Sunday, 11 October 2015

Home straight before the vote

The topic of the oncoming parliamentary election in Poland has been neglected on PES for too long. Like many Poles, disgruntled with feeble PO-led government, I have grown indifferent to politics, hence the absence of up-to-date commentaries. Beware though! You may be incensed, you may be fed up with politicians, yet it must not be the reason to take umbrage at democracy at all and decline to go to the polls; sadly many clever people around declare to do so, for the first time since many years.

Since many voters have not yet decided who they will support, a short (biased) overview of what the parties which stand a chance of garnering seats in the parliament lure us with.

1. Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (Law and Justice) and its sidekick-groupings

The odds-on favourite winner according to all reliable polls, with support oscillating between 30% and 40%. Since the party generally lacks ability to find a coalitional partner and refuses to make concessions in its pursuit to lift Poland from ruins, it aims for a score which would secure them a simple majority in the parliament. Given the recent drop in support for the party and how numerous the anti-PiS electorate is, the scenario seems now out of reach, although the party capitalises well on Poles’ weariness of Platforma being in power for too long.

The party strives to run a substantive campaign with focus on economic agenda. While the end is commendable, means leave a lot to be desired and hollow promises do not hold water, when confronted with shortage of budget proceeds to finance the joyful spending spree.

For a long time PiS kept some of its prominent leaders (Mr Macierewicz, Ms Pawlowicz) locked away, presumably not to deter moderate voters. Only recently the party’s president, Mr Kaczynski, began to put in public appearances and for some reason this coincided with drop in support for the party.

While I can comprehend the Polish conservative society care little about problems of civil partnerships, abortion, in-vitro, etc., I find it mind-boggling how short a human memory can be. The rule of PiS and its coalitional partners, brought to an end in October 2007, two years of spoiling Poland’s secret services, justice system and harnessing them to chase own political goals should have been engraved in Poles’ memories. This style of doing politics was rejected by Poles in 2007. Now it is likely to return, with much stronger magnitude…

2. Platforma Obywatelska (Civic Platform)

After eight years of being in charge of the country, PO begins to pay the price for numerous scandals, getting riveted to privileges of power and for straying away from ordinary people’s problems. Thanks to the generous injection of money from the EU, under PO rule Poland has moved ahead considerably, yet the progress has not necessarily been felt by many Poles in terms of their standard of living. As I once quoted Mr Sienkiewicz, I can reiterate an average Kowalski has not benefited enough from all the positive developments which have taken place in the recent years and asks “what’s in it for me?”. Prime minister Kopacz has discerned it, yet far too late, and had far too little time to catch up for the lost years.

The wake-up call for the party was the lost presidential election, a clear signal many Poles opt for a change, just for the sake of overthrowing the current state of affairs, even if what is offered in return is uncertain. PO is desperately fighting to regain support of disillusioned voters and entices groups of voters who have never been PO’s core electorate – hence since Mrs Kopacz took charge of the party, PO’s agendas, both the economic and the social, drift left. Maybe knowing PO stands no chance of winning over those who adore PiS, it strives to take over moderate leftist electorate, strategically the step is wise.

Another sign of party’s desperation is inviting political outcasts to candidate lists in the election. Presence of Mr Michał Kaminski and Mr Dorn (both guys were among the ardent builders of would-be Czwarta Rzeczpospolita, yet rejected by Mr Kaczynski instead of sliding into political non-existence, have found a cushy shelter on PO’s lists) and Mr Napieralski (he should begin to search for a regular job, a task well beyond his capacity, instead of living off taxpayers’ backs) is a ludicrous step I find barely forgivable.

As I keep track of the campaign, solitude of Mrs Kopacz is more and more noticeable. She goes it alone, she fights alone, her party-mates seem to be bracing for setting themselves up in the more comfortable role of the opposition.

3. Zjednoczona Lewica (the United Left)

To keep their heads above water, Mr Miller and Mr Palikot have decided to team up and fight the battle to survive together. This means they will need to reach the hurdle of 8%, a result that seems attainable, yet is glaringly low if you bear in mind, according to sociologists’ research, some 30% of Poles declare their views are leftist.

