According to many political observers, Poland’s political elites and the voting public is close to some sort of an ideological revolution. I don’t particularly agree but it’s interesting looking at the problem and seeing how much currency these ideas actually have.
What’s being discussed? In most democratic states, political wars are often won and lost on the battleground that is the political centre. We might look at the USA’s Democrats and Republicans or Britain’s Conservative Party and Labour Party. In both cases we can see policies oscillating around a core of values shared by both sides of the political scene.
Poland is different in this respect as the political spectrum is much broader with extremist parties such as the League of Polish Families (Catholic Right) and Self-Defence (Peasant Right) dominating current politics, if not the opinion polls.
The League of Polish Families is a small party and easy enough to explain. It is quite simply a rightist party. Their main policies seem to be: the complete dominance of Catholicism in Poland, the inclusion of a ‘Christian’ element to the EU Constitution, the outlawing of abortion and rights for gay couples and the introduction of ‘patriotism’ classes in schools to name just a few.
Self-Defence interestingly bills itself as a party that defends Poland’s rights on the international scene (rightist), is generally anti-European and pro-national (rightist), yet supports policies of government subsidies and nationalism (leftist). Self-Defence finds itself in the rightist ruling coalition but at the same time sees itself as the only real alternative to Poland’s other leftist and peasant parties – the Democratic Left Alliance (with which it often cooperated when they were in power) and the Polish Peasant Party.
Western notions of right and left cannot feasibly be transferred to the politics of Central Europe and Poland. Square pegs in round holes.
The ruling Law and Justice party bill themselves as the mainstay of the right. However, they too have certain policies that are not always strictly right (in a Western sense) but are more akin to the policies of their coalition partners Self-Defence. We can, however, be sure of one thing – the Holy Trinity of Law and Justice, Self-Defence and the League of Polish Families are vehemently anti-liberal and anti-liberalising. Such is the ferocity of their criticism that to some the term ‘liberal’ has now become a dirty word. Even the liberal Civic Platform and Democratic Left Alliance are wary of using this word in public debates for fear of being labelled a ‘liberal’ (ugh!) party.
As odd as this state of affairs is, it means that the battle for Poland’s political (soft nougaty) centre has not yet been fought and is yet to be won by one party. Those that I believe have the most to gain from this battle are, of course, Poland’s citizens because it will, hopefully, mean a complete reversal of current extremist and populist politics. The real big guns of Poland’s political middle ground are two parties: (1) Civic Platform and (2) Left and Democrats (a new coalition made up of the Democratic Left Alliance, the Social Democratic Party of Poland, the Democratic Party and the Labour Union). No doubt, Law and Justice will also come into the equation.
Current opinion polls give us the following:
Civic Platform 30%
Law and Justice 27%
Left and Democrats 10%
If we include Law and Justice as a potential ‘centre’ i.e. non-extremist and populist party (which is not necessarily the case at the moment) it means that almost 70% of the voting population have given the centre a clear message: dump the extremists and let’s get to work on improving public finances and becoming a truly free market economy.