campaigning for election to the European Parliament (EP). He may become one of the first representatives elected to a seat in Brussels since Poland became a full-fledged member of the European Union on May 1.

But Zlotowski, like many Polish candidates for the EP, is facing an odd mix of voter apathy, unfamiliarity with the workings of the European Union and -- even worse -- outright hostility to it. Yet, paradoxically, some voters hope the elections on June 13 will improve their situation. Combined with the country's current chaotic political situation, this may result in Poland sending one of the largest delegations of euroskeptic to the EU Parliament.

"When I speak to the people, they are not very interested," said Zlotowski, a regional politician who is a member of the conservative Law and Justice political party. "But on the other hand, they somehow associate hope with the EU. It's a contradiction, I know, but that's the way it is."

Political upheaval

In Poland, EP elections will take place against a backdrop of political upheaval. The country's leftist prime minister, Leszek Miller, resigned the day after the country joined the EU, and his successor, Marek Belka, has failed to win a vote of confidence in the Sejm, the Polish parliament. Voters are largely skeptical of politicians and the political process, especially since a series of scandals forced Miller's ruling Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) from power.

If opposition parties continue to withhold their support in the next constitutionally-mandated vote of confidence, they could force new elections as early as August. Thus, while political parties elsewhere in Europe are looking at the upcoming EP elections as a referendum on their past performance, politicians in Poland are looking at the results as an indicator of who is likely to emerge victorious in the upcoming national elections.

Anti-EU parties expected to benefit

The parties most likely to send the largest number of delegates to the EU parliament are the same ones polls show would win a national election: the center-right Civic Platform (PO) with 24 percent of the vote and the anti-EU left-wing populist Samoobrona ("self-defense") party with 13 percent.

Thus, Samoobrona could win as many as 16 seats. Coupled with the seven seats the right-wing League of Polish Families, another anti-EU party, is expected to get, Poland could end up sending the largest delegation of euroskeptics to Brussels.

The euroskeptics have promised to fight for Poland and are hoping to benefit from voters' fears their country will be looted by businesses and individuals from other EU member states. For candidates like Stefan Pastuszewski, low voter turnout would be a good thing.

"If turnout is low, it will be a signal that the wrong people are in the European Parliament, and this might lead some people to realize that it was a mistake to join the EU in the first place," he said.

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