• Far right drinks its way into Parliament

    June 2023: far-right leader Sławomir Mentzen meets with his supporters under the slogan “Beer with Mentzen”. Place: club “Theatre” in Łódź, Poland. Photo: Marcin Stępięń / Wyborcza.pl.

    He is young, unafraid of controversy and taking new voters by storm. Slawomir Mentzen, 37, is the rising star of Poland’s far-right party Konfederacja. This new party is expected to win around 10 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections on Sunday.

    Konfederacja will owe this to Mentzen, who has boosted the party’s poll numbers. He is particularly popular among men in the 18-39 age group. During the campaign, hundreds of young men queued up outside meetings with him across Poland called ‘Beer with Mentzen’.

    At these events, he takes the stage and, with a mug of beer in one hand and a microphone in the other, he talks about his views on taxes, immigrants, and the welfare system. He would gladly abolish them all.

    These ideas appeal to Poland’s young, who do not use the health service as much as the elderly, and regard the taxes they pay as a necessary evil. They expect simple answers to complex questions.

    Mentzen owns a law firm that deals with “so-called” tax optimisation, and a brewery. During his beer meetings (where Mentzen gets increasingly drunk, which also pleases the public), the politician is supposed to show the softer face of the far-right party. Konfederacja’s other radical politicians have been sidelined for the duration of the campaign.

    Meanwhile, Mentzen himself shares the same extremist views. In 2019, he said: “We don’t want Jews, homosexuals, abortion, taxes and the European Union”. Now he is adding Ukrainians, who he says are draining the Polish tax system and receiving overly generous benefits from the state.

    The Confederation’s anti-Ukrainian campaign is also the reason why the ruling Law and Justice party has turned against Ukraine in recent weeks. With an Ukraine-sceptic approach, the governing party hopes to siphon voters from this far-right group.

    This article is part of the "Slogans no defence against far right surge" edition
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