Kaczynski victory in Polish fight between two types of Right

Reply Tue 25 Oct, 2005 07:36 am
I don't know who has followed the Presidential elections in Poland, which this weekend ended with a victory for Lech Kaczynski against Donald Tusk, but it was fascinating, sorta.

It was a strange race. After four years of government by the former communists-turned-EU & market enthusiasts of the SLD, the left was drained of force, with the support for the SLD itself slashed from over 40% to a mere quarter of that. The race was none the less heated for it though, as two right-wing candidates, once both part of the anti-communist movement Solidarity, fought over some very basic values.

In the parliamentary elections last month, their respective parties, the Law and Order Party led by Lech Kaczynski's twin brother and the Civic Forum of Tusk, had already become the two leading forces, with Law and Order narrowly becoming the largest party. Both parties, however, vowed to form a government together.

The Presidential campaign has added a new sense of sharpness to their differences though, and constitutes a case study of the essential differences between elements of right-wing ideology.

Tusk and the Civic Forum are free market ideologists. They plead for a flat tax. They are, however, culturally liberal and open-minded, and of cosmopolitan outlook. They are deeply pro-American and pro-EU. Tusk's first trip abroad, he said, would be to Washington, DC.

The brothers with the unspellable name have promised a drastic break in another way, heralding the advent of a Fourth Republic - a Poland of moral purity and national solidarity. Culturally they are deeply conservative and Catholic; Kaczynski pleaded for the reintroduction of the death penalty and, as mayor of Warsaw, sought to ban the Gay Pride march. His first trip abroad would be to the Vatican.

But economically, they are rather leftist. Kaczynski promised to shore up benefits for the poor, expressed scepticism over privatisation of key state assets and promised subsidies to farmers and miners. He also promised not to reappoint Leszek Balcerowicz, architect of Poland's economic reforms, as national bank president. He sketched the country's prime challenge as clamping down on corruption and graft.

The established Polish and Central-European media tended to sympathise clearly with Tusk, in keeping with the political correctness of liberal intellectuals here: both resistance to the free market and nationalist or religious conservatism are considered signs of cultural backwardness.

I fell into this trap myself, saying earlier in the Following the EU that it was a choice between two evils, but at least Tusk was still sane. That's the typical condescension usually applied against populists of the left and the right.

Now, I'm not so sure anymore. Culturally, I sympathise with Tusk, but economically, with Kaczynski. And I think the economic axis is more important right now, as EU integration will stem all too stringent a cultural conservatism, whereas it will only further accelerate libertarian trends.

Western media, on the other hand, clearly - and funnily - have had trouble choosing which template narrative to apply. There are only a few such narratives that their readers are presumed to be able to digest when it comes to Eastern Europe, after all.

These two articles tipify the opposite slants they chose, making it rather important to read at least two newspapers about the elections ...

The Boston Globe wrote:
Conservative saying he is against graft wins in Poland

Warsaw's mayor vows to aid poor

WARSAW -- Lech Kaczynski, a conservative, won Poland's presidential runoff yesterday, on a platform combining traditionalist Roman Catholic values with promises to limit corruption and to shore up benefits for the poor.

Partial results found that Kaczynski, Warsaw's mayor, had won more than 54 percent of the vote. This was an 8-point advantage over Donald Tusk, a former ally who has favored a business-friendly approach.

Kaczynski's victory sealed a move to the right [..], after his Law and Justice party, and Tusk's moderate Civic Platform, crushed the governing leftist party, the Democratic Left Alliance, in general elections last month.

A moderate nationalist who is wary of deeper European integration, Kaczynski replaces Aleksander Kwasniewski [..].

Kaczynski said that Poland, which joined the EU after a vote in 2003, may hold a referendum on adopting the euro in 2010. [..]

Kaczynski has expressed reservations about joining the common European currency, the euro, but said the referendum was necessary because adopting that currency meant giving up part of Poland's sovereignty.

The election between Tusk and Kaczynski, former activists in the Solidarity union movement that toppled communism in 1989, became a plebiscite on whether the country of 38 million needs a more free-market approach, or more aid to its citizens.

Kaczynski [..] portrayed Tusk as a heartless free-market zealot [..]. In the campaigns, the Kaczynski twins, Lech and Jaroslaw, also a leader of the Law and Justice Party, combined Christian values with skepticism of free markets.

The message appealed to many poorer Poles.

The brothers promised to build what they called a ''Fourth Republic," in a break with the corruption that characterized the post-Communist ''Third Republic."

Sleaze and political patronage was reported in abundance during the four-year rule of the left. [..] Transparency International has rated Poland the most corrupt country in Europe [I think what is meant here is "in the EU" - nimh].

