Yes, he is trying to hold the fragile coalition government ‘to ransom’…but most of the criticisms of the leader of Samoobrona are motivated by good old fashioned snobbery.
On Saturday Andrzej Lepper, deputy PM and Minister of Farming, said he thought that ‘there would be an election next year’ but it would not be him that would be calling it. He implied that Law and Justice, which leads the coalition, were the ones that were planning an early election.
Last week, however, Lepper was threatening to leave the coalition if the government didn’t come up with extra funds for farmers – who make up much of his constituency – who are suffering from a poor harvest and flooding after the summer’s extreme weather conditions.
So what’s going on?
The simple truth is that both sides are playing coalition politics, with all the bluff and counter-bluff of a poker player with a weak hand.
Lepper is trying to get an increase in public spending – high spending and state intervention were premised in his party’s manifesto. Samoobrona are unfashionably unreconstructed Soviet style socialists.
But they have never hid that.
Lepper also knows that the threats of leaving the coalition do not carry much weight. He knows that to bring down the government he needs the support of opposition Civic Platform (PO). But PO failed to support the no confidence vote in parliament earlier this year – waiting instead for the government to fail more spectacularly and so boost their position in the opinion polls. A vague tactic very characteristic of their vague opposition to date.
Civic Platform, the ‘middle class party’ in Poland, have also made great play of the Kaczynski government making coalition pacts with Lepper, someone they regard as ‘a criminal’ – pointing to his various arrests when he was a trade union rabble rouser in the mid 1990s.
That view of Lepper plays well with many voters in Poland. Look at this comment about him by a Pole on a Ukrainian forum:
‘He is a very clever person and his extremely populist and socialist slogans attract uneducated voters, mainly peasants. In foreign policy he is very pragmatic, and will talk to anyone and everyone, including such rogue states as Belarus and North Korea.
He is a very autocratic leader. His party consists of many former lower ranked communists and some MPs who not finish elementary school [15 yrs old]. But party members are just pawns to him.
I consider him to be fifth columnist in the Polish government.’
Note the stinking snobbery of that comment. He attracts ‘peasants’, the uneducated, fools who follow his self-serving political maneuvering. Samoobrona voters are just dupes and his party members are just pawns to be pushed around.
But it could also be argued that he is as self serving as Civic Platform have been – except that he has simply been much more effective at it.
Civic Platform have failed to form an effective opposition to the present government. They have refused to enter the coalition, which means that smaller, more extreme parties like Lepper’s or Giertych’s far-right LPR have had much more influence on government policy than their size in parliament warrants.
But instead of representing the interests of their voters, Civic Platform, led by Donald Tusk, have sat on the sidelines, sneering down their noses at Lepper and Samoobrona.
If I was a Lepper voter I would be much more pleased with my vote than if I had voted for Civic Platform.
Lepper is simply representing the interests of his constituency. That’s what politicians are meant to do.
Leaving the coalition would do Lepper little good. Better, probably, to stay in and try and blackmail the government into spending more.
That’s what he promised to do during the elections. Civic Platform promised to form a coalition with the Law and Justice. They have failed. Lepper may be seen by many as a much more honest a politician than someone like Donald Tusk.