There is a wonderful Chinese saying: “May you never live in interesting times”. How true…
Before we discuss today’s scandal, let us move back a few days. On Sunday, in an audacious bid to garner more support among the catholic masses, all the high-ranking members of the government including Prime Minister Jarosław Kaczyński, Deputy PM Andrzej Lepper and Deputy PM Roman Giertych decided to take part in the Radio Maryja pilgrimage to the Jasna Góra Monastery. For the first time ever in the history of Jasna Góra pilgrimages, the Prime Minister of Poland was invited to speak from the altar by the uber-chief of Radio Maryja Tadeusz Rydzyk. Kaczyński with Andrzej Lepper sitting close behind sang the praises of Rydzyk and his great work and also told the masses how they are the real Poland (hinting that anyone who is not catholic or part of the ‘Radio Maryja’ family is not).
The scandal is in the fact that the government has become embroiled in a poisonous relationship with Rydzyk’s Radio Maryja and his TV station Trwam leading to a situation where many political decisions seem to be taken at the behest of or with the blessing of Rydzyk. TV Trwam was given exclusive rights to broadcast the pilgrimage with all other stations being banned from the gathering. Much to the media’s surprise, Rydzyk hired heavies to stop any other (as he called them “liberalising, foreign-backed and anti-Polish”) cameramen and reporters from appearing at the pilgrimage.
The whole political-religious gathering was watched by (some say) 150,000 pilgrims. At one stage Rydzyk ironically asked the PM whether the PiS-Self-Defence-LPR coalition would survive. The PM retorted that the altar was not a place for politics. Yeah right…
On Monday, the day after the pilgirmage, the last thing anybody expected was an attack on the Kaczyńskis from… Taduesz Rydzyk. However, out of nowhere, the weekly Wprost published an article giving a verbatim account of Rydzyk speaking to students of the Higher School of Social Culture and Media (a Toruń university set up by Rydzyk himself). In his lecture he charged headlong into an attack on President Kaczyński (the PM’s twin brother) calling him a cheat and weakling. He then added that his wife Maria Kaczyńska is a witch for supporting euthanasia and if she is so keen on euthanasia should be the first to go and kill herself. He also added his usual anti-semitic spiel.
And then, this morning, we hear that Andrzej Lepper has been thrown out of the government by PM Kaczyński. The Central Anti-Corruption Bureau (CBA) is said to have found evidence of massive corruption by the head of Self-Defence amounting to millions upon millions of złoty. This follows months of to-ing and fro-ing from both Kaczyński and Lepper in which the coalition has been constantly in doubt because of the excesses of members of the Self-Defence party. Straws and camel backs, straws and camel backs…
It now seems likely that the coalition will come to a final and crashing end. Self-Defence is currently in discussion and are deciding whether or not to continue in government without Lepper. Whatever the decision, the repercussions for Poland will be seismic with political instability damaging both the economy, exacerbating social unrest and destabilising the work that has already been done.