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  Gustav
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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right


Here I am, stuck in the middle


Is Civic Platform full of political pussies?

For those of you with your fingers not quite glued to the pulse of Polish political news, you should know that some very clever political maneuvering has been going on.

The jokers

The ruling coalition recently railroaded through a law (and when I say "railroaded", I mean that in order to get the law out of committee for a vote in the Sejm, they added 30 members of their own coalition to the committee and then forced the opposition member heading it to resign), which makes it highly advantageous for parties to team up and form coalitions for this autumn's local elections.

This was done mostly to save a member of the governing coalition - the far-right LPR (League of Polish Families). LPR had a very slim chance of winning anything in the elections, and by joining in a voting bloc with the two other parties in the governing coalition, they just might have a shot at a couple of city councils.

Importantly however, if LPR still fails to garner five percent of the vote, the two other coalition members will be able to absorb LPR's vote, and count it towards their own vote totals.

Still with me?

The clowns

Since the governing coalition is mostly right-wingers (in the "conservative moral values, high-spending big government, neo-con" sense), the left immediately went out and formed a coalition of left-leaning (in the "liberal moral values, barely-fiscally responsible, post-communist" sense) parties. This included the corruption-ridden ex-communists with a new face (SLD), the supposedly not-so-corrupt ex-communists with an old face (SdPl), the ex-partners of the ex-communists (UP), and the social/economic liberals with 0 chance of winning anything.

This group won't win a great deal - but these parties' power is certainly strengthened put all together, and they take on political clout as a large opposition group that they couldn't boast seperately.

Stuck in the middle

This leaves Poland's largest opposition party - Civic Platform (PO) - without any coalition at all. Not wanting to sully themselves by joining the populist Kaczyński faction, but also shying away from getting into bed with former communists, PO has no political friends. Rumor has it that a bizzare coalition with the agrarian-based PSL might be in the works, but the ideologies don't mesh at all, and PSL is tiny - barely making it into the parliament itself in last year's polls.

PO will still win a large number of posts in the upcoming local elections, but their strength as an opposition party has been diminished. Those who lean further to the left but still previously voted for PO because they were the "anything-but-Kaczyński" party, now have a viable alternative.

In these elections the Left will do much better, and PO worse, than would have been the case if all the parties had run seperately.

Some PO supporters have been critical of the party, saying it simply refuses to get its political hands dirty - a necessity on Poland's current political landscape. Warsaw Station has learned that PO's candidate for the Warsaw mayor, Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, has been repeatedly accosted in the streets by her own supporters, all making note of her opponents' attacks and demanding: "Why don't you do something?!"

This is not a new accusation. PO has been particularly ineffective as an opposition party despite a deeply unpopular governing coalition.

So on Saturday, PO launched a new ad campaign (Polish link), which - according to some - very harshly attacks PM Jarosław Kaczyński. Borrowing from the masters, PO's commercials mimic some used by George Bush two years ago (Polish link). It depicts the Prime Minister, well, yelling a lot - So much that it upsets a baby.

PO considers this tough campaigning:



PO is hemorrhaging support in the form of the student exodus. It can't form any effective political partnership. It is unwilling to hit the opposition hard. If it doesn't grow some jaja pretty soon, its days on the Polish political scene are likely numbered.

15 Comments:



Blogger beatroot said...

PO has been particularly ineffective as an opposition party despite a deeply unpopular governing coalition.

That is not really true at all. The idea of the coalition is unpopular with some PiS supporters but PiS as a party has completely re-written psephology textbooks, which said that a party that makes coalitions with ‘extremist’ parties will dive bomb in the opinion polls.

In fact PiS – in most polls - are getting higher percentage ratings than they did in the general election last year.

This is not a deeply unpopular government at all. It’s supporters appear to quite like it.

9/06/2006 02:38:00 PM  


Blogger Gustav said...

It’s supporters appear to quite like it.

That's why they're called supporters beatroot. The fact however, remains, that those supporters are outnumbered by Poles who oppose the government.

Rzeczpospolita recently released a Pole that it has since tucked away into its archives, but I cite it here, and the gist is this: A full 36 percent of the country says it is "against" the Kaczyński government, 31 percent have no opinion, with 28 percent – the lowest result – "for" the government. On top of that, some 48 percent believe the actions of Kaczyński's cabinet will not make Poland's economic situation any better.

