We are on the brink of a very busy political season in Poland. The year 2018 might have been a prelude to the election year, but the times of decision making are still ahead. The decisions that will have an impact on not merely one electoral term but the consequences of which will last a decade to come. There’s no doubt that the forthcoming double-election (to Polish and European Parliaments) shall determine the shape of Polish politics for much longer than mere four years.
Municipal Elections Tied
Last year’s municipal elections were the chief playground for the key political players. Although both hegemonic political blocs announced their success (after all, it’s difficult to announce a defeat), the result was a majority draw, to use boxing terminology. The dress rehearsal, even though it didn’t lead to a clear result, revealed that independent candidates were winning the race.
Of course, each municipality is different and, therefore, it so often happened that an independent candidate was supported by several parties. Yet, the results clearly showed that independent candidates won in 80 major cities, which makes up 75% of all spoils.
Their success was even more significant on the lower municipal levels and amounted to approximately 80%.
How would the voters behave if it were national elections? And what were the reasons for their support for an independent? These seem to be the key questions asked by the leaders of Polish parties. Actually, the most frequently asked question seems to be how to redistribute the voter support for independent municipal election candidates, which may be a group with a huge electoral potential. Those who will manage to tap into this part of the electorate with an appealing message, may thoroughly change the Polish political scene.
Anti-PiS Is Not Enough
Both the times of municipal electoral campaigns and the last three years on the Polish political scene passed under the slogan of great success propaganda. The main objective of such activities was to mobilize core electorate and to dissuade undecided voters. This approach was successful only to some extent as a relatively good (for Polish standards) voter turnout was a sign that, on the one hand, people are interested in local affairs, whereas on the other hand, a lack of acceptance of the actual state of the society might be observed.
Why then were voters more likely to support independents instead of the mainstream anti-PiS (Law and Justice) parties and movements? The support for the heads of cities and towns representing their own committees is usually a direct consequence of weak opposition, which is commonly perceived as fighting only to secure their own interests instead of that of the entire Polish society.
For one thing, key opposition parties are now seen as the sides in an internal conflict within the political elites, instead of as representatives of the people. Secondly, if waken up in the middle of the night, even the most ardent supporters of the opposition bloc would be incapable of listing even a few of the core postulates of the opposition. Even if such postulates existed, they were not “sold” well to the public and, therefore, did not resonate in the public debate.
The list of errors on the side of Polish opposition parties is a long one. Let us, however, focus on two of these.
Politics is one of several professions that require credibility and public trust to be the key terms defining an ideal candidate. How can one trust a politician who three years earlier said that he became an MP to put an end to the age of the politics of “warm water in the tap” practiced by Civic Platform, whereas now they stand together? Is a politician who changes electoral declarations every two weeks credible? Clearly not. Credible are, however, those opposition leaders who dream of power and nothing else.
The state of the political opposition in Poland is not good. People, including myself, are tired of voting for anti-PiS parties and movements. Claiming that voting for Civic Coalition (KO) is the only way to stop the United Right (ZO) is not a viable argument, not really.
Meanwhile, Jarosław Kaczyński, the gray eminence of the Law and Justice party, has already mastered the skill of hiding away “inconvenient” politicians in the party closet. He’s also holding a prominent spot in there. If the opposition is to win the elections, it should start doing the same – Grzegorz Schetyna (the leader of Civic Platform) and Katarzyna Lubnauer (the leader of Nowoczesna) shall be hidden away. Younger, more credible, and distinguished politicians should be at the forefront of a political campaign. Only such candidates have a clear advantage over their opponents within the PiS party – they are smarter, better-behaved, and much nicer looking.
Marek Migalski, a former MEP and a Polish writer has recently said in a TV programme that “if PiS may be pushed aside from holding power, the only time to do it is this autumn”. It’s hard not to agree with this statement – the 2019 elections will determine the shape of Poland for at least a decade.
During the next term in a row Law and Justice might change not only the law, but also the media and business landscapes. They would become unstoppable. If the opposition enters the election race in its current form and shape, regardless of whether it presents a unified front or not, with the same narrative and leaders, it will surely be defeated.
This is why our voice, the voice of a younger generation, must now be heard. We want to appeal to the current opposition leaders and compel them to stop playing with politics and leave the stage, before we all lose.
The article was originally published in Polish at: https://liberte.pl/goracy-polityczny-sezon-czas-start/
Translated by Olga Łabendowicz