Ukraine’s Toughest Diplomatic Test Yet Is Approaching – Ukraine’s strongest European ally and neighbor is about to hold a parliamentary election, which could have a considerable knock-on effect on Kyiv’s fight against Russia.
On Sunday, Poland will hold its quadrennial parliamentary elections to decide both the Sejm (lower house of parliament) and the Senate. It’s been a bitter campaign, with opposition leader and former Prime Minister Donald Tusk describing it as the country’s “most important election since 1989 and the fall of communism.”
It’s no wonder, given Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, that nightmares of the Soviet Union are once again being recalled. Poland has been a staunch supporter of its southeastern neighbor since the conflict began, but recent disputes over a ban on Ukrainian grain exports has frayed a strong relationship, with Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki even refusing to supply more weapons last month.
The Parties And Immigration
The United Right coalition, led by the Law and Justice party (PiS), is seeking a third successive term in office. PiS currently lead the polls, but not by a significant enough margin to secure full control of either chamber. They are trailed by the Civic Coalition (KO), a centrist group who has unsuccessfully tried to incorporate the New Left and Third Way parties into a joint campaign.
Migration is one of the key issues in the campaign. Law and Justice have followed an increasingly anti-immigration rhetoric in recent months, warning that the European Union wants to force Muslim migrants on a strongly Roman Catholic country. “Do you want us to stop being masters of our own country? Read my lips: Poles do not want this and Law and Justice does not want any of this, either,” says party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski in one campaign ad.
The ruling party has been criticized over hypocrisy by the opposition, given that the largest immigration wave in recent Polish history has been under PiS. It’s a tactic which Tusk, who was President of the European Council from 2014-19, has used to deflect criticism from those opposed to the EU.
The Invasion Of Ukraine
Outside of Poland’s borders, the world will be watching to see who will take on the responsibility of supporting Ukraine. The country has provided more than $ 3 billion in arms so far, and was one of the first Western allies to supply fighter jets and modern tanks to Kyiv earlier this year.
Since the full-scale invasion began in February 2022, Poland has taken in more than a million Ukrainian refugees.
Only the far-right Konfederacja (Confederation) party opposes Ukrainian immigration, but that has not stopped increasing frustration with Kyiv in recent months; Polish President Andrzej Duda recently compared its war-torn neighbor to a sinking person dragging a rescuer to the bottom.
PiS is seeking rural support, and for that, it must win over farmers concerned with the loss of income should Poland grain from Ukraine. The opposition has described its rhetoric as “dangerous,” indicating it could fuel anti-Kyiv sentiment in a country where support for Ukraine remains high.
Why The World Will Be Watching
Poland is not the only country where war fatigue is beginning to settle in. Republicans are mostly opposed to additional U.S. support for Ukraine on top of the more than $ 70 billion pledged. Furthermore, the pro-Moscow Robert Fico won Slovakia’s elections earlier this year on a campaign pledging to end military support for Kyiv.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s trips abroad are receiving less attention than they did one year ago. While most Western leaders remain strongly supportive of Kyiv, many are facing scrutiny from voters and opposition parties as to when domestic issues will take precedence.
If Polish war fatigue is echoed across the west, support for Ukraine could dwindle as the conflict enters its third year, and that would only be good news for Vladimir Putin.
Shay Bottomley is a British journalist based in Canada. He has written for the Western Standard, Maidenhead Advertiser, Slough Express, Windsor Express, Berkshire Live and Southend Echo, and has covered notable events including the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.