Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Polish politician threatens to set up another political party


No…please...not another one!

In a land where political parties come and go like a Spring shower (shower being the operative world) Andzej Olechowski (see his very posey web site here) has decided to come out of political retirement and start up yet another.

Olechowski was the founder, in 2001, of the ‘pro business’ Civic Platform, the sole characteristic of which seems to be a belief in the ‘free market’ and a ‘flat tax’ policy.

He didn’t stay long on the Platform though. After losing the Mayor of Warsaw election a year later (that's his election poster in the photo) to Lech Kaczynski (Olechowski got a miserable 13%, probably because of his crap election poster), and after some minor ‘ideological’ squabbles with some of the more rightwing members in Platform, he got bored of politics and left to indulge himself as a businessman.

But now he is back, testing the water as to whether another free market party would be viable.

I doubt it, quite frankly. There is a gap in the Polish political scene for another party, but a normal European centre-left social democratic one. The social democratic ground is currently occupied by the SLD, but as they are mainly made up of ex-communists they are not really what can be described as ‘credible’.

But Olechowski won’t be founding one of those.

He does share some of the credibility problems of the SLD, however, as he worked for the communists in the mid-1980s, as an economist in the Central Bank and other slightly darker places that kept an eye on Polish finance activities (in a country that didn’t really have any).

Another Olechowski party will be more of the same; the room for a ‘free market’ rightwing party in Poland is not a large area and Civic Platform are doing well if they get 30 percent in the opinion polls.

None of the current political parties we have now have real roots in Polish society. And Poland has had many since 1989. All of the current crop (apart from SLD) are less than ten years old. They are basically vehicles to get politicians into parliament. Yet another fly-by-night Olechowski creation – here today, gone tomorrow – will do nothing to rejuvenate political life in Poland, but will add to the alphabeti-spaghetti that is Polish party politics.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

One should remember that during previous elections Mr. Olechowski admitted that he had collaborated with the Communist secret services (specifically foreign intelligence, if my memory serves me well). This does not bode well for him in the current political climate...

beatroot said...

Yeah, I was trying to be subtle when I wrote: he worked for the communists in the mid-1980s, as an economist in the Central Bank and other slightly darker places that kept an eye on Polish finance activities

For sure, this is vanity politics.

Michael Farris said...

It's a question of national character. Polish culture is traditionally among the most hierarchical in Europe (somewhat tempered by some catholic practices though catholicism is also pretty hierarchical).

The problem is that no party can keep strong willed potential leaders who form pocket parties staffed with yesmen/blunderers. PO couldn't accept the Kaczynskis as senior partners in the government (which would make them symbolically the head of PO) and PiS couldn't accept a PO that wasn't going to acknowledge PiS position above them (far above what the election results warranted) so PiS replicated the structure of most polish parties in their coalition a strong leader PiS with some flunkiy/blunderer parties LPR/SO to set them off.

I actually think that the 5 per cent threshhold to get into parliament is exactly the wrong number for a country like Poland, it needs to be either higher (at least 10 %) or not exist at all. No threshhold would allow us to forgo the myth that most of these parties have any meaning (besides being star vehicles) and a higher threshhold might make politicians work together despite themselves.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Andrzej Olechowski, wonder if it’s a doctorate in political bullshit? Is this yet another rat that did and said anything necessary to advance his career under the communists and now the grand metamorphosis, a butterfly of free enterprise.

The English version of his bio on his Website simply excludes his activities prior to 1989, while the Polish language page has a few more details but carefully sanitized.

Note the poster shows him with his hand stuck out, perhaps an involuntary physical response. He must be reaching for the public purse strings.

I agree with changing the thresh hold. They should try a 10% thresh hold to get into parliament, that way the smaller parties are gone and the big parties may be forced to work together.

The Polish dilemma everybody wants to be King.

beatroot said...

Yeah, it is the ‘hand’ in the poster that is the most crap about it.

And it is strange that the pre-1989 period has been wiped out of history.

As for the electoral system. I don’t think they need to raise the threshold up to 10%. What they could do is, like PiS wants, a ‘winner takes all’ system. The party with the most votes wins. What would happen then is we would have the hose trading between parties before the election, not after it. Two blocs of parties would emerge and that is what voters would chose from. A much more stable system.

Rivka said...

