“Like a left-hander without a left hand”

01.11.2015662
Jaroslaw Kaczynski is celebrating. Credits: PAP

Jaroslaw Kaczynski is celebrating. Credits: PAP

Regular elections to the Sejm (parliament) were held in Poland on 25 October. According to the official results published on 27 October by the National Electoral Commission, 15,200,671 persons, or 50.92% of the electorate, participated.

The Law and Justice (PiS) party won with 37.6% of the votes. Civic Platform, which has been running the country for the past 8 years, came in second with 24.1%. Third place, as in the spring presidential elections, went to Pavel Kukiz and his movement Kukiz’15 (8.8%). In the VIII Sejm, there are also Ryszard Petru’s group Modern Poland (7.7%) and the Polish People’s Party, which garnered 15.13%, or 0.13% over the required threshold.

Alliances not making it into parliament were Janusz Korwin-Mikke’s Korwin (4.8%) and United Left (7.6% towards the 8% threshold for party blocks). The main reason for the defeat of the coalition of leftist parties was the sudden emergence of the party-spoiler Razem (“Together”) (3.6%) in Poland’s electoral landscape. The main outcome of the elections is that there will only be right-wing parties in Poland’s Sejm for the first time in Poland’s contemporary history.

“Dictatorship is looming”

PiS representative Andrzej Duda, who was elected president of Poland in May of this year, placed a veto on a number of bills important for the country immediately after the parliamentary elections, including documents regulating relations between ethnic and national minorities and the status of a regional language, the bill on the ratification of the Doha Amendments to the Kyoto Protocol with relation to climate issues, and the bill on forests. In addition, he vetoed the “Gender Agreement” (on the right of children to choose their gender) earlier.

Such actions by the head of state, whose party has not yet succeeded in forming a government, are causing the PiS’s rivals in and out of parliament to start to worry. CP representative Stefan Niesiolowski sees the future of the country in sombre tones. “Dictatorship is looming, a government of reprisals and stupidity. Television will resemble what was happening during the martial law period (when Poland was under military rule, led by General Wojciech Jaruzelski 1981-3 – Ed.) – the politician told WPolityce.

At the same time, a cadre shuffle tied not only to the party’s lowered ratings but also to the loss of political identity is being intitiated in the CP. In the opinion of Norbert Maliszewski of Warsaw University, there is a power struggle emerging in the party and Ewa Kopacz can expect an end to her political career. As a source in CP informed Europe Insight, among the main candidates for the post of new CP leader are the head of the MFA Grzegorz Schetyna, Defence Minister Tomasz Siemoniak and the former Marshal of the Sejm Radoslaw Sikorski. The choice is current European Council President and real head of the party Donald Tusk’s.

PiS leaders Beata Szydło and Jaroslaw Kaczynski. Credits: PAP

PiS leaders Beata Szydło and Jaroslaw Kaczynski. Credits: PAP

The leader of the right-wing non-parliamentary party Korwin, Janusz Korwin-Mikke, thinks that the CP’s results in the elections are surprising insofar as, in his opinion, the former ruling political party should not have gotten into the Sejm at all. The politician explains his own results (4.8%) by saying that his party did not convince anyone but the 40% of youth that supports him. He stated in comments to ТVN24 that the results serve as a good indicator for the future since it is the voice of the current generation of Polish youth that will become the defining one once the supporters of the old political system make their exit.

A colleague of Korvin’s along the ideological spectrum, leader of the National Movement Robert Winnicki said on Radio Plus that his party will be the most disturbing opposition for the PiS. “We will firmly defend such issues as protection of the land, exclusion of the possibility of adopting the euro, support for families and the rejection of quotas for illegal immigrants imposed on us by the EU,” said Vinnitski.

The United Left, remaining outside parliament, is outraged by the ideological composition of the new convocation, but it is also prepared for intensive work in the opposition. “A Sejm without the left is like a left-hander without a left hand,” said leader of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) and former Prime Minister Leszek Miller in comments to TVN24. The leader of the Polish social liberals and coalition partner Janusz Palikot agrees with him. “It is absurd. It is an unhealthy trend even for the right in a certain sense since unlimited power without any sort of oversight is bad,” he said.

However, the United Left do not intend to fade from the political scene after the elections. Their new leader Barbara Nowacka, who Europe Insight has written about previously, declares that they are not planning to “throw in the towel”. “We are determined to build up the sort of left-wing movement that in four years time that will be in a condition to offer an alternative to the PiS,” she stated in a broadcast of the program “The dot over the i”. Moreover, as political scientist Jaroslaw Flis thinks, the PiS victory would have been impossible if the United Left had made it across the 8% coalition barrier. In this case, there could have been no question of a single party government for the PiS.

EU — Poland — Russia

The PiS’s victory is serious cause for concern about the future of Polish foreign policy. “Voters dumped the ruling liberal, centre-right Civic Platform party out of office despite its handling of the economy which was the fastest growing in the EU during its eight-year term. The election marks a return to power for the veteran nationalist Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s Law and Justice party,” wrote the Financial Times. The publication notes that European partners can now expect problems.

One of the possible reasons is that the PiS could follow the example of the Hungarian Fidesz. Prior to the elections, weekly HVG journalist Gabor Nagy wrote that “Hungary could reach Poland” and the PiS is a “right-wing, conservative” party “adoring Viktor Orban’s economic policy”.

It would be fitting to recall Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s ambivalent policy towards the Hungarian leader, who, despite sympathising with his political course, denied meeting him in February of this year. “We think that the Hungarian prime minister is acting in a way that negatively affects European solidarity,” Mariusz Blasiak, leader of the PiS faction in the Sejm, then commented on Kaczynski’s position. However, it was not long ago that the PiS leader admired the “democracy and basic order” in Hungary, which the EU ostensibly does not like, and in 2011 he even promoted the slogan “There will be another Budapest in Warsaw!”

In the opinion of Russian senator Konstantin Kochaev, the PiS’s arrival to power in Poland “will complicate the country’s relations with the EU, and Russian-Polish relations, already at the lowest level, are most unlikely to change”.

However, the Polish experts with whom Europe Insight has spoken do not think so. “It could always be worse. One should not underestimate Kaczynski and his feelings towards the Putin regime,” thinks political scientist Zbigniew Jaborski. In commentary to Europe Insight, the expert admitted that, “even if relations between Poland and the Russian Federation do not change, the PiS’s dominance in the country will have an influence on neighbouring states, most especially Ukraine and Belarus.” Though, if the CP government kept a rather “reserved and well-disposed position” in its relations with Ukraine while it has been generally governed by pragmatism with the RF, following in Germany’s lead, the PiS will try to “impose its line and increase its involvement in the Ukrainian conflict” at any price.

International security analyst from the Sphere Centre Maciej Piotrowski is certain that the future government’s ambitions to meddle in Russian-Ukrainian relations may have direct consequences from the part of Germany, which is now the key European mediator in the war in Donbass. “Additionally, over the past eight years Poland has been a close ally with Germany in supporting European unity. Like the CP, the PiS is actually pro-European; its Euroscepticism is only putative. However, the party has its own sufficiently muddled vision of a “united Europe”, which does not dovetail with the current one in Berlin or Brussels,” said Piotrowski in an interview with Europe Insight. The pro-European position of the PiS, in particular, is confirmed by the fact that it was the founder and chief ideologist of the party, former president Lech Kaczynski, who signed the Lisbon Treaty in 2007.

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