Polish Laurels and Best Bludner of 2014

Laurels – for a skilfully conducted appointment of not-having-democratic-mandate Ewa Kopacz to the post of Polish prime minister and the chairwoman of the Civic Platform by Donald Tusk. Best blunder – for the response of politicians to the yet another crises exposing the weakness of the state.

Laurels shall be awarded to a smooth transition in the party and the government after Donald Tusk left for Brussels. First, he ensured not having any ‘number two’ in Civic Platform (he devoted the last two years to getting rid of Grzegorz Schetyna). Next, out of the blue, before the internal opposition was able to react and close its ranks in time, he appointed Ewa Kopacz to take his place – what is more, he’d done that right before the municipal elections, amid on-going electoral campaign. In these circumstances, any critique of choosing a leader in such a manner would be seen as non-patriotic (from the point of view of Civic Platform). The fact that Kopacz has no political mandate – neither granted by voters, nor by the party – to act as a prime minister didn’t matter. Her temporary leadership doesn’t need to be now ‘approved’ by a democratic stamp in the eyes of the voters or even her party colleagues. It’s a consequence of the fact that the post of the party chairman and, especially, of prime minister, is pretty much self-explanatory. At this level of power manifestation, identifying an individual with the ‘throne’ he/she is occupying and overthrowing the leader is an extremely challenging task doable only if he/she fails, and the failure is spectacular – the one during municipal elections was actually ignored.

A skilful transition after one of the most talented politicians of the last 25 years, who exits the Polish political scene undefeated, in a situation that could shake the foundations of the entire party system in Poland, was a great success. Especially as the change of prime minister was sold as a ‘new beginning’ – thanks to which the government (although it consists only of a few new faces) is treated as operating only for a few past months. The problem is, however, that such a way of appointing a leader – with no prior debate, no trial run in the form of internal discussion, to try out one’s abilities and ensure people will have your back, means that the leadership’s credibility will suffer some loses, especially in the light of the fact that Ewa Kopacz was always merely a supporting actress and her public appearances, if any, weren’t duly noted (what shows in elementary mistakes she makes in media relations). It is possible that she will prove up to the task. Even if she doesn’t, she might not even need to. After all, Polish authorities do not guarantee a good government, just a woeful opposition.

The unquestioned dead cert for the Best Blunder of 2014 is the way in which Polish political class reacted to a phenomenon which Bartłomiej Sienkiewicz, unaware of being eavesdropped, labelled as “A state that exist only in theory”. In 2014 alone, the reality provided us with an abundance of evidence to support the statement of the former Minister of the Interior and revealed how hopeless politicians are when it comes to this. Incompetence of Central Electoral Office and State Election Commission was a reason for ludicrous accusations of having manipulated the election results. Those who want to know who renounced sovereignty of some parts of Polish territory to CIA, Leszek Miller calls ‘terrorist’s allies’ and politicians solidarily pretend that it’s nothing. The Church treats state institutions as an ATM, not to mention more resources for the Church Fund (instead of abolishing it completely) and 16M Polish zlotys for the Temple of Divine Providence in Warsaw (under construction since 2014). When it comes to Amber Gold case, the state was unable to help the aggrieved party – instead, now it can question all in question. Eavesdropping of most important state figures by waiters in one of the Polish restaurants and exposing the actions of politicians related to the State Tribunal of the Republic of Poland became a pretext for deliberations on lexicon and culinary preferences of the eavesdropped. The crisis surrounding NEC, instead of inducing reform (or at least a debate) of system of tenders and decision-making process by officials, divided politicians into supporters of conspiracy theory and those claiming ‘No harm done, Poles’. The apparatus is similar: a crisis of state institutions, which brings about immediate aggression in some and helplesness in others.

When an unreliable vehicle called ‘Poland’ stops, undergoing repetitive malfunctions, Law and Justice dashes to hit it with rubber hammer (rubber, because the opposition is unable to go beyond verbal aggression and amplifying distrust), and the driver in the shape of Civic Platform laments how damaging are the actions of the opposition. Those who remain discontent with constant stops and starts must deal with it, ‘that’s just the way it is’, because the other party can’t wait to ignite the engine and blow up the entire vehicle, along with its passengers.

Politicians have learned that it is easier to govern emotions than solve real problems and that the profits of doing the former are far greater than of the latter. I wonder what will we learn in 2015.

Translation: Olga Łabendowicz