Year of Political Struggle for Poland Ahead

Wellcome Collection // CC

The year 2020 in Poland is going to be very busy, politically. A presidential election, attempts to change party leaders, or a new political group. From the point of view of the state and citizens, a spectacle awaits us all. From the point of view of party leaders, it’s going to be a fight for survival.

The second term of each ruling party has no freshness that the people buy into right after they change those in power left. We already know perfectly well all the ministers, leading politicians, the key figures who try to justify the sins and depravity of the authorities.

And so, Poles have already started perceiving the authorities as tiresome. Which constitutes the first issue to be tackled by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party in 2020.

People are tired of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, whose speeches we all know all to well. Tired of him using the same catch-phrases that never come true, and instead end up breaking given promises – of building 100 ring roads, New Central Airport, that a million electric cars will roam around the Polish roads, launching bus connections for each commune, providing a million cheap apartments for rent for the middle class, and so on…

This sense of being tired of it all may eventually turn into frustration with each next magical formula uttered by PiS, claiming that Poland is the land of milk and honey – because that’s what the national media outlets claim right now, while at the same time getting a specialist doctor’s appointment verges on impossible.

There is no end to the prime minister’s promises he gives to the voters.

Real Cost of Power

Secondly, the more the PiS government will struggle with the reality of upward price spike and highway robbery – from the garbage fees to the cost of energy, – the stronger the people will demand a state intervention. The PiS team made the citizens accustomed to the fact that changes may be introduced overnight – especially in terms of dealing with the judiciary.

In other words, in the past four years, Jarosław Kaczyński, the gray eminence of the Law and Justice party, has proven that impossibilism is no more. It’s just a shame that only in those areas that PiS finds worthy, and not where it is needed.

This is why the people are aware that if only the ruling party wanted, it could easily stop the increase in energy prices and reduce the excise duty on alcohol. This is why the reality will soon knock on Jarosław Kaczyński’s door so that he could stop the galloping prices of basic services, which have a direct impact on the quality of our lives.

And there is nothing more scary for the politician of his kind than stripping his supporters of the illusion that Mr Kaczyński is not all-powerful after all. And this may, indeed, happen in the coming year.

Neverending Battles

Thirdly, this clash with the reality has already started for Jarosław Kaczyński – it’s begun with the total opposition in the person of Marian Banaś, the president of the Supreme Audit Office (NIK). On the one hand, Mr Banaś, the sole creation of the PiS’ rule, uncovers the weakness of Mr Kaczyński.

However, on the other hand, the wholesituation shows the ethical downfall of the sinful moralists. After all, it’s widely known that Mr Banaś is neither the first, nor the last crystal-clear PiS politician. And now he has become a ball and chain that Kaczyński’s party clumsily tries to remove.

Holding onto the position of the president of NIK seems to be for Mr Banaś a kind of insurance policy for him and his family – a policy that may cost the ruling party a lot next year.

Morover, the coming year will observe a return to the times of culture wars. PiS will be urged by the Catholic Church to tighten the screw in terms of morality – thus making the anti-abortion law stricter. Doy, here the Church will have an ally in the form of the Confederation party, which is more papist in its nature than PiS, and, therefore, will have a stronger political stance on this topic than the Law and Justice party.

On the other side of the spectrum, calls for liberalizing the anti-abortion law will emerge from the left wing. PiS will thus find itself caught between a rock and a hard place.

Accommodating the demands of the Church, a natural ally for PiS, would thus strengthen the left wing. Protecting the status quo would mean that some bishops would not be happy about it, and their dissatisfaction would then be addressed by the Confederation party – which, in turn, would take away some of the hard-core catholic, anti-abortionist, and nationalist electorate from PiS.

Polish Opposition

So far, I haven’t said much about the opposition in Poland. That’s because the opposition is in such a poor shape that – if not for the grim reality that puts pressure on PiS – Mr Kaczyński’s party has nothing to worry about.

It has become clear that after four years of being kept out of the Parliament, the left wing found it much easier to build a wide coalition to help enter the Parliament after all rather than create a somewhat coherent and efficient political body.