9/06/2006 03:08:00 PM  


Blogger beatroot said...

The fact however, remains, that those supporters are outnumbered by Poles who oppose the government.

In that case then, every single government since 1989 has been 'deeply unpopular'...so it is a meaningless thing to say.

In Poland all governments are minority governments. All governments gain between 25 to 35% of the vote at elections and then make coalitions. So all are 'deeply unpopular'. That's the way it is here and in most of Europe.

The most interesting thing about the government is that it has increased its popularity since last year.

9/06/2006 03:16:00 PM  


Blogger Gustav said...

In that case then, every single government since 1989 has been 'deeply unpopular'

Let's see - AWS, SLD-UP, and now PiS-SO-LPR...

I think we're in agreement here. All of Poland's governments have been deeply unpopular.

But it's not meaningless to point this out, since the difference is that the opponents of the previous two managed to make political hay out of the unpopularity of those governments. The leftists took over after the rightists, and the rightists took over after the leftists.

PO has so far not managed to capitalize on the government's unpopularity as its opposition predecesors did.


The most interesting thing about the government is that it has increased its popularity since last year.


That's true. That is very interesting, and I would argue, is more evidence for PO's failure in opposition. After all, PO has also increased its popularity since last year - and by some polls are more popular than PiS.

But they still can't manage to stop any of this government's legislation, nor, it seems, beat them in a bloody election!

9/06/2006 03:26:00 PM  


Blogger beatroot said...

PO has so far not managed to capitalize on the government's unpopularity as its opposition predecesors did.

But the problem here is that PO are a right wing opposition to a right wing government. In the past the left won then the right then the left. So it’s very hard for a post-solidarity opposition to capitalize on a post-solidarity government.

The difference now is the collapse of the left in Poland. The recent pact-electora between SLD and Borowski’s lot plus a few others is a sign that they are getting their act, literally, together. But they still have to make it clear that they are a new generation of leftists unsullied by the old commie party.

If they do then PO will eventually move closer towards them.

But if there is another election anytime soon then the probable outcome will be a POPiS coalition.

9/06/2006 03:56:00 PM  


Blogger Gustav said...

You're right about the Left "getting its act together".

But I don't know about a POPiS coalition, or a PO-Lefty grouping either. PO has managed to alienate both sides, and I don't know if they have the political savvy to repair those relationships.

If they do, it will only be with new leadership.

9/06/2006 04:05:00 PM  


Blogger beatroot said...

Since the governing coalition is mostly right-wingers (in the "conservative moral values, high-spending big government, neo-con" sense), the left immediately went out and formed a coalition of left-leaning (in the "liberal moral values, barely-fiscally responsible, post-communist" sense) parties.

You see, you are trying to force a American political model on Poland and it just doesn’t work.

PiS are left wing conservatives [!], LPR are extreme left wing conservatives and SO are agrarian left wing populists.

PO are right wing Thatcherites (meaning relatively conservative morally plus free market economically).

The SLD are ex-communist social democrats.

UP are left wing post solidarnosc (at least Ryszard Bugaj, its founder is).

9/06/2006 04:33:00 PM  


Blogger Gustav said...

PiS are left wing conservatives [!], LPR are extreme left wing conservatives

For Poland, these are both pure conservative positions, nonsense about me "forcing an American political model on Poland" notwithstanding - PO are the "liberals" according to the Polish model. That you call LPR "extreme left wing conservatives" I think would insult most members of LPR.

PiS is socially conservative, and economically populist/conservative (please don't forget their promises of cutting taxes, and their "almost" flat tax of 18 percent for nearly everybody and 30 percent for everybody else.) LPR are extreme right wing social conservatives, and are economically socialist.

They are all big-government social conservatives - which is what neocons are.

9/06/2006 08:21:00 PM  


Blogger beatroot said...

I could not care less what LPR think of my analysis, it’s correct and that is what counts.

You are trying to force American models on Polish politics and that is why we see over and over again in the foreign media that PO are ‘liberal’ (giving the impression that they are a bit left wing, which they are certainly not) and PiS are conservative (meaning right wing, which they are not in the American sense at all.).

Post communist politics does not fit the left/right categories. Basically parties like PiS believe in social solidarity – they believe in collectivism. That’s a very left wing thing.

PO see the basic unit as being the individual. That’s the right wing starting point.

