Poland's liberal opposition promised a new pro-business, Europe-friendly government after trouncing the Kaczynski twins' ruling conservative alliance in a snap poll. The Civic Platform (PO) won a projected 208 seats in parliament, routing the governing conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party with 164.
European Commission chief Jose Barroso hailed "the European spirit of the Polish people." Officials in Moscow said they were optimistic that Warsaw would now reverse its veto on a sweeping EU-Russian partnership deal. Tusk has vowed to bring home 900 Polish troops serving in Iraq soon. He has also promised to cut taxes and lure home the more than one million Poles who have moved to Britain and Ireland.
Expatriates as well as young, urban, centrist voters in Poland turned out in droves to end the Kaczynski duo's two-year grip on power. PO fell short of its goal of a ruling majority and was expected to form a coalition with the moderate Polish Peasants' Party, which won 35 seats. PO said the new government would also adopt the EU charter of fundamental rights, which the conservatives bitterly opposed, notably for its liberal stand on gay rights.
Poland after PiS: handle with care
26 - 10 - 2007
Poland's stunning election result deserves a closer look, writes Neal Ascherson. The young and urban voters may have turned out en masse to inflict a thumping defeat on a government whose domestic policies were bigoted and oppressive, and whose foreign policy was farcical in its crude nationalism. But the Kaczynski twins stood for something that will not go away.
Those who voted for the Civic Platform did so because they could no longer stand the PiS regime, not because they loved its neo-liberal policies. And PiS voters still constitute a formidable social block: the small farmers and peasants, the old, the people in pious remote areas, the great mass of unemployed workers and others who lost out in the transition to capitalism.
They have good reason to fear globalisation and the dissolving of the Polish state as the EU imposes free competition, and old-fashioned nationalism seems to them the obvious recourse. Here is the alliance, which seems so strange in the west but so natural in post-communist Europe, between nationalism and "socialist" ideals of equality. The PiS regime was also right to launch a campaign against corruption, ill-managed as it was.
There is vast relief in the EU about the elections. But however more competently Donald Tusk may lead, Poland is still condemned to be an awkward, vigilant partner, driven by a historically charged fear of being abandoned to Russian blackmail, and it will keep pressing for Ukrainian interests in Brussels.
The Kaczynskis seemed, by the end, to be heading for a one-party state. The PiS spun a web of political patronage which smothered all public appointments, and dominated the media through the outrageous purging of opponents. The Kaczynski government was a terrible government, and its fall is a brilliant day for democracy. But not all its enemies were ghosts.
POLAND: Gov't Vows Socially Conscious Liberalism
Prime Minister Tusk's new cabinet has promised a new Poland in the wake of two years of staunch conservatism, but the liberal enthusiasm of his Civic Platform (PO) will have to adapt to pragmatic considerations. The PO formed a coalition with the Polish Peasant's Party, and has agreed not to give full control of any ministry to a single party. And President Lech Kaczynski could use his veto power against controversial laws; he disagrees with the new cabinet's foreign policy promises, such as being more demanding towards the U.S., improving ties with Russia, and withdrawing Polish troops from Iraq.
The PO will also have to be attentive to the needs of conservative voters, generally those who have benefited the least from the liberal economic transformations of post-communism. Many believe the PO's staunchly liberal rhetoric in the 2005 elections cost them a defeat that was avoided in 2007 by showing greater social sensitivity. The PO now seems willing to compromise on plans to introduce a flat tax. But economists are pressuring the government to implement unpopular reforms and reap the opportunities offered by a positive economic climate.
"We want to offer Poles a liberal economic policy and a social policy based on solidarity," the Prime Minister announced. But Lena Kolarska-Bobinska warns, "He speaks about lowering taxes, raising wages for doctors and teachers, and of lowering the budget deficit .. These are difficult to combine."
New Polish PM says will stick to rejection of EU rights charter
New Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk announced today that Warsaw would stick to a refusal to sign the EU charter of fundamental rights, despite an earlier pledge by a top party official.
'I will respect the results of the negotiations by my predecessors,' Tusk said in his first policy speech to parliament since [last month's elections].
On the night of Tusk's victory in the October 21 election, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, Civic Platform's main spokesman on European Union issues, had said the new government would halt Poland's bitter opposition to the charter.
Tusk had already on October 25 signalled that he would ponder the risks before inking the charter, although he had said he did not see any 'dangers'.
In his speech Friday, Tusk explained that although Civic Platform and its coalition government ally, the moderate Polish Peasants' Party, favoured the charter, he had taken the decision to avoid threatening the Polish parliament's ratification of a wider EU accord.
The charter is attached to a broad new EU treaty [..], which must be ratified by all 27 EU member states to come into force.
Conservative President Lech Kaczynski [..] has threatened to veto any efforts to give up the special rights charter opt-out which Poland negotiated during the EU treaty talks. In addition, Tusk's coalition lacks the two-thirds majority in parliament required to ratify international treaties.
'Our European Union partners understand our situation,' Tusk said.
[The previous, conservative] Law and Justice [government] had argued that the EU accord, and notably its stance on gay rights, flew in the face of the values of deeply Catholic Poland. [..]
Law and Justice [..] also warned that the charter contains provisions that could spur legal claims by Germans who lost property after the Polish-German border was redrawn following World War II. [..]
Warsaw's conservatives had nonetheless said they would adopt part of the charter related to workers' rights, in a nod to the role played by the Solidarity trade union in bringing down Poland's communist regime in the 1980s.
Poland's adoption of the full charter would have left Britain as the only member of the EU to have opted out.
Among Britain's objections are sections on labour rights: London feared that accepting the charter would mean enshrining a worker's right to strike.
The treaty replaces the ill-fated EU constitutional accord which was sunk by French and Dutch voters in referendums in 2005.