The victories in both elections are a sweet reward for the Kaczynski twins, 56, after years of never making it to the top in politics.

The former child stars of a 1962 movie called ''The Two Who Stole The Moon," the brothers were kingmakers in previous center-right governments, but were shunned for top posts.

The Independent wrote:
Polish president warned over ultra-right shift

Poland was given a blunt warning over its human rights obligations yesterday - after the election of a president who has sought to curb gay rights and campaigned for the restoration of the death penalty.

The clear victory for Lech Kaczynski, who won 54 per cent of the vote in Sunday's run-off, marks a sharp change for Poland as a majority of voters embraced the populist politics of a man who has promised to bring about moral renewal.

Mr Kaczynski, whose twin brother will also be a key figure in the new government, has caused alarm by raising the issue of reparations for Germany's wartime destruction of Warsaw.

The European Commission described capital punishment as contrary to the EU's basic values yesterday. An article of the EU's governing treaty states that countries that fail to observe fundamental rights can, ultimately, be stripped of their European voting rights.

Politicians have been alarmed by the statements of the president-elect, and are hoping he and his party will be reined in when in office. Martin Schultz, leader of the socialist group in the European Parliament, said Mr Kaczynski is "on probation", adding: "I hope the president will be a different kind of person to the [one we saw as] candidate."

Chris Davies, leader of the British Liberal Democrat MEPs, said: "People are alert. I hope the Polish president will not seek to challenge some of the basic principles and values of the EU." [..]

As in parliamentary elections two weeks earlier, Mr Kaczynski's Law And Justice party campaign overtook that of the rival Civic Platform.

Mr Kaczynski's strong moral tone courted the religious right and the traditionalist elements of Poland's powerful Roman Catholic Church.

During the campaign, he called for the return of capital punishment for the worst murders and, as mayor of Warsaw, he sought to ban a gay rights march on security grounds. Germany has been concerned about the nationalist tone of his rhetoric.

The Law And Justice party's website carries an interview with the president-elect in which he argues Poland has "moral grounds to demand compensation" for wartime destruction by the Nazis. He adds: "Polish-German reconciliation is important but it has made some forget what has really happened. Poland's foreign policy did not take advantage of the fact that Germany and Western Europe as a whole have an unclear conscience toward Poland." Meanwhile, the result is seen as a setback for economic liberalism and caused the zloty to dip temporarily.

The pro-business Civil Platform and its presidential candidate Donald Tusk had backed a flat tax and deregulation. By contrast, Law And Justice called for a greater state role in tackling poverty, corruption and unemployment, protection of the welfare state, and made generous campaign promises to farmers and heavy industry workers.

Because of the result of parliamentary elections, the two centre-right parties must form a coalition government. That is likely to mean a compromise on economic reform, one that will exclude a flat tax but mean some reduction in taxation.

A spokesman for the European Commission said: "One of the conditions for starting negotiations with a potential candidate country is that the existing death penalty must be abolished. This is considered not to be in line with the basic values, on which the EU is based." Discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation contravenes a commitment to respect minorities, the rule of law and human rights, he added.
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Reply Tue 25 Oct, 2005 08:11 am
Read about it this morning....
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Reply Tue 25 Oct, 2005 08:23 am
Which of the two 'narratives', if either, did your newspaper highlight?
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Reply Wed 26 Oct, 2005 03:31 am

In my post above I speak of the Kaczynski brothers' party as the Law and Order party. Oops - my mistake, speaking from memory.

It's the Law and Justice party, of course, as the copy/pasted articles duly note.

Anyone any thoughts?
Reply Wed 26 Oct, 2005 05:51 am
Haha, I google news-ed Kaczynski, and now have killed a few hours on reading 26 chapters about the Unabomber. There goes my Wednesday ... :-)
I need to read up on Kaczynskis of Poland, other than gutteral reactions, I have little of educated value to add, not following Poland closely. Will report my colleagues reactions though and observations as I sift through the news, platforms, speeches. ..
I like Law and Order (the TV series). Law and Justice... not so much...
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Reply Wed 26 Oct, 2005 07:53 am
I was hoping for a Civic Platform win, but haven't researched polish politics beyond the occational news story.
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Reply Wed 26 Oct, 2005 02:19 pm
dagmaraka wrote:
Haha, I google news-ed Kaczynski, and now have killed a few hours on reading 26 chapters about the Unabomber. There goes my Wednesday ... :-)

Seeing as how my grandfather was a Kaczynski this name always haunts me given it's current notoriety in the U.S. Oh the shame and not even being able to trace any direct blood line to Teddy The Unibomber (although there are those who say we look quite similar).
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Reply Thu 27 Oct, 2005 04:52 am
This exchange from the Following the EU thread:


Thomas wrote:
nimh wrote:
It was a strange race, pitting two right-wing candidates, once both part of Solidarity, in a fight against each other over some very basic values.

