Sunday, 18 September 2011

Hot autumn in politics

Looking at recent posts you might have inferred subject matters brought up recently depart more and more from what the blog should be mostly about. Time to get back to the core…

To politics…

The pre-election campaign has been in overdrive for a few weeks but I somehow do not feel that in three weeks I will go to the polls. This campaign in a way looks lacklustre for me, nothing really exciting has been going on. I do not know if it is good or bad, maybe I have too little time to keep track of the events in politics, but this campaign appears to me much different that all the recent ones (those in the run-up to parliamentary elections in 2005 and 2007 and before early presidential election last year).

The first remarkable thing is that two fellow bloggers are running for parliament. Toyah goes in for a seat in the lower house from constituency Katowice from Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (hereinafter PiS) list, while Paulina can be found on Warsaw’s lists of Ruch Poparcia Palikota. I will not have a chance to vote for any of them, I actually do not know personally anyone from the lists in my constituency.

A few months ago it was quite sure that Platforma Obywatelska (hereinafter PO) would be the odds-on favourite of the autumn election. Today, as the most recent polls show the biggest oppositional party, PiS has caught up with the ruling PO and support for the latter is in some polls is less than five percentage points lower than for the former. Actually it is not an astonishing tendency. PO’s victory would be the first ever win of the ruling party in Poland after 1989. Each time before, Poles were sick of previous governments and wanted something other, but that is a negligible factor. Never before have Poles been so divided in terms of political views. There was a strong hatred towards PiS in 2007, now there is a strong hatred, but mostly towards PO, hostility towards PiS is still alive, media still favour PO, but electorate of PiS has built up strong backing and keeps growing in power. It is no longer passé to admit publicly one votes for PiS, in this respect things look much better than in 2007 when voters of stepping down PiS were really despised and it was cool to vote for PO. Today those who back Mr Kaczynski can hold their heads up high.

I see some reasons why support for PiS is on the rise:
- people are sick of success propaganda pursued by the current government and run out of patience,
- the issue of Smolensk has been shelved,
- the new strategy of the party sets out to build a new image of open-minded, moderate party which wants to develop Poland on foundations of traditional values in a modern way,
- plus again it promises the moon in terms of economics, as if they were capable of cracking down on rising costs of living, unemployment, etc.

And there is reason why I do not understand it. All other parties take part in debates, while PiS members only organise press conferences of give interviews, they do not want to discuss with other parties. Supporters of PiS say it is because media are biased, opponents claim in turn PiS members know they are not prepared for a substantial debate. The truth lies… Do not hope to find it out… It lies where it lies…

I sometimes dare to think PiS wants to lose the election and focus on fighting for ultimate power in 2015, taking over the whole power (majority of two-third in the parliament plus their president). It could be even quite convenient to them to let PO run Poland through the end of the impending second wave of economic crisis, repeat hackneyed theses of Poland in a total downfall, chaos, ruled by incompetent people.

The campaign and politics as a whole abounds in inept pronouncements. The most noteworthy examples from the recent months are:

24 August – PiS deputy and ecomomic expert Beata Szydło says in Tok FM radio Polish GDP is shrinking (in the second quarter of 2011 it rose by 4.3% year-on-year).

26 August – PiS deputy Adam Hofman comments on the new clip of Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe (hereinafter PSL) saying guys from the countryside came to the capital and go bananas.

Early days of September – member of Monetary Policy Council, Zyta Gilowska, former finance minister in PiS-led government publicly backs PiS and declares her readiness to take part in a debate with the incumbent finance minister on public finance. Such activity would have been a blatant violation of central bank independence and derogation of Polish central banking law. This move wound me up as an economist and on 7 September I was going to write a short note to condemn her misdemeanour. Eventually on the same day, during the ending session of the council Zyta Gilowska was probably taken to the task by the president of the central bank, came to her senses and backed out of the idea of engaging in political activity.

