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A Glorious Polish Revolution by Jason Franzen

"Stefan, will ya stop frightening me with this PiS already" A Polish political cartoon.Published: November 19, 2015


In simpler words the sweeping away of 8 years of rule by the liberal Civic Platform, to be replaced by the conservative center right Law and Justice Party in the recent elections.


By Jason Franzen, Editor-in-Chief of the Kurier Polski of Minnesota, and Delano City Councilmen.


The Glorious Revolution, also called the Revolution of 1688, refers to the peaceful overthrow of King James II of England, by a union of English Parliamentarians with the Dutch stadtholder William of Orange. This was a bloodless revolution in the United Kingdom then, and had sweeping impacts on that country and the era. So it shall be for Poland and Eastern Europe in my view.


Last week on October 25th the Polish Republic held its Parliamentary elections. These had been held in somewhat “parlous “conditions as the Polish economy was coming off of years of positive economic growth for the country, but have recently showed signs of a real slowdown economically, with public debts rising, government spending increasing, and a number of foreign political entanglements coming to the fore, that reflected on Civic Platforms lack of determination, foresight, and a “lackey-like” “lickspittle “obedience to the European Union “Diktat”. These include weak reaction to the “refugee crisis” in the Balkans, (Those coming from the Syrian Civil War” as well as Middle Eastern economic migrants), and especially the meekness in the face of the Russian Federations intimidation tactics in the Baltic States, Poland, Sweden, as well as the lack of a firm policy of support towards the Ukraine. Civic Platforms Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz, and the European Council president Donald Tusk also of the Civic Platform has been entirely too accommodating to the Russian, and German interest in Eastern Europe. Germanys Angela Merkel the Prime Minister has been subservient to Russians threats, and has only verbally condemned Vladimir Putin’s actions in the aggression in the Ukraine, and harassment of other Eastern European countries. Civic Platform then has necessarily been “obedient” to the Merkel line of “meekness” in the face of continued Russian intimidation and aggression.


Some additional but critical embarrassments to Civic Platform before the election was the release of conversations taped and released by the political magazine Wprost through the efforts of the journalist Zbigniew Stonoga. The conversations occurred July 2013 between governor of the National Bank of Poland Marek Belka, interior minister Bartlomiej Sienkiewicz and former transport minister Sławomir Nowak. The tapes record government ministers asking for support from the National Bank ahead of a general election next year if the economy is faltering and the opposition Law and Justice (PiS) is threatening to win the ballot. Marek Belka, a former prime minister, is heard to reply on the tapes that the Monetary Policy Council, which sets interests rates in Poland, would “play ball” in return for the resignation of the then finance minister Jacek Rostowski, a long-time critic of the national bank's record on cutting interest rates, and his replacement by a politically independent economist. In addition to this was the conversation taped between Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski and finance minister Jacek Rostowski that was full of embarrassing comments to the government, and its principal ally of the United States, that included much vulgar language that compared the alliance to sexual activities, and used many other vulgar references to the close alliance Poland has with the United States. These various scandals demonstrated to the majority of Poles near and aboard that the Civic Platform government was led by men and women who were very cynical privately regardless of their public pronouncements. They acted as untouchable Plutocrats that were privately contemptible of the citizens, and of its friends aboard.


A common refrain by the Civic Platform in its election strategies over its years in power was using fear tactics with the public to get reelected. The fear of the “supposed” confrontational/combative style of Jaroslaw Kaczynski and Law and Justice was the target, this strategy did not work as Beata Sydlo was at the top of the ticket for Prime Minister, and Law and Justice which I will refer to as PiS after its Polish name, changed its focus to basic socio-economic issues instead of the so called “4th republic” concept which was to focus on moral and political renewal of the country which it used in its 2005—2007 period while it was in power. There were reasons why in the past that PiS would want to be confrontational was the sense by many Poles was that many governmental agencies, the judiciary, corporate managers/owners, heads of the mass media had many persons that directed these important centers of power who had strong connections to the communist regimes of the past being either ex officials, or who had benefitted from direct patronage for example Leszek Miller, or others who had been or former President Kwasniewski of the SLD party these were important members of the communist party in the past. That many have jobs with important companies and media establishments who were sons and daughters of famous communists grates on the average Pole. As it would in Russia for example where you have any number of persons who were members of the KGB or government organizations that betrayed its own people and would be considered criminal organization’s by the average person, would not be, and should not be in a position of trust.


One final very important reason why Law and Justice swept out Civic Platform was the sense by many Poles “as evidenced by the votes, and demographic split” that unless you live in the big cities like Warsaw, Krakow, Gdansk or areas to the west in Poland, or had moved or worked abroad to other EU countries or the United States, you will not or did not benefit from the recent years of economic development. This feeling is especially true from those in small cities, towns, or the country side. Many Poles that went to England or the United States to work had to find jobs well below their educational level.


The final poll results which were delayed for multiple hours because of a disruption at one voting area, and that London’s polish community’s votes weren’t counted expeditiously. Fortunately the voting this time was apparently much smoother with better procedures being followed, and the company that was used for tabulation, and ballot creation chastened by last year’s debacle over the local elections which appear to have been rigged when Law and Justices polling showed them to be way ahead of Civic Platform in local assembly elections went on to lose many local elections to a small party named PSL which is the Polish Peasants Party, who did extremely well getting 2-3 times what it normally would get, which doesn’t “jive” with its small party status, nor the prior polling results.


