Geopolitics

How A Controversial 72-Year-Old Seduces Poland's Youth

Janusz Korwin-Mikke, who has made outrageous comments about women and the disabled, has managed to gain a following among disenchanted, young Poles.

Janusz Korwin-Mikke (left) has a "hit parade" of inappropriate comments
Janusz Korwin-Mikke (left) has a "hit parade" of inappropriate comments
Igor T. Miecik

WARSAW — "The European Commission's building would make a great whorehouse."

This is just one example from the "hit parade" of wildly inappropriate comments from Poland's newly elected European Parliament Member Janusz Korwin-Mikke.

The controversial 72-year-old right-wing leader has said the Paralympics were like "chess matches for morons." And there was this one: "If you knew something about women, you would realize that men always rape a bit."

Korwin-Mikke, who served in Poland's Parliament in the early 1990s, has spent most of the the past two decades running unsuccessfully in every parliamentary and presidential election.

He finally returned to the spotlight when his New Right party finished fourth place in last month's European Parliament elections, assuring him a seat in Strasbourg. But particularly baffling about his success are the demographics of his party's electorate, with a majority of his support coming from voters between 18 and 25 years old.

So what has attracted Poland's young people to an elderly man who is a declared monarchist?

The members of the party's youth from Warsaw and Krakow are all different and yet seem remarkably the same. They speak quickly, with an unshakeable self-confidence, and are more than keen to meet a reporter to talk politics.

Anna, 24, would be the oldest of the group we met if not for 29-year-old Konrad. With their cheerful and relaxed demeanor, these young people seem fairly typical, except for their support of a man who has declared that political views can be transferred to women via spermatozoids.

Krzysztof Bieda, 22, is a student of political science. As a teenager, he supported the current governing Civic Platform, but the increasing number of unfulfilled campaign promises led him to become disenchanted. "I understood that all their talking was nothing more than opportunism," he says.

Jordan, 18, believes that honesty is the key to Korwin-Mikke's success. "His views have not changed in the past 25 years," he says.

Even though he doesn't share some of the "private and controversial" opinions of his political leader, Jordan is loyal to the party's economic liberalism. The New Right calls for significantly limiting the state's role in social services and financial markets.

"In a welfare system, poor people are condemned to be poor," Konrad says. "On the one hand, they get easy charity. On the other, too many formalities and rules stop them from starting a business."

Konrad appears to be a born leader. He is tall, handsome, well-dressed — much like his political mentor — and always wearing a bowtie. After graduating with a degree in computer science, he began to study philosophy. His admiration for Korwin-Mikke is utterly uncritical.

Tea time

Just like Korwin-Mikke, Konrad is hostile to public institutions aimed at leveling the playing field for all citizens, and is just as apt to cite some rather bizarre examples. "It is obvious that a handsome man will conquer a beautiful woman more easily than an unattractive one," Konrad says. "Sponsoring plastic surgery for the second one goes against nature."

The only female at the table, Agata, is quiet. She doesn't like talking with the press, and has no political ambitions of her own. "I would like to be a special advisor," she says.

It has been four years since she joined the party, and she is now on the central committee. Paradoxically, the leader of the New Right has repeatedly said that he would withdraw women's right to vote because he believes they know nothing about politics and are not interested in it.

"Mr. Korwin-Mikke expressed his private opinion, but in no way does our party discriminate against women," Agata insists. On the contrary, she says, women from the New Right will be promoted to positions of party leadership. When asked for an example, she says, "For instance, if somebody had to prepare a tea right now, it would certainly not be me."

Marcin, 20, became involved with the party two years ago when his attempts to start a small trucking business were stalled by new government regulations. After repeated attempts to get officials to take up his case, he finally contacted Korwin-Mikke, who "was shocked" by his story and offered help.

"The majority of the party supporters recruit from people who got stuck in some bureaucratic turpitude," says Bartlomiej, 21, the leader of Warsaw's New Right youth. "Their particular causes were ignored by everybody, apart from us."

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Green

In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.


It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park

Xinhua/ZUMA

Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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