The countdown begins. Millions of Poles will be visiting polling stations around the country to cast their vote and decide who will take Poland forward for the next four years. Many political scientists have said that these will be the most important elections since 1989 with Poles being, at last, fully conscious of the burdens of democracy and the responsibility of choice.
Let Battle Commence
Turnout is what is most important in these elections. Only a large turnout will guarantee a genuine mandate for government for the political party that wins. A large turnout would also bring an end to the apathy and disenchantment surrounding Polish politics since 1989.
Knights in Shining Armour
As a commentator it would be irresponsible and unfair of me to pinpoint a candidate or a party who I prefer or like. Yes, I criticise Law and Justice (PiS) but the job of commentators and journalists is to keep the government on its toes, whoever it is. Let’s briefly look at the four parties that, I believe, really matter.
Most people believe Civic Platform (PO) is the only powerful and viable alternative to PiS. Their strength lies in the fact that they have a positive approach to free enterprise, social relations, freedom of thought and most of the core values of democracy. Their members are generally centre-right and come from intellectual, academic or business backgrounds. In his recent mano-a-mano debate with the Prime Minister, PO leader Donald Tusk proved to be a tough and witty adversary outclassing the PM with concrete and elegant ripostes.
The ruling party has not made many friends in the international or domestic world during their two years in government. It began with the dismissal of charismatic PM Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz by party leader Kaczyński who later took over the PM mantle. Without doubt their greatest sin was forming a coalition with populist Self-Defence (Samoobrona) and right-wing, extremist League of Polish Families (LPR). Both minnows were later ejected by the PM which, in effect, caused the destabilisation of government and the need for new elections.
The Left and Democrats (LiD) were initially supposed to be a party of unification and dialogue bringing together people from the centre-right and centre-left, however, they appear leader-less and weak. Leader Wojciech Olejniczak is leader in name only and their figure-head, former President Aleksander Kwaśniewski, rather than boost the party’s popularity (which he initially did) has rambled slovenly from one media blunder to another. Kwaśniewski recently appeared drunk in public on two occasions and is known for his penchant for the hard stuff.
The dark horse of these elections is without doubt the Polish Peasant Party (known also as the Polish People’s Party) headed by Waldemar Pawlak. Unbeknown to many, PSL is actually Poland’s oldest political party with traditions dating back to the parliament of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. PSL has over the past few years evolved into a party of quiet intelligence avoiding controversy and commentating only on those issues that require discussion. It is the only party to actively search for dialogue and cooperation. Through the recent acquisition of young entrepreneur and Gadu Gadu founder Łukasz Foltyn, PSL has shown it will also be a force for business and innovation.
And the Winner is…
Four parties with four different approaches to politics and four different visions of Poland’s future in Europe and the world. PO and PiS will be fighting head-to-head for the largest slice of the pie but what is of additional interest is how much of the pie will be given to LiD and PSL. Will LiD become Poland’s ‘third’ power? Will PSL be able to win the rural vote and spread into the towns and cities? Zero hour is Sunday.