I've been living in Poland for several years now, and have independently involved myself in Jewish-Polish oriented projects, away from the mainstream (Lauder, etc.) I prefer this type of work because of objective reasoning. I don't want a larger organization taking credit for or tainting my individual achievements. My cultural heritage stems from pre-wwII Polish-Jewish background and I fully support today's political efforts, namely the PIS in promoting a tolerant society in Poland today, contrary to what most of you believe here on this forum. Those blurbs in the press about homophobia or anti-semitism are over blown by radicals wishing to defame Poland.

As far as the political scene goes, this much must be said: the communists, 'ex' or 'rejunvenated', are equivalent to or just as devious as the Nazis were, both in their philosophical and politcal views. I give a standing ovation to Kaczynski's effort in cleansing Poland of the communist past, and looking forward to the future. He should remain in power, even if it requires establishing allies with Roman and Andrzej. Poland has it's far right, and Israel has it as well. I commend the Catholic church (in Poland) as well for taking a turn for the best. Anyone even remotely affiliated with communism does not stand a chance in today's Poland, thank G_d. Olechowski should remain outside of the political sphere.

ig da geez said...

Thank G_d, the anti-communist politicos are devoid of deviousness.

Yes, Israel does have its far right.

OpAmp said...

About the electoral system: lowering the threshold is actually not an option. There was no threshold until the 1993 elections and the result was a parliament filled with exotic parties which had great troubles with forming a majority. I will argue that introducing the threshold did a lot to stabilize the situation. Increasing the threshold to 10% would not change the situation significantly, since all the main parties usually get around 10% anyway.

Introducing the "winner takes all" system (or further increasing the threshold) would be a very bad idea. Given the vote distribution, the current system does a very good job in protecting the democracy, i.e. it is very difficult to gather a majority required to change the constitution. I am sure that if such system was introduced, the winning option (yes, any of them!) would quickly start manipulating the constitution in order to achieve its short-term goals (not to mention the temptation to extend the term, hehe...). In other words, the current system pretty much provides us a stable democracy, at the expense of seriously pissing off some politicians (and their most avid supporters).

What on the other hand would be reasonable to do (and this why it won't be done ;-)) would be to introduce majoritarian voting for each seat in the Parliament (British/American system, in other words). That would introduce actual accountability of MPs to their voters, which currently is practically nil. Since you vote for a party, and a party decides who gets on the list, the MPs are actually accountable to the party leadership and not to their voters. This further means that the Sejm is composed of a handful of popular personnas (who get the places at the top of the list) and a crowd of unknown people who get in only because they were on a right list.

P.S. I'm new here, welcome all.

opamp said...

I've been living in Poland for several years now, and have independently involved myself in Jewish-Polish oriented projects

You've got my deep respect.

the communists, 'ex' or 'rejunvenated', are equivalent to or just as devious as the Nazis were, both in their philosophical and politcal views.

The generation of Polish communists which ruled in Poland since 1970s was essentially a management class, whose only ideology was "we keep the bank here". The current 'ex' communists (Kwasniewski etc.) are basically the youngest members of that group (and they largely still keep the bank...). There's little continuity between them and the bloody regime of early 1950s.

Anyone even remotely affiliated with communism does not stand a chance in today's Poland

I disagree. The problem is that virtually everyone born before 1970 or so WAS somehow affiliated with the communism due to the pervasive nature of the system; I'd even wager that it includes the then 'hardcore' oppositionists (see Kuron's case). This is also why communist party membership is still not viewed today as a stigma. Mr. Olechowski's main problem is not his communist past (although nobody likes communist agents...), but the fact that his moment was when Civic Platform was created. Today, all he can offer is a new Civic Platform which is not Civic Platform. Why would you need something like that?

The new quality in Polish politics will arrive when people born after 1970 will start running the show.

beatroot said...

Opamp
Given the vote distribution, the current system does a very good job in protecting the democracy, i.e. it is very difficult to gather a majority required to change the constitution.

Meaning a two thirds majority of course. But I don’t see how a winner takes all system would change that. Getting 66% of the Sejm to vote the same way would still require MPs outside of the government voting with the governing party (or bloc of parties as these would be coalitions agreed before the election).

America has a rigid two party system and changing the constitution there is extremely difficult.

And the majority system (a la UK) is actually Rokita’s idea. I think both are worth looking at.

Rivka
I fully support today's political efforts, namely the PIS in promoting a tolerant society in Poland today, contrary to what most of you believe here on this forum.

I wish more people like you turned up too. For instance, I was hoping with the posts about evolution that a Creationist would turn up (I know for a fact some of them read this blog) and debate the issue. I would be fascinated to see how they would defend themselves.