It's interesting you would call them "two right-wing candidates", which I think makes them seem more comparable than they really are. To me, it was more like a fight between good and evil. Evil won. I'm depressed.

Well, they were both very much right-wing. Flat-taxer free-market ideologues - no way to call Tusk's Civic Forum leftwing or centrist. Anti-gay, anti-foreigner, deeply religious and nationalist: cant call the Kaczynski's leftwing or centrist either.

Thats why I thought the race was fascinating. Normally we only talk about left versus right. But in this case, you do have two right-wingers - and yet they couldnt be more different.

A nota bene there is in place though. Their electorates and campaign rhetorics couldn't be more different. In actuality, Tusk and Kaczynski are quite close.

They're good friends, for one, which had Kaczynski hilariously switching to the Polish equivalent of "du" in one TV debate, moping that "always when you want to say something unpleasant about me, you switch to a formal way of addressing me".

In policy too, the soup won't be eaten as hot as it was served, as we Dutch say. They've worked together before. Although the differences of world view were basic enough, a large extent of the political fireworks were just show. Kaczynski already backtracked directly after his victory on some of those identity issues. On the death penalty, for example, he suddenly said that although he was in favour personally, he didn't actually see any practical way to implement it. He also suddenly assured his market economy credentials.

All of that might come as some comfort to you. Me, I expect the worst of both worlds. Kaczynski will pragmatically compromise on a free market course, just like all his predecessors who won elections campaigning for its moderation (eg, the conservatives in '91, the ex-communists in '93). The Civic Forum in turn will focus on that exact core of their program, and in exchange allow Law and Justice its way on eye-catching cultural issues.
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Reply Sun 30 Oct, 2005 10:57 am
Cool (and astounding): here's the map of the Polish presidential elections' results:

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Reply Sun 30 Oct, 2005 11:07 am
Polish leaders side with hardline eurosceptics
2005/10/27 ยท EU Observer

Events in Poland have taken a dramatic turn, with the Law and Justice party voting with Self-Defence, the League of Polish Families and the Polish Peasants Party to install Marek Jurek as speaker in the lower house. Jurek is a staunch catholic who was among the few party members who opposed Poland's entry into the EU. The Civic Platform broke off coalition talks with Law and Justice after the move. The markets responded too, with the zloty falling steeply against the euro.

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Walter Hinteler
Reply Sun 30 Oct, 2005 11:37 am
Poland's Civic Platform Leader: Still Open To Coalition

WARSAW (AP)--Donald Tusk, leader of Poland's center-right Civic Platform, said Sunday he is still open to government coalition talks with Law and Justice, winner of last month's parliamentary election.

Speaking in the Baltic coast city of Sopot, Tusk said a minority government led by Prime Minister-designate Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz would have "no chance."

"Such a government would not be effective in solving Poland's problems," Tusk said.

He said he believed in "the sense and success of dialogue" with the socially conservative Law and Justice party, adding that it had to distance itself from a small radical party for talks to resume.

Marcinkiewicz says he will present a minority government on Monday if coalition talks with Civic Platform don't restart. The negotiations broke down on Wednesday amid a row over the distribution of top posts.

To restore faith, Tusk called on Law and Justice to reject any alliance with radical Andrzej Lepper.

Lepper, of the populist Self-Defense party, was elected deputy speaker of parliament Wednesday with the backing of Law and Justice.

Lepper's removal, Tusk said, would be "the best test of the credibility of Law and Justice."


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Walter Hinteler
Reply Sun 30 Oct, 2005 11:42 am
And frome the TIME (Europe edition, November 7)

Poland's Frat Party

Voters see no paradox over twins' political victories
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Reply Thu 3 Aug, 2006 06:43 am
Meanwhile, not too long ago, the twin Kaczynskis' Law and Justice party formally accepted the ultra-Catholic League of Polish
Families and the agrarian-populist Self-Defence as government coalition partners.

It also replaced moderate Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz with Jaroslaw Kaczynski himself, so that now both President and
PM are called Kaczynski.

They steer an eye-catching course:

Polish leader backs death penalty

28 July 2006
BBC News

Polish President Lech Kaczynski has called for EU member states to reintroduce the death penalty. [..]

Most west European countries abandoned the death penalty in the 1960s. Its abolition is one of the conditions of EU membership.

