WARSAW – “The European Commission building would make a big mess.”
This is just one example of the hit parade of extremely inappropriate comments by new Polish MEP Janusz Korwin-Mikke.
The controversial 72-year-old right-wing leader said the Paralympics were like “dumb chess matches”. And there was this one, “If you knew anything about women, you would realize that men always rape a little bit.”
Korwin-Mikke, who served in the Polish parliament in the early 1990s, has spent most of the past two decades running unsuccessfully in all parliamentary and presidential elections.
He eventually returned to the forefront when his New Right party finished fourth in the European Parliament elections last month, securing him a seat in Strasbourg. But his success is especially baffling given the demographics of his party’s electorate, with the majority of his support coming from voters between the ages of 18 and 25.
So what attracted young Poles to an elderly man who is an avowed monarchist?
The Warsaw and Krakow youth party members are all different and yet look remarkably alike. They speak fast, with unwavering self-confidence, and are more than eager to meet a journalist to talk politics.
Anna, 24, would be the oldest of the group we met without Konrad, 29. With their cheerful and relaxed demeanor, these young people seem quite typical, except for their support for a man who said that political opinions can be transferred to women via sperm.
Krzysztof Bieda, 22, is a political science student. As a teenager, he supported the current ruling civic platform, but the growing number of broken election promises led him to disenchantment. “I understood that all of their speeches were just opportunism,” he says.
Jordan, 18, believes honesty is the key to Korwin-Mikke’s success. “His views have not changed over the past 25 years,” he says.
Although he does not share some of the “private and controversial” views of his political leader, Jordan is loyal to the party’s economic liberalism. The New Right calls for drastically limiting the role of the state in social services and financial markets.
“In a welfare system, the poor are doomed to be poor,” Konrad says. “On the one hand, they easily get charity. On the other hand, too many formalities and rules prevent them from starting a business.
Konrad appears to be a born leader. He’s tall, handsome, well-dressed – much like his political mentor – and always wears a bow tie. After obtaining a degree in computer science, he began to study philosophy. His admiration for Korwin-Mikke is totally devoid of critical thinking.
Much like Korwin-Mikke, Konrad is hostile to public institutions aimed at leveling the playing field for all citizens, and is just as likely to cite some rather bizarre examples. “It is obvious that a handsome man conquers a beautiful woman more easily than an unattractive woman,” says Konrad. “Sponsoring plastic surgery for the second is unnatural. ”
The only female at the table, Agata, is calm. She doesn’t like talking with the press and has no political ambitions. “I would like to be a special advisor,” she says.
It has been four years since she joined the party, and she is now part of the central committee. Paradoxically, the leader of the New Right has repeated on several occasions that he would withdraw the right to vote from women because he considers that they do not know anything about politics and are not interested in it.
“Mr. Korwin-Mikke has expressed his personal opinion, but in no case does our party discriminate against women,” Agata insists. On the contrary, she said, women of the New Right will be promoted to party leadership positions. When asked for an example, she replies, “For example, if someone were to brew tea now, it sure wouldn’t be me.
Marcin, 20, became involved with the party two years ago when his attempts to start a small trucking business were blocked by new government regulations. After repeated attempts to get authorities to take up his case, he finally contacted Korwin-Mikke, who “was shocked” by his story and offered to help.
“The majority of the party’s supporters are recruiting from people who have found themselves stuck in a certain bureaucratic turpitude,” said Bartlomiej, 21, the youth leader of the New Right in Warsaw. “Their particular causes have been ignored by everyone except us.”