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What's next in Poland?

by MarekNYC Wed Oct 26th, 2005 at 11:14:30 AM EST

promoted by Jerome. I was hoping that Marek would comment on the Twin Quiz post below, but he has instead provided a full diary on the situation in Poland after the presidential election. So here it is.

Lech Kaczynski has won the presidency - so what happens now? Well, once the results are announced his party, PiS, and his opponent's, PO will start negotiations in earnest to form the coalition they have been promising for several years. But last week the extreme right (LPR), extreme left (Samoobrona) and the peasant party (PSL) appealed to PiS to join them in a coalition and Kaczynski's presidential campaign openly allied itself with the extreme right while sending out olive branches to Samoobrona. Even if a POPiS government is created,  the EU should get ready for some interesting times and Russia will go from facing a (relatively) conciliatory Polish government  to a very hostile one while America will get an even more pro-Bush one. Yes, you read that right, by Polish standards Kwasniewski was a moderate on Polish-Russian relations.

At the moment it is still much more likely that the PO and PiS will reach a deal, with PiS' dual parliamentary and presidential victory giving them a stronger hand in creating the government program.  A PiS-LPR-PSL-Samoobrona government would be unstable due to constant internal power struggles but viable at least in the short term now that it would not have to face a hostile veto-wielding president without the votes to override him. It would be based on a turn to the left in economic policy and a very sharp turn to Europhobia and Russophobia in foreign policy. Its policy towards America would be very difficult to figure out. The PiS loves the neocon foreign policy and the Christian right, hates Germany, hates Russia even more, dislikes France and is moderately Europhobic. On the other hand the LPR's foreign policy views are roughly those of the West European far left with a large dose of antisemitism and anti-Germanism added into the mix. Both the LPR and Samoobrona are traditionally Russophilic but over the past year the extreme right has become somewhat hostile. The PSL only cares about patronage and agricultural policy and has moved from moderate Europhobia to Europhile positions as Polish farmers have begun to discover the joys of EU money.  You could also expect a lot of complaining about the moral decadence of Europe, particularly homosexuality and about Europe's hostility to Christianity and Christian values - basically imagine a Catholic version of the more hardline elements of the American Christian right.

It is hard to say what exactly the policies of a POPiS government would be. On economic policy the PO wants to slash taxes for the rich and mildly cut expenditures on the poor while PiS wants to cut taxes for the middle class and raise social spending. Considering Poland has a large budget deficit as it is, these programs could not be enacted. My best guess is that they'd meet in the middle and keep things roughly as they are now, with some tweaking around the margins - but that is just an educated guess.  On foreign policy you'd see a strengthening of Polish-American ties, somewhat greater hostility to Russia. And while the PO is Europhilic, it is also strongly neo-liberal. That combined with the knee jerk Europhobia of the PiS would make a POPiS government hostile to any attempts to create a more `social' Eu

Thank you, Marek, for keeping us posted on Polish developments. From what I'm learning, Poland sure dances to the beat of its own drummer...

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Mon Oct 24th, 2005 at 02:32:41 AM EST
For background information on Poland's political parties see my earlier diary here.

It also includes some inaccurate predictions based on what turned out to be inaccurate polls and perhaps my political bias showing through in believing those polls.

by MarekNYC on Mon Oct 24th, 2005 at 03:08:45 AM EST
Just read your other diary. Yikes, I would not have who to vote for if I were Polish! Then again, if I were Polish, I probably would have different opinions.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Oct 27th, 2005 at 04:05:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the reporting!

An addition, via Wikipedia: turnout was 50.9% - lowest ever (2000: 61.12%, 1995 2nd round: 68.2%, 1995 2nd round: 53.4%). Looks like not much of a representation to me... :-(

A question: how does the nationalistically-catholic hard and far right take the German Pope?

Thinking of it, a historical question: was the Polish church nationalistic in the 19th century? (All I know is that in the Habsburg Empire, it was then pro-Empire and thus anti-nationalistic, hence reviled by nationalistic revolutionaries.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Oct 24th, 2005 at 08:20:02 AM EST
They like the Pope, he's solidly conservative, a close aide to JPII, and lefties and liberals dislike him. Those factors trump the German aspect.

In the nineteenth century the Church was nationalist though very suspicious of the often left wing nationalists. Remember that both Prussia and Russia were very anti-Catholic, and both saw the Church as one of the two arms of Polish nationalism along with the nobility. The Russians dissolved dioces en masse and sent some bishops on one way walk out to Siberia. In the case of Prussia the anti-Catholic nationalism of the elites led to an acceleration of the spread of modern national identity among the peasantry in an unintended consequence of the Kulturkampf - peasants don't like their parish priests being locked up, and when told it is because they're Polish...

Post-1869 Galicia had very extensive autonomy within the Habsburg empire under the rule of the conservative and nationalist aristocracy which had close ties to the Church.

by MarekNYC on Mon Oct 24th, 2005 at 02:11:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The PO - PiS negotiations are currently in a vegetative state, with the only question remaining being whether there is a slight chance of recovery or whether it is time to just pull the plug.

