Saturday, 27 March 2010

And the winner is...

Civic Platform, as the first party in Poland, patterned itself on American parties and decided to hold primary elections, as an indispensable part of campaign. Those who voted for one of two candidates (Radosław Sikorski and Bronisław Komorowski) were the party members – almost 46,000 activists scattered around Poland who hold membership cards and pay monthly contributions. The members were allowed to vote on-line or via mail. The turnout in the election proved the party represents Poles well, or at least reflects their voting habits – only 47.47% of party members took trouble to cast votes.

The winner turned out to be the current speaker of parliament, Mr Komorowski. The more malicious commentators had pointed out he had been the only person to stand a chance to be nominated to run for presidency and the whole election had been just a dummy.

What must not pass unnoticed is the debate between candidates which was held last Sunday in the library of the University of Warsaw (yes, it was almost a week ago, but although the winter’s gone, I’m still snowed with manifold duties). Unlike in previous debates Poles had had the opportunity to observe this one was moderated by two PO deputies, the questions to candidates had been sent in by Internet users via Civic Platform’s website. The supporters of the party had come up with around 5,000 questions, out of which moderators picked seven Mr Sikorski and Mr Komorowski had to answer.

An ordinary viewer could have an impression that views of both runners all in all are in accord. The main difference to my eye was that Mr Sikorski wanted to be a stronger president and was more keen to exercise his powers, whereas Mr Komorowski pointed up the merits of maturity and style of presidency and in a few waspish remarks commented on traits of another candidate which could discredit him as a head of state. What for many observers, journalists and politicians from opposition left a bad taste was an assertion made by Mr Komorowski that only families who were able to raise healthy children could be granted a privilege to have an in-vitro treatment financed from state budget (Mr Sikorski thinks parents with fertility problems should pay for the therapy from their own pockets), because the state has a right to treat the new citizen as an investment. Many saw this declaration as an assault on equality, personally I think the speaker said what many people think and what is not at odds with common sense.

I can only add I’m pretty satisfied with the result. The “Polish presidential election in 2010” thread will be continued.


PolishMeKnob said...

I'm not the most keen on Polish politics (I have enough on my plate with American politics) but what does the President of Poland actually do? From what I've learned from my students: the President lives in an enormous palace; exercises very little power; meets with foreign officials and goes to funerals of heads of state. Will this election actually change anything in the Polish Government? And what is different between PO and PiS? As far as I can tell, from their stated agendas, they're pretty much the same thing, except one is slightly more right wing.

student SGH said...

PMK - very incisive comment. Now I hasten to refer to your points.

Polish president has more power than a German head of state, but he represents Poland in international politics, together with government is responsible for conducting foreign policy (this has led to many squabbles in the last two years) and, what cannot be forgotten, has a right to veto bills, what means he can block all reforms of government, if a majority of 3/5 in a lower house of parliament doesn't reject a veto.

Will it change anything in Polish government? The new president will be likely to cooperate with the government instead of clashing with it.

And because the president has little power the style of presidency matters.

PO and PiS are both right-wing parties. They stem from the same movement (Solidarity) but with time went separate ways. PO is more pro-european, forward-looking, less conservative in social terms and economically libreal. PiS in turn has nationalist leanings, is rather past-oriented, conservative in social issues and favours more state interventions in economy to help the disadvantaged.

They used to be very similar until the elections of 2005, but then PiS won both parliamentary election and had its president elected. With hindsight I am damn happy that PO-PiS coalition has never been formed. I think even the PiS victory at that time did Poles more good than harm. It taught them a lesson and the memory of their style of exercising power will remain with many Poles for years.

The other story is that Poland lacks a typical liberal party, not in the US meaning, where the Democrats are liberal, but a mixture of economic views from Republicans and social views of Democrats. It would never win the election but could represent around 10 - 15% of voters and could tip the balance.

Stefan Kubiak said...

Bartek, saying that PIS is 'conservative in social issues' sounds a bit misleading. Actually their views are socialist (though they'd rather call them just social) and not conservative.

Writing about 'a typical liberal party', did you mean a group that is called 'libertarians' in America? If so, well, there is such a party but they can hardly be treated seriously for several reasons...

student SGH said...

Stefan, a small lingustic remark - what Anglosaxons call "social issues" (see example are in Polish kwestie światpoglądowe and in this respect PiS is conservative as far as I'm concerned ;)

and typical liberal party would be a one with liberal stances on both economic and social issues. The initiative which could have developed into such a party was, but in 2005 they got too few votes and then allied with SLD and totally lost their identity. Opinions whether there's some room for such a political party on Polish political scene are divided. Poles are generally conservative in social issues and expect some economic security from the state, but given the existence of a group of young open-minded and tolerant voters who meanwhile don't claim state should give them anything, such a party could score 10% of votes.

PolishMeKnob said...

Re-looking of PO's agenda, I think they're more socially conservative (against gay marriage for instance) but fiscally moderate/liberal. PiS still seems to me to be really similar. Both seem like the Blue-Dog Democrats in the US. I know there are differences, but compared to the Democratic party in the US (which has a broad range of ideologies under its curtain) the differences are slight.
I should point out that while the Democrats are internationally known as "the liberal party" of the US, it's not really so. There are plenty of moderates to moderate-conservatives with the Democrats. The Republican Party has just gone so far to the right that is makes everything else look extremely left-wing.

Stefan Kubiak said...

If you're looking for any analogies between Civic Platform and something American, the best comparison is Tammany Hall under William "Boss" Tweed ;) All Polish political parties are leader-oriented coteries. PO is trying to employ some American customs (e.g. primary) but there's a long way before them. At the moment they are the most 'pragmatic' party on the Polish political arena. Law & Justice are hopelessly anachronistic in their ideology but no one can deny its existence whereas Civil Platform is a party that seems to have one goal: to serve its members :D