Mr Kaczynski called for a review of that policy. [..]

"European civilisation has roads that lead us into the future, but it also has blind alleys - and this is one of them."

It is not the first time that Mr Kaczynski has defended capital punishment.

The issue was raised by his conservative Law and Justice party, which came to power after the parliamentary and presidential
elections last year. [..]
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Reply Sun 8 Oct, 2006 05:00 pm
The Polish Civic Platform would easily win a rematch of the elections..

This news item about a new poll also neatly summarised developments during the time I neglected this thread.

Civic Platform Favoured in Polish PoliticsPolling Data

What party would you support in the next election?

36% Civic Platform (PO)

20% Law and Justice Party (PiS)

9% Democratic Left Alliance (SLD):
Social Democracy of Poland (SDP) + Democratic Party of Poland (PD) + Labour Union (UP)

6% Self-Defence of the Polish Republic (SRP)

4% Peasant's Party (PSL)

3% League of Polish Families (LPR)

Source: GFK / TVN
Methodology: Interviews to 1,000 Polish adults, conducted on Sept. 29, 2006. Margin of error is 3 per cent.
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Reply Thu 9 Nov, 2006 11:12 am
from: Radio Netherlands Press Review, 09 November 2006

[..] we read in Trouw today that the Polish minister of education has instructed schools to teach children Catholic and Polish values. "A guidebook by the Council of Europe, the EU's human rights watchdog, was put away, because it calls for an open discussion of homosexuality. One school in Lodz decided to take a chart down that illustrated Darwin's theory of evolution", the Protestant daily reports.

Trouw adds, "On a vast scale, the education inspection service is being taken over by supporters of a Catholic patriotic education."
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Reply Thu 9 Nov, 2006 11:23 am
i understand (spiegel magazine) that orders have been issued not to take a photograph of his "profile" - is this the right fellow ?
or was that just a bad joke ?

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Reply Sat 13 Jan, 2007 05:44 pm
More news from Poland:

Polish archbishop resigns over secret police connection
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Reply Sun 16 Sep, 2007 05:25 pm
They dont mince words or avoid hyperbole in Poland...


In Poland, PM Jaroslaw Kaczynski proclaimed the two years that his nationalist, conservative Law and Justice party has run the government the country's best in decades, and suggested that a defeat in the upcoming early elections could reopen the door to corruption. But Civic Platform leader Donald Tusk told a rally that "Poland has been an involuntary witness, and maybe soon a victim, of an evil whose source is the incompetent, pathological government of Jaroslaw Kaczynski and Law and Justice".

The governing party has faced allegations that it abused power by using the secret services to entrap political foes and spy on opposition politicians. It has presided over constant instability, governing first as a minority administration, then in a coalition with two small, unpredictable populist parties that collapsed earlier this month.
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Reply Fri 19 Oct, 2007 09:51 am
And... it's time for a rematch. It's on - this weekend.

This weekend in Poland, new parliamentary elections will again match up the two country's two main rival parties. They still represent the two opposite poles of rightwing politics.

On your left, or right if you prefer: the flat-tax, doctrinarian free market ideologues of the Civic Forum.

And on your right, or left if you prefer: the dogmatically nationalist and Catholic, protectionist and anti-EU, Kaczynski brothers of the Law and Justice party.

Yeah, what a choice.

The early elections were necessitated by a government crisis after the Kaczynskis attempted a powergrab within their national-conservative camp and forced one of their junior coalition partners out. The leader of the rabble-rousing peasant party Self Defense, Andrzej Lepper, fell out of grace and was accused of corruption.

The article below does a laudable job in summarising the political landscape at hand into an overview of what the stakes and issues are.

POLAND: Uncertain Steps Towards a New Government

PRAGUE, Oct 19 (IPS) - With this Sunday's early general elections, Poles will give a verdict on whether they approve of Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski's "Fourth Polish Republic", as the present term of government has been called.

Poland's election, the most important since 1989 (when Poland emerged from communist rule) in the Prime Minister's words, could put an end to the nationalist-conservative Law and Justice (PiS) government that created a conflictive atmosphere both home and abroad.

Critics of the government's foreign policy have pointed to the disastrous tenure of foreign minister Anna Fotyga, under whom relations with the EU have seriously deteriorated as a result of disagreements over the European Union's (EU) constitution and Warsaw's homophobic, anti-abortion and pro-death penalty statements.

The latest polls give the liberal opposition Civic Platform (PO) 39 percent of the vote, ahead of the PiS with 34 percent and the Left & Democrats (LiD) with 15 percent.