Things have been moving quickly. Initial coalition negotiations showed considerable differences including mutually exclusive 'non-negotiable' demands, but as leaders on both sides said, that is not unusual in the early stages of coalition talks.  The two blocking points  were which PO politician gets to be parliamentary speaker (long before the elctions the two parties had agreed that whoever comes in second gets the speaker position) and whether or not PiS gets a monopoly on all aspects of the justice system and domestic security.  

Before the second round of the presidential elections the PO had proposed Bronislaw Komorowski for the speaker post. PiS rejected that idea pointing out that Komorowski is known for his anti PiS views. After Lech Kaczynski won the election PiS pushed the PO to make his defeated opponent, Donald Tusk, the new speaker. So far not that big a deal, but then yesterday morning an anonymous PiS politician leaked to the press that they were offering the speaker post to Jozef Zych of the PSL. Following initial denials, they quickly fell back on saying it was an attempt at a compromise candidate. Considering that is a bit like the PS telling the UDF that a PC leader, albeit a moderate one, is a 'compromise' you can imagine how well that went over. To be fair I'm not quite sure why the PO wasn't willing to have Tusk as speaker - perhaps he simply doesn't want the job. Or it might be a need to give the anti - PiS faction within the PO something significant or it was an intentional provocation.

The other issue is who gets the so-called 'power ministries' - Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Interior and Administration (police), and special services coordinator. PiS insisted on all three, the PO insisted on getting at least one, preferably the Interior Ministry. Jaroslaw Kaczynski disingenuously argued that over the summer back when it was expected that the PO would come on top, the PO had said that he would get the Interior ministry, that the 'Law and Justice' party by definition must have the Justice post, and that constitutionally the special services fall under the purview of the PM. Of course under that scenario the latter would have been in the PO's control. He also said that the only reason for the PO to mind the PiS' monopoly on domestic security and law enforcement would be if they had something to hide. (I'm sure they do, but so does PiS - no Polish party is corruption free)

And then came today's bombshell. The PiS proposed one of its most right wing and anti PO leaders, Marek Jurek, as parliamentary speaker, then forced him through with the votes of the LPR, PSL, and Samoobrona. The leader of the PO, Jan Maria Rokita immediately declared the negotiations dead and said that the parliamentary vote means that a new coalition is now in de facto existence and the PO is in the opposition. Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his puppet candidate for PM, Marcinkiewicz, are still saying they want a coalition with the PO but I can't see any way of that happening without considerable backtracking by PiS.

From my perspective this looks like a worst case scenario - a hard right - extreme right coalition.

by MarekNYC on Wed Oct 26th, 2005 at 04:22:57 PM EST
Well - maybe all the current parties can self-destruct soon...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Oct 26th, 2005 at 06:55:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Gazeta Wyborcza has kindly provided a greatest hits version of Marek Jurek's political path - note that they are very hostile, as am I.

45 yrs old, born and grew up in Gorzow Wielkopolski (pre 45 Landsberg a/d Warthe) Became politically engaged in high school with a special affection for 1930's Polish fascism, as well as for Napoleon and the ideology of the Vendee. Became involved with the Gdansk based right wing dissident group Movement of Young Poland (RMP). Most of its members eventually moved to the left in the eighties, he moved right. Student opposition leader at Poznan university in the 1980's. Cofounder of the Christian-National Union in 1989 - referred to by Jaroslaw Kaczynski in his more centrist days as the 'Union of Christian Hatred.'  In the nineties wrote articles in support of the dissident French archbishop Lefebvre - excommunicated by JPII and Ratzinger for excessive conservatism. Currently the head of a journal propagating Lefebvre's ideas in Poland. In 1999 he led a Polish delegation to visit Gen. Pinochet to show his support for the beleaguered freedom fighter in his hour of need. He declared that 'the attack on Pinochet is an attack on the traditional concept of freedom and state responsibility.  In the name of what?  - Nihilistic freedom emptied of all content and a state that has no responsibility.'

by MarekNYC on Wed Oct 26th, 2005 at 09:12:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Very informative.

Ben P

by Ben P (wbp@u.washington.edu) on Wed Oct 26th, 2005 at 11:13:05 PM EST
If the PO - PiS negotiations work out the foreign affairs portfolio will go to the PO. If they don't work out then PiS is seriously considering forming a minority government that would rely on ad hoc majorities in the splintered parliament. In that government the FA ministry would go to Radek Sikorski, current fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, former deputy minister of FA, dep minister of defense. He is also an ex journalist, free lancing in the eighties in Afghanistan, News Corp (Murdoch) head in Poland 1989-92, correspondent for the National Review 1988-1998. He also happens to be the husband of WaPo columnist and historian of the USSR, Anne Applebaum.  His grandfather, gen. Wladyslaw Sikorski, was the Polish leader in WWII.

No, I don't mind if you call Sikorski a neocon :). More seriously the LPR would be livid. If Jurek is as close to the LPR as it gets in PiS, and his nomination seen as a gesture to the LPR, Sikorski is at the opposite extreme of the party.  

by MarekNYC on Thu Oct 27th, 2005 at 02:15:30 AM EST
Sikorski's a neocon, Sikorski's a neocon! :-)

Thanks for all this full and useful information.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Oct 27th, 2005 at 03:56:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
...are generally a good thing for as long as they last. They tend not to serve their full term, but that is not a problem.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Oct 27th, 2005 at 04:07:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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