Still, there will be another time…

Magda said...

Rivka: your understanding of communism and decommunisation is simplistic. Like the Kaczynskis, you seem to think it was simply a case of "them and us." But everyone was involved: that's the nature of totalitarianism. That crappy, jerry-built 1960s block of flats you live in? Built by communists. The concentration camp in Belzyce? Maintained by communists. Your colleagues at work? Educated by teachers who may at one time have been in the communist party. (I give this example because if I remember correctly, a junior minister has suggested investigating school teachers.)

Communism would not have been very totalitarian if it had been possible to live in splendid isolation from it.

I don't know what the answer is but it's not a witch hunt.

Rivka said...

Magda,

For you to assess an individual's knowledge of communism, based on a several light sentences, is overally simplistic. I know of communism quite well because my own parents were deeply involved within the communist apparatus in Poland until 1989. Like Adam Michnik's parents and numerous others, they were, unfortunately, involved in prosecuting the very Poles that were against the system, Poles that tried in vain to run Poland democratically. It is not a fact that one can be proud of. I never implied that communism was 'them and us', this is your translation. Don't associate phrases with others, and don't assume.

Communism was imposed upon Poland by Russia (Soviet Union) against the will of those who fought for a free and democratic Poland after WWII. There were those, such as my parents, that were instrumental in implementing communism in Poland in the most suppressive and hideous forms, and those that had no choice but to follow it after it's successful reign. Events such mock trials, executions, deportations, were common themes in eliminating Poles that opposed communism. Those communists that supported and implemented the system are the most vile offenders. Those that were mistakenly sucked into it should be given a fair trial. Kaczynski has my full support in this crucial act of cleansing. My support of his efforts is a symbolic way of giving back what my parents stole from Poland.

Michael Farris said...

Rivka,

If there is to be decommunization (whatever that means) it needs to operate under the rule of law, and be transparent and impartiality. If those standards aren't met, then it's simply not worth it. Look at the Gilowska sideshow, how was that constructive? What lessons did anyone learn?

And _nothing_ the Kaczynskis say or do inspires confidence in me that they believe in the rule of law, transparency or impartiality. They believe in the rule of Kaczynskis, backroom dealing and grduges.

Hektor Hamulec said...

I agree with the comments that Poland needs a new electoral system. The UK system would be best as, first of all, it gives people a direct link with their member of parliament; and secondly, it gives the largest party a fighting chance of forming a government on its own or at least a stable-ish coalition with one other party. It might also encourage some of the parties to merge or at least cooperate in a way that is good for Poland. As I understand it, though, the constitution states that elections to the Sejm must be on a proportional basis - so the best we could hope for would be the German/New Zealand/Scottish/Welsh AMS or MMP system (50% FPTP, 50% PR).

I think that another key reform is to prohibit people with criminal convictions remaining as MPs. It's ridiculous that, amongst others, Lepper can remain as a member of parliament despite being convicted in criminal proceedings. That does more to sully the public's view of politicians than anything else.

All the best. Really enjoy your blog.

Hektor

beatroot said...

Thanks Hektor.

the constitution states that elections to the Sejm must be on a proportional basis

Which is why my first suggestion would fit. Informal blocs of parties standing for election. That way you can still get the diversity of PR with some of the stability of a UK system.

But this an important issue. The last year has been ludicrous.

Magda said...

Rivka:
"As far as the political scene goes...the communists, 'ex' or 'rejunvenated', are equivalent to or just as devious as the Nazis were."

Your words, not mine. You do not specify here that you mean "only some" communists or "the most active" communists, or "Stalinist" communists, or "zamordyzm" communists, or "card-carrying" communists, or "committed" communists, the Pulawy faction, the Moczar faction -- no, you wrote "communists" and then _expanded_ on the theme to make it clear you also think ex-communists and rejuvenated communists are equivalent to Nazis. Your only qualification seems to be: communists now in politics.

Sticking with semantics, I wrote that you "seem" to have a simplistic view precisely because I have only "several light sentences" to go on. I cannot base any assessment of your views on things you may or may not have done and said elsewhere, only on what you have written here -- be it several light sentences or a detailed personal history and empiric analysis of communism.

beatroot said...

Hi Magda.

It makes me think about ‘reformed’ communists or marxists. There are many of those in history, and many of the US rightwing, neo-con warriors are ex-Trotskyists. Are they as ‘bad as Nazis’? Jacek Kuron was a ‘reformed’ Marxist. Was he as bad as Hitler?