The exit polls pointed to a big win with as much as 40% of sets going to Law and Justice, and a shattering defeat going to the liberal Civic Platform, with other smaller parties getting knocked out of government completely, and the far left ex-communists disappearing from Parliament altogether. Late on the 26th final poll results were certified with Law and Justice getting 37.6% of the vote, and 235 seats in the Sejm which is the parliament, this is 51.1% of the seats there which is an absolute majority and the first one in Poland’s 25 years of post-communist history, and is a spectacular result! The outgoing government of Eva Kopacz got only 24.1% of the vote and a much lower 30% of seats. The newcomer Pawel Kukiz a former rock star that is Poland’s version of the reform party and Jesse Ventura, got 9.1% of the seats under the party name Kukiz 2015. The perennial mercenary PSL or Polish Peasants Party got 3.5% of the seats, and lastly the new party Nowocesna or “Modern” party got 6.1% of the seats. This party is led by the economist Ryszard Petru, as a number of its leaders where major bankers the party is rightly called the party of the World Bank. Perhaps a bit surprising is that the left has no representation at all, and were knocked out of the parliament all together in the this election result, a number of left wing parties including the Greens, and the former communist SLD with Leszek Miller, the Palikot movement were all defeated in the United Left coalition, as well as the more radical Razem, or “Together” left coalition. Much bitterness was leveled by leftists at the insurgent Adrian Zandberg who led Razem, and was a decidedly unapologetic Marxist pulled enough votes from the United Left to keep all leftists from the Polish Sejm altogether.


What will come of all these stirring election news? There is a very real possibility of PiS Law and Justice adding to its majority by encouraging a coalition with PSL, the Polish Peasant Party which shares some similar constituencies, a stronger chance would be a coalition or to encourage defections with Pawel Kukiz’s group whose natural conservative, anti-establishment bent leans towards PiS, Pawel Kukiz has made statements of support towards Law and Justice in the past. I believe defections are likely as Kukiz’s group does not appear to have a program for the parliament. I believe a number of PO or Civic Platform members can be encouraged, and will defect to PiS as political survival, and wanting efforts to count will encourage some members of theirs to defect to PiS. In past votes in the parliament, when the topic of gay marriage came up, Invitro fertilization, or reducing abortion restrictions, some 30% of Civic Platform members defected. If PiS can get to the magic count of 301 they will be to rewrite the Constitution, and make more substantive changes. This is a possibility with other parties’ defections. Long term I strongly believe that PO Civic Platform will fade away with the conservative members go to PiS, and the others going to the new party of Nowocesna “Modern”. The Radical left will reorganize under a new label, with younger leadership under Barbara Nowacka.


Per Law and Justices public platform a sweeping victory like this will bring real change and improvement in the lives of common Poles, especially those of the working class, and the retired population. These include-A 120 Euro credit per month per child in a family (which will help a nagging demographic birth problem in Poland). The retirement age for men and women will likely LOWER TO ITS PREVIOUS MEN 65, WOMEN 60. PiS will raise taxes on banking, especially foreign ones, and foreign corporations. Social policy concerning Abortion and “perceived” Homosexual rights will remain conservative and significantly restricted as it should be. Foreign Policy Vis a Vis Russia and Germany will get more complicated. Poland under a conservative President Duda and Conservative Parliament with PM Sydlo will see Poland become more verbal, and aggressive in any response to Vladimir Putin’s aggressive actions in Ukraine, the Baltic States or matters concerning its own borders, and NATO involvement, they will be less dependent on the EU’s “vanilla” responses to everything. In the past Poland under PO Kopacz took the EU’s line from Refugees, Global warming, Energy Production, these will be gladly kicked aside. Poland’s only source of electricity by and large is from Coal which is its only abundant Fossil Fuel, and any alternative would bankrupt the country, come what may with the global warming debate. Any further refugees from the Middle East will likely be blocked as there is great concern in a largely Christian country to bring in Muslims from other parts of the world that seem to show little interest in integrating into the larger society if the French or British example is of any indication. That most of the refugees are young men alone under the age 30 with just a handful of women and children belies the medias narrative of destitute war refugees. Reports from Austria and Germany say that 90% are from countries other than Syria, emphasis added. Law and Justices has talked about increasing defense spending in the face of the Russian military threat, and will ask for forward basing of American troops, and equipment to Poland. Very likely EU currency adoption will be shelved for the long term, as resistance to the EU generally increases in Britain, and Eastern, and Southern Europe. Any further integration with the EU would involve a popular vote by the people according to PiS. In closing Law and Justice can savor its sweeping victory over the liberal Civic Platform with its overwhelming win. Therein that victory lies great opportunity to reorder society, but also great avenues for adversity to be opened up as they have complete control of government, and no one other than themselves to blame if PiS was to falter.

Jason Franzen is an editor for Kurier Polski of Minnesota
Published: November 19, 2015
Photo: www.docinek.com