Sunday, 7 March 2010

Polish presidential election in 2010

I voted in local council election in 2006, I cast a ballot in parliamentary early election in 2007 and in 2009 in European Parliamentary election. This year’s presidential election will be the last of my first, since five years ago I was under 18 and simply couldn’t vote. At the moment I can hazard a guess the coming months will abound in interesting twists of action on Polish political scene. Bearing this in mind I decided I should keep you up to date with all noteworthy events that will be taking place until September or October when the election is held. I’d like to begin this series of posts (later labelled ‘Polish presidential election in 2010’) by introducing and bluntly commenting on the profiles of some candidates.

Take a glimpse to the extreme right and you’ll behold two candidates who don’t stand any chance to win, but add some flavour to this campaign. One is Marek Jurek, known for his ultra-rightist views on social issues like abortion or homosexuals’ rights, commonly condemned for a visit he paid to general Pinochet in 1999. The second runner, whose candidacy is not as scary as of Mr Jurek is Janusz Korwin-Mikke, famous mostly for his ultra-libertian economic views and straightforward comments on public life. For the sake of straightforwardness it’s worth to be familiar with his ideas, but before embracing them please realise the world is a not as simple and unequivocal as he claims. Personally my common sense often tells me what he says is totally right, but a second after that a gauge at the back of my head goes on and reminds me that application of those ideas would end up with a huge disaster.

The guy who limbers up at the opposite side of Polish political scene is Jerzy Szmajdziński. Mr Szmajdziński is going to be a candidate of SLD in the coming elections. He is credited with being akin to John F. Kennedy. Yet, this is not a reason to vote for this guy. His party has been on decline ever since their election triumph in 2001. SLD in a current shape does not have anyone who’d have such a charisma Aleksander Kwaśniewski used to have. No one is going to enchant voters like he did and I don’t think revived figures like Leszek Miller or Józef Oleksy would help him win.

Another candidate who declared he was going to run for presidency is Andrzej Olechowski. He was a runner-up in presidential election in 2000. Now he runs as an independent candidate, backed by niche Stronnictwo Demokraktyczne. Currently he is the only liberal (in my definition both in economic and social terms) candidate and I’m going to throw my support behind him in the proper election. As journalists point out his chances are tiny, hence Poles don’t like such sort-of-noble men and he generally is unable to adjust to the style of contemporary politics, short of substantive discussion, full of mud-slinging.

Platforma Obywatelska has launched a new tradition and like in Untied States the party is going to hold primary elections to appoint its candidate. Those who stand a chance of being picked to run are Bronisław Komorowski and Radosław Sikorski.

Mr Komorowski, current speaker of parliament is a typical mild conservative. He clearly outlines his views and vision of presidency. As for the upsides I can say he is very even-tempered and practises what he preaches in private life. What I hold against him is that he doesn’t seem cut out for representing Poland in international politics. He would make a good speaker, minister, city mayor but lacks experience in the area of international affairs. As many commentators draw attention to, he is very similar to the current president in terms of biography and common touch (how to translate it into Polish?). Many Poles can identify with him what can strengthen his position.

Mr Komorowski is not my dreamt-up candidate, but still a far better choice than Mr Sikorski. The only strong points of current minister of foreign affairs are his international experience and command of foreign languages. I won’t vote for him, unless in a run-off as for the lesser of two evils, for two reasons:
1) He is over-ambitious. This makes him get too big for his boots and his ego plus unpredictability might ruin his presidency and make it not much better than Lech Kaczyński’s term and not necessarily devoid of blunders!
2) His manners are the crucial factor that has discouraged me from voting for him. A civilised politician does not say about his former colleagues from the party he had left “Trzeba dorżnąć tę watahę” (EN: those riff-raff should be put out of misery), doesn’t chant “Były prezydent Kaczyński” (EN: former president Kaczyński) on a public rally nor insults the incumbent president by saying “prezydent może być niski, ale nie może być mały” (EN: a president can be short but cannot be small). Can you imagine David Cameron screaming out merrily “former prime minister Gordon Brown” or Barack Obama shouting out “former president George W. Bush”? Is it up to the standard in a civilised country?
I bet Poles will not hold with one more thing. They will be reluctant to see an influential Jewish journalist as a first lady. Anti-semite sentiments are still strong in Poland and if they won’t tip the balance, some other arguments like the lack of tie-ups with Poland or flaunting the richness will do.

I’m not the only to raise reservations concerning Mr Sikorski’s candidacy. Mr Palikot who wrote on his blog what he thought about Mr Sikorski was almost ousted from the party, just for a few words of truth. I like Janusz Palikot. The chap has enough money to freely speak his mind, unlike other deputies on the make who weigh every word they say, fearing to lose their cushy jobs.

The incumbent president announced recently only those who have a political support of a big party are likely to win the elections. This might have referred to Mr Olechowski, but it sounds at least ludicrously as uttered by a man, whose twin brother is in charge of the second most powerful party in this country. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mr Kaczyński backed away from running. He is quite tired of his role and might find some other activities more rewarding than being a head of state.

The last figure which should not be omitted is a Hamlet of Polish politics – Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz. Currently holed up in a forest, Mr Cimoszewicz officially doesn’t rule out running just to avert the second term of incumbent president. Meanwhile Mr Tusk doesn’t rule out Mr Cimoszewicz may take over as foreign minister if Mr Sikorski is elected a president. A really shrewd move by Mr Tusk would be however to ask Mr Cimoszewicz to run as a civic candidate. As the polls show, he is the only one capable of victory in the first round. He could get votes of most leftist and centrist electorate and unlike many candidates has few voters biased against him.

Anticipating your questions – no, I don’t care he was in communist party and in SLD. I don’t know why he joined PZPR but for sure he was a misfit in SLD, no wonder he decided to quit instead of sloshing about in that mire. I don’t mind his leftist views. In Polish political system a president’s main role is to represent the state and he has makings to do it well.

What I would wish on Poland until 2015 is Mr Cimoszewicz or Mr Olechowski as president and Mr Tusk as prime minister in charge of Civic Platform government for the second term. Such a cohabitation could help move this country forward. This scenario is however rather unlikely to come to a pass and what is much more probable is a smear campaign.


Michael Dembinski said...

"Komorowski for 2010.

Sikorski for 2020."

Makes good sense to me :-)

student SGH said...

Maybe within those ten years Mr Sikorski will grow into this office.

And I still fear that if Mr Sikorski and Mr Kaczyński will be vie in a run-off, the negative electorate of the former might be stronger than that of the latter.

BTW, I have a linguistic question - should I write election or elections. What is a general difference, cause I saw them both in use and couldn't make out a difference. Plus in Polish this noun exists only in plural.

Michael Dembinski said...

Should be election, but as the presidential vote is taking place on the same day as the local authority one, it'll be elections!