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From 'The Economist'. This one's quite good!
Poland's likely new rulers are less exciting than the last lot. A good thing too
WHATEVER the details of Poland's next government, the perplexing and sometime troubling era of the "terrible twins" is over. That, in short, is the message of the election on Sunday October 21st, in which the centre-right opposition Civic Platform party, led by Donald Tusk, trounced the ruling Law and Justice party of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who will now step down as prime minister. His twin brother, Lech, will stay on as president, although with sharply diminished political clout. With 90% of the vote counted Civic Platform had received 41.6% of the vote; Law and Justice got 32%.
Law and Justice had called an early election hoping to consolidate the gains made during the past two years, when the party—at times governing alone, otherwise with small coalition allies—has been on a rumbustious crusade to rid Poland of the uklad, a sinister conspiracy of ex-spooks, former communists, corrupt officials and well-connected businessmen. Both the timing of the election, and the tactics adopted in the weeks leading up to it, have proved misjudged.
Many Poles agreed with Law and Justice’s diagnosis of the danger of pervasive corruption, but found the medicine worse than the disease. The government’s favourite means were the use of highly politicised prosecutors against political opponents, and the vindictive and partial leaking of secret-police files and material obtained by the intelligence agencies. Rather than building up the independent institutions that Poland undoubtedly needs, the government tended to pack public bodies with its own people. Its harping on the need for a strong state, coupled with depicting its opponents as crooks and traitors, led some to compare the Kaczynskis' approach to that of Vladimir Putin in neighbouring Russia.
Foreigners found little to admire either. Law and Justice seemed obsessed with the wrongs of the past, but blind to the needs of the present. The Kaczynskis liked to demand “solidarity” from their European allies, but demonstrated little themslves. Their foreign-policy stance was ignorant, clumsy and suspicious.
Amid the sighs of relief, Civic Platform's new government, probably in coalition with the moderate agrarian Polish Peasants' Party, can expect a honeymoon at home and abroad. The Polish economy is doing well, stoked by booming foreign investment, emigres’ remittances, soaring exports and EU funds. That provides plenty of room to deal with Poland's wasteful public finances, unreformed bureaucracy and grievously inadequate transport network.
Abroad, the new government will find a warm welcome, particularly in Germany, where the chancellor, Angela Merkel, has found her repeated attempts to be friendly rebuffed with bewildering chilliness by the Kaczynskis, who seemed to see little difference between Germany and Russia. The Civic Platform leader and putative prime minister, Mr Tusk, speaks German. Law and Justice tried hard, but failed, to exploit that during the campaign.
And it is this which is probably the biggest lesson. The Kaczynski era looked ominous and all but impregnable while it lasted. Eastern Europe's largest democracy seemed to have been captured by a vengeful populist clique, with ideas about the outside world that ranged from the idiosyncratic to the unpleasant. Polish voters, many feared, were too apathetic and disillusioned to care; the institutions of state too weak to resist. The price was paid not only by Poland, which was being pulled away from the European mainstream, but by the whole of the EU, whose most important new member was turning into a highly questionable advertisement for enlargement.
Now those fears have been put to rest. Turnout was so high that some polling stations had to stay open late to cope. Primitive politics, xenophobia, and high-handed attitudes to the niceties of democracy and the rule of law, have been shown to be electoral liabilities, not a surefire route to success. For that many will be thankful, not only in Poland.
Does anyone else subscribe to the printed edition of the Economist? I do and the postal delivery is bloody dreadful. Nothing for weeks and then three arrive on the same day .
They seem to be sent out from Warsaw.
They're always sending me offers and it indeed looks cheaper, but I tend to buy in a shop. For English teachers, apparently they do a ready made lesson service but I haven't been able to find any details.
Magazine subscriptions here tend to be mailed by small, often very small setups who get a franchise from distributors, so the copies probably stack up in somebody's garage until they get round to mailing them.
Oh stop talking nonsense Offbeat
Sosh this was the most appropriate response to Davids comment. The mentality of some Polish people frighten me, little wonder there is so much hatred in the world!
"little wonder there is so much hatred in the world"
Partly due to Radio Mawryja offbeat
But agree with you on freedom of speech point. Freethinking people turn that crap off.
BTW - my condolences on PiS loss my friend
Finally, businesses in Poland can expect sweeping tax relief and no more witch hunts.
offbeat - Dajwid isn't Polish. Well almost
He is British by birth and Polish by the grace of God
"But didn't I read in another thread that the President - the twin still in power - would do everything possible to block the legislation of any new government formed by PO."
Count the votes - they have enough to override any veto and they will. Kaczynski will be a scared little boy without his brother in Prime Minister's chair.
This was nothing but good ol' fashioned asskicking by PO
"The PiS form of right-wing nationalism, pro-Church, anti-foreigner, anti-wealth views appeals to most Poles. "
I dont know - most Poles I know are capitalist pigs who know how to make money. PiS won two yrs ago casue people were sick of corruption, which is communist legacy. Change takes time.
