The election of Lech Kaczynski as President of Poland is unprecedented.
Since the fall of communism in 1989, Poland has never had a rightwing government at the same time as having a rightwing president.
Well, they have now. Lech Kaczynski’s win in the second round of the presidential election on Sunday follows his party’s win in the general election last month. Head of Law and Justice (PiS) parliamentary grouping is Lech’s twin brother, Jaroslaw.
Tusk had struggled to persuade older, poorer voters that they were safe with his brand of free market politics. And it proves that you cannot win an election in Poland without the support of rural areas.
In Poland, general elections happen every four years, presidential every five. This year they’ve happened simultaneously.
The two elections – and with the presidential going into two rounds – have left the Polish electorate ‘exhausted’. They complain, not just of the length of the hustings but also about the negative style of campaigning – especially from the Kaczynski camp (Grandpa-gate).
Pretty mild stuff, though, compared to what frequently goes on in the West. And have Poles already forgotten the 1995 presidential campaign, when Lech Wales and ex-communist, Aleksander Kwasniewski, knocked lumps out of each other in a particularly bloody battle?
But in the context of both Tusk and Kaczynski claiming to be a ‘fresh start’ for Poland, it hasn’t looked good from this side of the ballot box.
What has characterized the presidential election campaign this time has been the volatility of the electorate. Few of the candidates enjoyed any ideological commitment or loyalty from the voters.
The first out of the trap, and into the lead in the opinion polls, was heart surgeon, Zbigniew Religa. His strengths appeared to be that he was not a politician. The trouble was, he didn’t have any policies. His lead was always going to be temporary.
Kaczynski was next to be favourite, until the only SLD candidate thought corruption-free enough to stand for president, Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, threw his hat into the ring.
But when Cimoszewicz dropped out after getting immersed in the inevitable corruption scandal, set up by his rightwing enemies, the way was clear for Tusk to go to the top of the polls. And he’s been there ever since, apart from one survey published on Friday, which showed Kaczynski staging his now usual last-minute comeback.
And then the farmers made up their minds, and voted for 'the Duck'.
Though voters found it hard to show loyalty to anyone, they were being offered a choice. Unlike in the UK, for example, there is a real difference of political outlooks on offer. True, in the final round, voters have had to choose between two candidates claiming to be rightwing. But the differences between them are significant.
Tusk stands for the young, socially aspirational middle class, who wants to put history behind them and just get on with things. Kaczynski appeals to older and poorer voters who fear the future, because they don’t particularly like the present.
Kaczynski has continually played on people’s fears about the future. He warns that Tusk and his party, PO, want to jump headfirst into a ‘liberal experiment’, by reducing tax radically and speeding up privatization. His mantra has been, ‘What about the poor, the old, the (18%) unemployed’?
The Kaczynsiki camp has also tried to play (somewhat ludicrously) to the far-right and reactionary gallery by raising the spectre of a ‘homosexual lobby’ in the EU, which is ‘infecting’ Polish society. With his appeals for a Poland ‘cleansed’ of these elements, and with a new civil service free of corrupt ex-communists, Kaczynski has occupied the moral high ground.
Kaczynski strategy has been to try and pick up left wing voters who want the state to protect them from the ravages of the market, and at the same time, appeal to the right, the fearful, the religious, who fear modernity.
A tricky act, but one that Tusk has had trouble dealing with. His party, Civic Platform, has been successfully branded, in the minds of many by Kaczynski, as standing for nothing but ‘money, money, money.’
But the Duck has had his problems too. He’s had to overcome voter’s fear of having a Kaczynski in the Prime Minister’s chancellery, and another, identical Kaczynski in the presidential palace.
Nepotism is seldom pretty, especially when it’s hatched from the same egg!
But apart from the ‘grandpa-gate’ scandal that never was, the better, more effective campaign, in both elections, has been the Kaczynskis’.
And now Lech and Jarolsaw have to do four years in government.
And then Poland will vote the ex-communists back in, just like they did four years go.
For more detailed results of the presidential election go to the PKW web site
Sunday, October 23, 2005
Posted by beatroot at 10/23/2005