LPR are typical Polish Catholics where the starting point is the ‘collective’. They think that western liberalism is degenerate because it weakens social solidarity.

That kind of thinking can be found in the writing and speeches of JP II.

These are fundamental concepts of Polish politics which do not fit western European or American models.

I am actually writing a book about this (publishers welcome) and doing a Phd about it, so it is a key idea of why I set up the beatroot blog in the first place.

Polish politics and post communist politics in general does not fit the old right/left duality.

9/07/2006 01:46:00 AM  


Blogger Gustav said...

that is why we see over and over again in the foreign media that PO are ‘liberal’

It's not just the foreign media beatroot, and you know it. The Polish media calls PO liberal, PiS calls PO liberal, even PO calls ITSELF liberal.

It is because PO is "liberal" in the classical economic sense. And yes, you're right, in no other sense than that.

The post-communist politics in Poland DO fit left-right categories, beatroot. They just don't fit OUR left-right categories.

But that's just it - that's one of the biggest discussions going on in American political theory today - how the neo-cons don't fit the traditional left-right categories, because they are big government social conservatives.

Pointing out that similarity is not "forcing American models..." blah, blah blah.

9/07/2006 09:49:00 AM  


Anonymous ignacy said...

BR: LPR are typical Polish Catholics where the starting point is the ‘collective’. They think that western liberalism is degenerate because it weakens social solidarity.

That kind of thinking can be found in the writing and speeches of JP II.
___

LPR came out in support of the death penalty, no? That's as far away from the writing and speeches of JP2 as I can imagine. JP2 also opposed the war in Iraq; they seem to be supportive. I think they are more creatures of US neo-con Catholics such as Neuhaus, Weigel, Novak and others who have established a yearly presence in Krakow each summer, probably financed in some ways by US intelligence agencies (funneled through entities like the American Enterprise Institute, First Things, etc.).

9/07/2006 03:03:00 PM  


Blogger beatroot said...

I think they are more creatures of US neo-con Catholics such as Neuhaus, Weigel, Novak and others

No no no...they have more to do with 1930s nationalism, actually.

By Polish catholicism I meant Polish social catholicism based on Rerum Novarum etc.

Their starting point is 'the collective'....the collective is defined by 'the nation'...and in this case that means Poland which is de4fined by religion.

They think the west is full of rampant individualism and materialism.

They are christian nationalist left conservatives!

9/07/2006 07:25:00 PM  


Anonymous ignacy said...

If they are Catholic in the context of JP2's positions (as opposed to neo-con Weigelians), then they would be strongly opposed to the death penalty and American imperialism and wouldn't tolerate anti-semitism. None of that seems to be the case.

9/07/2006 09:17:00 PM  


Blogger Michael Farris said...

The problem is that the Kaczynskis are brilliant campaigners but can't govern for shit. They (especially J) loves the backroom dealing so much that he can never let a deal that's been made _be_. He has to keep fiddling with it like a writer who spends 12 years on a single poem. Their coalition partners try, bless 'em, to be taken seriously but can't overcome the basic handicap of being fools and/or scoundrels.

PO are absolutely pathetic campaigners who have perfected the art of grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory. They're _so_ pathetic that I don't think they'd do any better at governing. Who does that leave?

SLD has the management know-how but it's members are largely as crooked as a dog's hind leg. They'd do okay if they're watched like a hawk for every second (which is what went wrong the last time) and hostaged to a more reasonable coalition partner but I don't see that happening.

Outlook: bleak. and most Poles wouldn't have it any other way (despite some pro forma grumbling to the contrary).

9/07/2006 10:05:00 PM  


Blogger beatroot said...

Ignacy – I am sure you are right about the anti-Semite and death penalty thing, but not being a catholic I won’t get involved in that. Just to say that there are catholic countries that have the death penalty (s.e. asia) and that many many Catholics have exhibited anti-Semitism in the past. Let’s call them Gibbsonites!

Mike PO are absolutely pathetic campaigners who have perfected the art of grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory.

Are you watching the ‘battle of the political ads’ nonsense on TV? I think both ads are awful but the PO one is particularly bad as it displays all that is wrong with their campaigning. Trying to make a virtue out of calmness as Tusk does just makes him seem passionless, dull, uninspiring, and weak.

9/08/2006 01:18:00 PM  

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