16 September – Grzegorz Napieralski, leader of Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej (hereinafter SLD) calls PO to create a government if PiS wins the election. The perplexing idea is quickly and rightly retorted by the prime minister Donald Tusk who reminds Mr Napieralski that only Poles have a right to decide who will form the government. If PiS gets the biggest percent of votes it should build a new government. Who would dare to enter a coalition with them is a totally different story…

Of course this coverage is biased, but still less biased than posts on other blogs…

Now a quick look at agendas of two parties that have a chance to win the election.

PO wants to press ahead with modernisation of Poland with the method of small steps. No big liberal reforms, no difficult choices. PO underlines what it claims to have done over last 4 years and silently concedes its defeats. Unlike SLD it does not focus on reviving memories of IV RP nor wants to put Jarosław Kaczyński and Zbigniew Ziobro before the Constitutional Tribunal. In a word – realpolitik

PiS also has an agenda, but it consists mainly of:
a) criticising feckless PO-led government,
b) taking pride in achievements of PiS-led government.

But seriously, as a biased recipient I have to say it is simply incoherent and lacks details. Let’s examine some parts of their economic agenda.

PiS wants to levy an additional tax on banks. At least one candidate of this party says banks are evil and if only possible would love to wipe them out. Coming back to the bank tax, no one says on what (equity, total assets, deposits, net income) the tax would be paid, but in the meantime PiS wants to boost banks’ income by extending the Rodzina na Swoim programme, under which the state pays half of the interest on mortgage loans to families who buy a new flat or house and meet specific criteria. The programme boosts demand on properties and consequently also property prices go up. This means the beneficiaries of the subsidies for the borrowers are (1) developers which can sell flats at higher prices and earn more and (2) banks which can charge clients higher margins (it is proved that loans under Rodzina na Swoim have higher margins, because cost for a client is lower than for a non-subsidised loan anyway). If property prices rise, fewer people can afford to buy a flat without a mortgage, so more people have to go to banks plus they have to borrow more. And so the banks earn more and debt burdens of households increase…

It is easy to say banks enslave people, but how does it impinge on the contribution PiS wants to make? Another thing I like in the agenda of PiS and speeches delivered by Mr Kaczyński is the phrases pieniądze się muszą znaleźć (money has to be found) and są zasoby do których można sięgnąć (there are resources that can be tapped). I have not heard until now where that money is, nor what those resources are. Pooling wool over poor voters’ eyes all the way… Or if somebody could enlighten me…?

Mr Kaczyński is of the opinion that the rich, not the poor should bear higher tax burdens. So why the heck did his party (with support of PO) resolve to cut the income tax marginal rates by 8 percentage points for the richest, by 12 percentage points for well-earning ones and by one, mere one percentage post for most Poles? Why did they cut sickness benefit contribution (składka rentowa) and grant tax deductible amount for each child under such conditions that the poorest could not deduct any amount? Key beneficiaries of all those moves are the well-off, it would be quite natural if those changes were pushed through by libreal PO, but they were passed in times of Polska Solidarna. Jarosław Kaczyński surely solidarised with the better-off.

If PO wins… Someone will surely say the election has been rigged.

If PiS wins… Someone will surely call Poles idiots, morons, etc.
If PiS wins… Life will be much more exciting.
If PiS wins… Maybe I will set up a Polish language blog on politics…

I do not think victory of Mr Kaczyński party would be a disaster, but I do not want it for Poland.  I do not want my country to follow the path of Hungary under Mr Orban’s administration. As much and as little.

1 comment:

Philip said...

One thing I am puzzled, is that compared to the national parliamentary elections in France, Germany, Spain and Italy. The media here in the UK, is strangely absence about the up-coming Polish elections, also comparing with the last general election where the PiS was in charge.

This is disparate that we have a lot of Poles hence small interest, that Poland is only economy that isn't in recession, and the fact that Donald Tusk could continue with being Prime Minister, an interesting proposition to what happen in the past.