A man stands on his farm, and next to him is the beautiful new tractor that was purchased for him by the government. Normally, this kind of thing would make someone ecstatic, but for this man (and many others like him in rural Poland), it only reminds him of the government’s actions within the EU.
After joining the European Union in 2004, Poland became a very successful and quickly growing economy. The political group in charge at the time, the Civic Platform, was very progressive. They believed that Poland should be a player in the larger world, and they generally were successful. The economy boomed, becoming the sixth largest, and to some this was a great benefit. To people in rural areas, it was not.
Different EU regulations on farming and agriculture had greatly affected the lives of farmers and people in rural areas. They felt as though a lot of the new improvements that the government had imposed upon them were unnecessary. Some had received money, but most also had to take out loans. The farmers had to sit back and wait while their fate was decided by a council in Brussels. They felt totally unrepresented by the government.
This map is incredibly telling of how Poland’s population is spread out. Normally, these have pockets of high density, surrounding low density, and then areas of very very low population. Poland’s population remains relatively constant, even very far outside those population centers in black. In all this area, a populist movement started to form. Feeling unrepresented, people began to align their beliefs more with the Law and Justice Party, the people that now are in power.
As shown by this graph, the amount of people in the urban population in Poland has barely changed in the past ten years, and has even gone down. While this graph is a little amusing, it shows the greater problem in the area. People aren’t willing to change their lifestyles to fit the modern economy of Poland.
The Law and Justice Party (PiS) saw this, and they took action. They started campaigning in the more rural areas of Poland, and were even endorsed by the Roman Catholic Church.
Many people in rural Poland see voting as a religious action, and the fact that PiS had the Church’s vote essentially handed them the election.
The amount of power that Roman Catholicism has in this area can not be understated. As shown by the graph, 90% of the population in Poland is Roman Catholic. In outer-lying, more insular communities, the grip of religion is incredibly strong. The use of it as PiS’s base was the perfect move.
This tactic proved incredibly effective, as shown by the map below.
The areas in blue are those that had more than a 40% vote for PiS. As you can see, they won handily. Currently the party holds the majority of seats in the parliament.
They championed the ideals of upholding the wholesome and Christian values of Poland, while also hoping to improve conditions for farmers and rural people. So far they have raised minimum wage, provided a better safety net and welfare system, and have created some monetary benefits for low income families.
PiS is also playing a dangerous game with the EU, however. All eyes have been on Brexit for a while, but over in Poland, the same tension has been building. PiS is playing a dangerous game of tug of war with the EU, but it is yet to be seen what will happen.
In rural Poland though, people are happy.