Challenges Await New Leader of the Nowoczesna Party in Poland


Katarzyna Lubnauer’s declarations (made right after winning in the vote for the leader of the Nowoczesna party) in favor of integral liberalism – both ideological and economi – are a beacon of hope that the new leadership may bring a change in quality of the party.

The forthcoming local election will be the first test. This election will end in failure for the partiess with small structures and low voters’ support. Lubnauer has one year to rebuild the trust of the potential voters who became disappointed with Ryszard Petru, the former party leader. There’s only one method to achieve that: clear and unambigious actions to support a liberal Poland. This is the only chance to build credibility and separate the party from the cunctative and hesitant Civic Platform, gather voter support that will allow the party to fight – if not for an individual success, then at least for the position of a partner at the table in the oppositional marriage of convenience.

The main challenge for Nowoczesna pose the pressure (from most voters, the media, and the so-called public opinion), but first and foremost the electoral law in favor of a steady coalition with Civic Plaform (which, by the way, does its utmost to embrace the smaller partner with an ultimatelly deathly kiss). The interest of the party – standing out among the competition – is not in line with the general interest: winning over the Law and Justice party. Nowoczesna will try to manuever, engaging in conversation with Polish People’s Party (PSL) and Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) as much as possible, as merging with Civic Platform would mean for Nowoczesna a slow extinction – especially since the pary cannot hope to gain any significant places in local governments after entering the coalition.

Let’s look for example at the city of Lodz – the hometown of Katarzyna Lubnauer. The coalition partner of the current mayor (Hanna Zdanowska of Civic Platform), the Democratic Left Alliance (with the position of the vice-mayor), coexist almost as one body. The power of a mayor in Polish cities is so great that political circles cooperating with the city hall office are focused mostly on that, instead of on their mother party – both on a local and national scale.

Apart from the media coverege following the promise of becoming a vice-mayor for a politician, this promise isn’t really a tangible asset. It may be altered a day after the election of a new mayor, who is solely in charge of assigning responsibilities for a given vice-mayor. If Nowoczesna does not become the force that shifts the scales in city councils (what is necessary for creating the ruling coalition), its position after the election will be lost.

Establishing a clear identity of the party (both internally and externally) is the only hope for the Nowoczesna party to survive this trial as an independent subject. Should it be lacking, neither the voters, nor party members will see any reason to stand by the “little Civic Platform” since they can easily go for the “big one”. They will not understand the reasons why Nowoczesna does not want a unified opposition.

A clear message with “no bullshit” directed at the 12-14% of the big city voters is not as difficult to get across as it may seem. Ideological clarity, being open about the weaknesses and things that must be improved, getting involved in a dialogue with the communities that are often overlooked by the opponents (who are now spoiled due to the power they hold), building their own rational narrative for talking about the city – which would at the same time constitute an alternative to that of the already existing leftist urban movements – all this may make Nowoczesna appear as a new and appealing offer, also on the local level.

The clear opposition between Nowoczesna and Law and Justice must be much more reform-oriented. Nowoczesna should position itself as a party that does not defend status quo, but has its own vision of Poland “after Law and Justice”. Civic Platform lost in 2015 not because it was too bold, but because it shied away from facing the increasing problems – with justice, equality, the quality of state institutions.

Many challenges lie ahead of Katarzyna Lubnauer. It’s high time to take the voters seriously and say in no uncertain terms why Nowoczesna is the party they need.

The article was originally published in Polish at: