A blog by an American expatriate living in the heart of New Europe

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

No early elections?

Zbigniew Religa could be Poland's next prime minister

Warsaw Station has learned that parties currently not in power - Civic Platform (PO), the coalition Left and Democrats (LiD) and the Peasants' Party (PSL) - are working on a proposal for a government of national unity, to be led by famous heart surgeon Zbigniew Religa. Religa is the current health minister and is not affiliated with any party. The proposal would put members of all parties willing to join the national unity government into Poland's various ministerial positions

The proposal will be extended to former members of the ruling coalition - Samoobrona (SO) and the League of Polish Families (LPR) - as well as to the current (quasi-) governing party, Law and Justice (PiS). It is expected that SO and LPR will accept the proposal, while PiS is expected to reject it, making them the sole party in opposition, after 2 years of governing as the party with the largest number of representatives in Poland's parliament.

Who benefits?

The logic goes that early elections could only benefit PiS. Though PO leads PiS in the polls, it is unlikely that they will have enough support to gain a majority of representatives. To do so, they would have to form a coalition with either LiD (offending their anti-leftist supporters) or with PiS (offending their liberal-economic supporters). Also, the polls may not be as reliable as PO hopes. In the 2005 elections, polls famously predicted that PO would win.

If early elections were to occur, Samoobrona and LPR look to be left out of parliament entirely, or, if they stand as a coalition (the appropriately- monikered LiS or "fox"), to be reduced to a minority fringe element in parliament.

LiD could potentially gain seats, but are averse to the idea of the economically liberal PO gaining power - especially if it ends up teaming up with PiS.

Though PiS is likely to lose a few seats in parliament with early elections, it will still hold enough to be an extremely powerful opposition party, especially with Lech Kaczyński holding the presidency. For this reason, and because PiS is expected to be able to bring out large numbers of its rural supporters to the polls, PiS will push for early elections.

A doable deal?

I doubt such an arrangement is achievable, since Polish parties as a general rule are unable to agree amongst themselves for very long. Could opposition to PiS be such a unifying force that nearly all of the parties in parliament could agree to work together? Not for very long, certainly.

How such a political coup could take place without early elections is also somewhat of a mystery - as far as I know nothing like it has ever occurred in modern Polish politics.

But that doesn't mean it wouldn't be a good thing. Poland has been absent of any type of productive politics - horsetrading, compromise, and the creation of policies and legislation that garner wide public support - for a long time. A government of national unity could lead to such a welcome change. It just doesn't seem likely it will ever happen.

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