Will Coronavirus Be the Death of Law and Justice Party?

P. Tracz/ Chancellery of the Prime Minister of Poland // Public Domain

I have been monitoring the spread of COVID-19 from abroad. In Spain, where I am staying at the moment, the spread of the virus is far more advanced than in Poland – both in terms of the scale of infection and death toll.

However, from what I have noticed on social media, coronavirus in Poland still bears the hallmarks of novelty, curiosity, or even a kind of ludic or fun phenomenon. At the same time, in other countries these reactions have already been replaced by completely different emotions.

After the first week of mobilization came frustration. Because the situation in which we find ourselves makes life much more difficult, and in the coming weeks will likely make things even more challenging.

With time, this frustration will turn into rage. Currently, we are facing only inconvenience, but soon millions of people will bear the psychological and financial costs of the actions taken by the Polish state.

In addition, the number of deaths will increase rapidly, and thus the virus will cease to be only a virtual threat.

Finally, after the rage phase, there will be a need to look for those responsible for the ongoing crisis.

In my opinion, the well-being of the Polish authorities and the fact that there are no signs that the forthcoming presidential election (scheduled for May 10, 2020) will be postponed are motivated by the hope that the Law and Justice (PiS) party will be able to maintain the current social mood for two months, which at the moment is quite favorable for them.

The increase in popularity of PiS and President Andrzej Duda is also clear. At this point, however, nothing should be taken for granted, because social moods will probably soon undergo a sudden shift.

While today, President Duda and the ruling camp benefit politically from the fact that people, driven by fear, seek support in state institutions and give the authorities a credit of trust, in four or six weeks it will turn out – and we know that this is bound to happen – that the measures implemented by the state are not only frustrating, annoying, and detrimental to the financial situation of many people, but also ineffective.

Because the one thing we may now be certain of is that the epidemic will spread and that this is not the fault of the government – that’s just how any epidemic of this kind works..

Andrzej Duda’s decision to become the face of the state’s struggle against the epidemic was, in my view, a political mistake. In the next few weeks it will turn out that the state lost the battle against coronavirus. And so, the ratings of both the president and the PiS party listings may continue to improve for one or two weeks, but when the battle will have been lost, President Duda will be the first to bear the consequences.

Of course, in each country the specificity of the epidemic is different, but the peak incidence in Poland may occur faster than we think. And even if this does not happen by May 10 (the election day), it is obvious that on the day of the first voting round we will already have recorder several hundred fatalities and possibly dozens of thousands of those infected.

Keeping the date of the presidential election unchanged mean a defeat for the ruling party, which is why I am surprised that this has yet not occured to the authorities.

Only dumb luck would prove that the government’s actions are effective and lead to Poland winning this fight, with a rapid decline in the number of the infected by May 10. If, however, this was to happen, Andrzej Duda will, indeed, win in the first round.

However, everything we know about coronavirus at the moment indicates that this will not be the case.

At this point, the Polish opposition behaves rather sensibly. On the one hand, it declares solidarity with the government and offers its assistance in terms of all undertaken measures. It does not criticize the government, nor its actions, but instead points out specifc mistakes: too few tests and masks available or taking action too late.

Such an approach mayeventually have a positive impact on the standing of the opposition. And if the public will not label it a vulture that preys on the current crisis, then the oppositional forces can simply wait for the coronavirus to do what they could not do for the past five years: defeat the PiS party.

The article was originally published in Polish at: https://liberte.pl/czy-koronawirus-pokona-oboz-pis-u/

Translated by Olga Łabendowicz

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