Of course, Robert Biedroń’s Spring party has no other choice but to be left on the mercy of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) party and its leader, Włodzimierz Czarzasty. However, the Left Together (Razem) party will surely not approve of such an arrangement, which means that in the coming year instead of one left-wing group there will be two – if not formally, then ideologically.

When it comes to Civic Coalition (KO), its fate and shape will be determined chiefly by who will become the leader of the Civic Platform (PO) party. Currently, even though some party members might be interested in taking over the leadership, they are not willing to do so unless the power is handed to them on a silver platter.

The thing is, however, that nobody gives away their power willingly – especially in a political party. The power must, therefore, be taken away. Sometimes by force. In any case, it requires putting on a fight for it.

Once the power is won, one must put together a coherent vision of the party or group along with that for the country itself. Should, in the coming months, such a politician not materialize in the ranks of PO, then its current leader, Grzegorz Schetyna, has nothing to worry about. And he may await his political retirement undisturbed.

Presidential Race

Finally, the year 2020 shall bring the looming presidential election. An election that will become the leading theme in the coming months in Poland.

Not surprisingly, the sitting president, Andrzej Duda, a PiS man, is the undeniable front-runner. This, however, is not because his last five years in office were so successful, far from it. Rather because the opposition failed to produce a viable opponent (be it from the world of politics or not), who would become an actual threat for Mr Duda from the very onset of the presidential campaign.

The Polish People’s Paty (PSL) could afford the luxury of not putting forward a candidate, even though it’s clear that Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz, a young party member, will not be a real contender.

The same is true for the left wing. Civic Coalition introduced into the race Małgorzata Kidawa Błońska, which was rather predictable.

The true riddle of the presidential race is the candidacy of Szymon Hołownia, an independent, who is a journalist and tv host of a talent show known for his Catholic background.

Even more baffling is the reaction to his decision to run for the office – on the one hand, Poles claim that they are fed up with professional politicians, while on the other hand, when an outsider appears on the stage, they are not willing to treat him seriously.

Maybe Mr Hołownia’s candidacy will change that? Well, it doesn’t seem likely at the moment.

What Will Polish Politics Look Like in 2020?

To conclude, there are two issues that – even though at the moment may seem insignificant – may reshuffle the Polish political scene in the year 2020.

First of all, it’s the situation within the ranks of the right wing. It may already be observed that there are plenty of those who are willing to take over the power after Jarosław Kaczyński steps down – starting with PM Morawiecki, to Minister of Education Jarosław Gowin, to Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro.

The thing is, though, that in the coming months, the popular disillusionment with the ruling party may actually lead not so much to wanting to take over the legacy, as to abandoning the sinking ship that so far has been navigated solely by Mr Kaczyński.

Needless to say, Mr Gowin and Mr Ziobro must have gotten used to this, even more so as they are being constantly humiliated by Mr Kaczyński. And what goes around, comes around.

Moreover, the weaker the Law and Justice party will get, the more intensively it is going to search for the culprits who shall be made responsible for the poor performance of the party. And everyone knows that PiS is very good at finding enemies, pointing their finger at them, and stigmatizing them. Especially since the PiS politicians have had their hands on the national (until recently public) media, ready to assist the party in every way possible to keep it in power.

Donald Tusk Is Back

Secondly, there’s the return of Donald Tusk to the Polish political scene. Anyone who thought that his decision not to run in the presidential race would mean that Mr Tusk is going to retire from politics was badly mistaken.

He always plans for the long term. And he is very patient. He likes to wait for the right moment to enter the game.

At this moment, if Donald Tusk was to run for the office, his campaign would have to be conducted in a typically Polish fashion – with haste and reckless fantasy. Whereas Mr Tusk is made of different clay.

The former prime minister has all the time in the world and a strong position to do politics in Poland in such a manner, so as not to be completely steeped in it. His recently published book titled Szczerze (Honestly) will surely serve as a pretext to meet with Polish voters and will thus show him whether and how to prepare his return to the national politics.

It is already obvious that the generational change that is under way may make Donald Tusk its patron, instead of a brakesman.

Anyhow, the year 2020 will be a real battlefield for all those involved. Some will leave it satisfied, some will have to be carried off of it.

The article was originally published in Polish at:

Translated by Olga Łabendowicz

Jaroslaw Makowski