(Sosh this was the most appropriate response to Davids comment. The mentality of some Polish people frighten me, little wonder there is so much hatred in the world!)
The mentality of some Polish people frighten me.
Offbeat, what does PO have to do with Nazi concentration camps and Hitler?
BTW - my condolences on PiS loss my friend
Mike C, The people of Poland have spoken and the new government has my full support and respect, lets hope it does a great job and puts into place a process which makes it attractive for Poles living abroad to return to Poland! I take your point that poles like the smell of a dollar note, hmmm don't we all!
I just reinterate that we can beg to differ but lets call a spade a spade, no need to project hatred.
I still say that Poles will still be complaining about the new government as the years go on!
Don't worry. I am sure you will all find cause to complain about the new government soon...."you can please some of the people some of the time" and all that.
I think the new government will have no magic wond, like always some will prosper but most will find it very hard. Interesting that the new government will distance themselves from US interests, ie troops in Iraq/missile bases in Poland. It will be interesting how the economic downturn in the US will effect Poland? If the Euro replaces the US$, this will mark the end of the US as a world power
I think it's great that they are planning to remove Polish troops from Iraq. I doubt this move will have a huge impact on US investment in Poland. It's a pity American troops never made it to Poland during WWII.
"This was the leader in today's Manchester Guardian. One of the nicest things I've read about Poland in the foreign press lately.
Separating the terrible twins
Tuesday October 23, 2007
Polish democracy grew up on Sunday, when the country's voters rejected the strident, xenophobic nationalism of Jaroslav Kaczynski. The election mattered not just because it was the first time a generation born after 1989 could vote. Nor because the liberal conservative winner Donald Tusk won the strongest mandate of any prime minister in the post- communist era. It was important because it saw a new generation of voters express its impatience with a leadership that saw the rise of Poland exclusively through the prism of 20th- century invasion and occupation. Though Mr Kaczynski's twin brother Lech still holds the presidency, Poland has turned a corner.
The reaction in European capitals to the departure of the intellectually dominant Kaczynski twin is not the best way to gauge the result of a snap election. But it does show how many countries the twins alienated in their brief but incident-packed reign. There was Germany, which found that the country they had sponsored for entry into the EU was now using membership as a way of settling old scores. There was Russia, whose relationship with the EU was embittered by Poland, retaliating to a Russian ban on Polish meat. There was the EU itself, whose reform treaty was nearly scuppered in the summer by Polish demands for more votes. The election was as much about Poland's image abroad as it was about the need for more tolerance and liberty at home. If Mr Kaczynski's model for Poland was a combative, xenophobic country surrounded by perceived enemies, and committed only to a relationship with a dwindling band of US neoconservatives, that model was rejected by the thousands of Poles living in Britain and Ireland who had a calmer, less hysterical view Poland's place in Europe.
The election of Mr Tusk's Civic Platform (PO) is not going to change Poland's foreign policy overnight. It was the PO that came up with the slogan "Nice or death" in the row over the voting rights that Warsaw had initially won at the Nice Treaty. Poland will remain critical of the EU and distrustful of Vladimir Putin's Russia. It will agree to the deployment of a missile defence base in the north-west of the country, but the man tipped to be its foreign minister, Radek Sikorski, will demand a higher price for Warsaw's acquiesence in terms of the modernisation of the Polish armed forces. Poland will still defend its national interests, with more pragmatism and less of the damaging anti-German rhetoric.
Lech Kaczynski remains in power, and it is one of the ironies of his brother's defeat that he will have to appoint a new prime minister. Before the election, he threatened to use his power of veto to block any legislation he did not agree with. If he carried out this threat, he would only be broadening the coalition of support that Civic Platform would enjoy in parliament. The government will be formed from a coalition of Civic Platform and the Peasants' party. This would be enough to secure a parliamentary majority but not the 60% of votes needed to overcome a presidential veto. If this happened, the Left and Democrats - an alliance of social democrats and former communists who hate the Kaczynskis more than most - are expected to vote with the government.
Poland is now politically more coherent. Gone are the teetering coalitions that threatened to collapse at the first whiff of scandal. Gone too from parliament are unsavoury extremist parties like the populist Self- Defence or rightwing League of Polish Families. Their vote collapsed from 18% at the last election two years ago to just over 3%. In its place is a parliament dominated by three factions: the liberal conservatism of Civic Platform, the nationalism of Mr Kaczynski's Law and Justice party, and the centre-left social democrats. If it looks like any other country, it is a measure of how far Poland has travelled.
I'm happy to see Jaroslaw lose, but why quote the rubbishy, hypocritical Guardian with its sloppy journalistic standards?
"Jaroslav Kaczynski" - Grauniad spelling at it's beast!