The PiS won the previous 2005 elections vowing to put an end to corruption and crime in Poland, accusing leftists and liberal elites of being responsible for the decadence of the post-communist Third Polish Republic.

Kaczynski's Fourth Polish Republic project was meant to put an end to the supposed mismanagement of Poland's elites, and bring a purification of public life by purging it of communist and corrupt elements.

"The main discussion is precisely around the support or lack of it for the Fourth Polish Republic," Bartosz Weglarczyk, a journalist from the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza told IPS. "It's basically a referendum."

The Sejm (Polish Parliament) was dissolved Sep. 7 following irreconcilable conflicts within the governing coalition of the majority Law and Justice and the two junior governing Self-Defence (SD) and League of Polish Families (LPF).

The conflicts were spurred by accusations of corruption levelled against SD populist leader Andrzej Lepper by government circles.

Many observers claimed the move to be political, arguing that the Prime Minister intended to conquer both the deputies and voters of his smaller coalition partners.

The move partially backfired as Kaczynski was forced to call an early vote. However, neither LPF nor SD is likely to make it into parliament, indicating that its voters will support Kaczynski in the Oct. 21 vote.

As in 2005, the theme of corruption is ubiquitous, with Kaczynski warning of the danger posed by a return to previous practices, while the opposition accuses him of using the fight against corruption for political ends.

Together with much of the press, opposition politicians accuse the Kaczynski government of selectively choosing the victims of its anti-corruption programme, which relies more on spectacular actions than on actual facts and court verdicts.

Law and Justice officials are accused by critics of abusing their dominant position in public media, law enforcement and intelligence agencies with a view to obtaining re-election.

PO leader Donald Tusk, confident of his party's victory, has promised to set up investigative commissions as soon as he is elected to look into the current government's actions.

Yet the recurrence of the corruption theme only proves that it is Law and Justice that is setting the tone of the campaign. "They are running the most professional campaign since 1989, they run it the way they want, setting the subjects of discussion," Weglarczyk told IPS.

Social scientists have described liberal voters as young city dwellers and people with a higher education, in contrast to PiS voters who are believed to be poorer, uneducated, dissatisfied with the results of post-communist transition and exhibiting authoritarian leanings.

While the opposition labels the current cabinet as the worst in post-communist Poland, average citizens notice a 6.5 percent rate of economic growth, and falling unemployment, which various economic experts thank EU membership for.

The opposition liberals have spoken in favour of introducing a flat tax which will lower both personal and corporate tax to 15 percent. The government also favours lower taxes but is unwilling to curb social spending, whereas the left is against lowering taxes.

In spite of the liberals' narrow advantage, polls indicate that probably no party will manage to govern independently, making the negotiation of coalition arrangements imperative for all leading political forces.

A key role might be played by the relatively small but neutral Polish Peasants Party (PSL) which is allegedly willing to join forces with either left or right if it makes it into parliament.

If the PSL's support is insufficient, the PO liberals and Law and Justice could consider a coalition, though the latter's intimidation of political rivals has made other parties wary of joining forces with Kaczynski's men.

The liberals' second option would be an alliance with the leftists of the LiD, though this option is unpopular among many of the neo-liberal and anti-socialist politicians in the party.

LiD's politicians led the 2001-2005 government but were largely discredited as a result of corruption scandals. The renewed party is still perceived by voters as an ongoing but disoriented project.

Nonetheless, the party led by former president Aleksander Kwasniewski, who made a surprise political comeback citing concern over the state of the country's democracy, has recently enjoyed growing support.

The election could be determined by many of the undecided or less outspoken voters who remain undetected in opinion polls and tend to support either the left or the conservatives.

PiS can also count on its voters' discipline, contrasting sharply with growing abstention levels in mostly liberal cities, and on the support lent to it by the ultra-Catholic and influential Radio Maryja.

Meanwhile, let me go out on a limb and predict that the dark horse in the race - the hesitantly recovering left, dominated by former President Kwasniewski's ex-communists - will get a surprisingly strong result. They might just change the political landscape anew.

After all, Polish elections have sprung surprises before. And both in Poland in 1993 and Hungary in 1994, the ex-communists also benefited from venomous strife between liberals and conservatives, and jumped out ahead unexpectedly in their place. That would be a stretch this time, but I think they'll do better than expected..
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Reply Sun 21 Oct, 2007 03:34 pm
This is hilarious .. kudos to those kids for a sense of humour - and extra kudos to the small Peasants Party for jumping in so swiftly and with its own sense of humour Razz


Actually, the article is really interesting, and encouraging - a wired and ironic new generation of young Poles is readying itself to counterbalance the prevailing conservative winds:

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