The agenda ZL (I will stoop low enough to “sink” them, since I believe criticism should be substantive and not referring to semantics) offers is clearly leftist, often populist. Thumbs up for them for laying out an agenda that could actually benefit the poorest, thumbs down for the same agenda which is unviable and would hamper economic growth.

All in all, ZL attempts to position itself against PO (too liberal in economic terms and not enough liberal in social terms) and PiS (with makings of infringing civic freedoms and track record of treating favourably the wealthiest), looks out distinct to them, yet lacks credibility, most probably because its image has been tainted by dodgy party leaders (Mr Miller and Mr Palikot) out of favour with several leftist voters.

4. Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe (translated as the Peasant Party)

Current coalitional partner of PO. In polls always balances near the 5% parliament entry threshold and always scoring much higher in actual elections. The party’s credibility (with me) has been dented by recent utterance of its leader, Mr Piechocinski, who claimed the great coalition of PO, PiS and PSL would be to the benefit of Poland. Screw loose, dear neighbour, determination of your henchmen to hold on to stools in ministries and government agencies must be really strong, but talking your head off has some boundaries! If PSL deputies find some seats in the parliament, they will make up a coalitional partner for anybody.

5. Kukiz ‘15

Whenever a grouping has its leader surname it its name, it brings out associations with personality cult and I find it off-putting straight away. Mr Kukiz, having scored an impressive result in the presidential election, has wasted much of his alleged potential afterwards, yet eventually has also managed to get his act together and compile lists for elections. Despite having no agenda, since any agenda is a deceit, he still stands a chance of making his way to the parliament, carried by the votes of the fed up, outraged, duped, etc.


Set up less than four months ago, endeavours to offer an alternative to PO electorate let down by how PO has strayed from its original economic liberal agenda. Nowoczesna calls for reforms PO shies away from, yet its agenda is disguised as beneficial for all citizens, while many points (e.g. flat taxes) of it favour only the richest. For the sake of straightforwardness, I would prefer if it clearly dubbed itself representatives of entrepreneurs and corporate rodents.

Two weeks ahead of the election, the most likely scenario is that all six parties make it into the parliament, but PiS will not have the ability to form the coalition which would have majority in the lower house. The only natural partner for them would be Kukiz ’15, alliance with some deputies from PSL and ZL (then ZLew) seems also conceivable. Most likely we will be in for long squabbling that will benefit nobody.

Personally… In the lower house election I am going to put a cross against Let’s face it, they best represent my interests as a financial sector employee. My rationale is selfish, yet if a scenario of broad coalition against PiS materialises, I would prefer it to have economically liberal tilt and only presence of can ensure it.

In the upper house election, I will vote for (and not against other candidates) professor Monika Płatek backed by ZL, an outstanding lawyer and a voice of common sense in public discourse regarding civic freedoms. I hope PO electorate, plentiful in sub-Warsaw constituency, will hold back from voting for Mr Giertych, indirectly supported by PO (shame on you, PO) by not putting out a counter-candidate.

Looking forward to days after 25 October 2015; will be anything but boring!


Michael Dembinski said...

Good stuff, Mr Eternal:-)

Glad to see you rooting for, PO has indeed alienated the Economist-reading electorate with its lack of reformist zeal. So much still to do to get Poland in shape to compete as a world-class economy.

Turf out the old profs holding back innovation in Polish universities!

Cut the cost of collecting taxes! Simplify the process!

Make it EASIER for micro- and small businesses to employ people legally!

Streamline the courts, make the legal system work like a well-oiled machine!

AND... put an end to the dodgier transfer-pricing schemes that mulitnational corporations use to avoid paying taxes here.

Do these things, and there will be work aplenty for Poles, and their earnings will rise.

Tax and spend and we'll become not so much a Budapest but a Caracas on the Vistula.

student SGH said...

How come I have deserved to be dubbed Eternal?

While I read what you posit, I can't resist to ask again Is it the system, or the people (it is the question that is eternal, not me ;-)) Would enhancing the system bear fruits, if the people do not change themselves?

Hmm... Transfer pricing scheme dodgy? I'm not an expert in the issue, but I've had a few opportunities to talk to CFOs of Polish subsidiaries of multinational corporations and from what they tell (unless they depart from the truth), tax legislation leaves their parent companies not that much room for concluding transactions that are not arm's length...