A silly thing to say, Rivka.

Anonymous said...

The word de-communization seems to raise a knee-jerk reaction with a lot of people suggesting that it implies something outside the rule of law or an abuse of human rights.

This is simply not the case.

We have a country invaded and occupied, with the invaders installing an administration. Poland from1944 to 1989 was not in any legal or technical definition a sovereign state.

In the areas of military affairs, foreign policy and economics the final decisions rested with Moscow. There exist a mountain of evidence for this!

The communists collaborated with an occupying power.

If we look at how some members of old Europe dealt with similar situations, such as France were there were a large number of executions after the Second World War, clearly not what’s happened in Poland. Thus far no communist has been physically harmed.

During the 1970’s there were around 2.5 million members of the communist party.

It’s simply time to say to them we have treated you with unparalleled generosity but for the good of the country you cannot participate in the political process.

beatroot said...

Please Anonymous. Give yourself a name. Anything. Maybe ‘Boleslaw Krzywousty’ (for some strange reason he is my fav Polish king – it’s just a great name for a king, Bolly the wry mouth’! There are a few people who call themselves ‘anonymous on here and it is really confusing who is who.

Whilst I understand de-communization as a concept, in practice this isn’t some campaign against the cultural leftovers of communism which still infect Poland like a rancid boil (even the attitude of sales staff in some shops!), but an attack on individuals It is assumed that because you did such and such in the 1980s then you must think the same way now (and not developed as a person) and have a connection of similar people who ‘are only in it for themselves’.

I think the reality is a little more complicated than that.

Maybe they should be doing more about some of the post-comnunist structural and cultural aspects of Poland.

B_K said...

Firstly don’t get the idea that I think 2.5 million unrepentant communists are running around doing evil. This isn’t the case. In the old days there were very few communist party members that actually believed in anything. There was a bad joke going around in those days that if you want to find someone who actually believes in communism you would have seek him or her out in a western university, as no one here was that stupid. But do understand that Poles view things in terms of symbols a lot more than other cultures. The presence of some of these people in civic affairs discredits the process and that is the perception. A perception the new democracy can ill afford. You will hear it often enough “look at him now, I remember what he was”.

It’s not simple and it isn’t going to be painless but cleansing society of these people must be done and seen to be done.

Michael Farris said...

b-k,

again, unless the process is transparent and impartial it's not worth it. As currently run the whole process is about substituting one group of non-ideologue opportunists with a group of ideologue opportunists.
what did the gilowska sideshow accomplish?
what makes you think the process will be any better run in the future?

beatroot said...

Uklad or układ rodzina?

opamp said...

During the 1970’s there were around 2.5 million members of the communist party.

To put things in perspective, that translates to about 6% of the current population. How do you propose to apply the French solution -- mass extermination? Plus what about that one million that was both in Solidarity _AND_ PZPR in 1980? And France 'dealt' with the problem, sure... read Pierre Assouline's "La cliente" to see how effectively.

Of course, it is much simpler to blame everything on 2.5 million virtual communists, instead of, say. glaring incompetence of some post-1989 governments.

B_K said...

Not suggesting we apply any form of violence, you missed the point. When it was over we dealt with them generously and it’s not too much to expect these people to exit public life.

“one million that was both in Solidarity _AND_ PZPR in 1980”

No problem these people were kicked out of the communist party and often fired from their jobs so they would be excluded from the vetting process. As best as I understand the circumstances you could not be in both camps.

“Of course, it is much simpler to blame everything on 2.5 million virtual communists, instead of, say. glaring incompetence of some post-1989 governments.”

Once again I have to repeat myself there are very few former communists still causing mischief, but their presence in the democratic process taints and discredits the process in the eyes of the people.

In Poland perceptions and appearances can carry the same weight as hard facts. As far as the current crop of post –1989 politicians not being competent, that’s a separate issue.

I don’t think your trying to tell me lets hire a totalitarian and the trains will run on time. Give me the less competent democratic any day!

Pangloss said...

So we're all agreed then...

Rivka said...

Magda and Beatroot,

Being the daughter of former communists that held influential positions within the Polish government, I have experienced first hand, what communism had done to Poland, and what it consists of. Naturally, there were various factions and levels of particiation in communism, similar to that of Nazism. There were those that fully supported it (communism or nazism), or those that had no choice but to support it, or those that dispayed dual loyalties. If you wish to get down to comparison more technically, perhaps comparing Hitler to Stalin would be fair, rather than stating 'communism' versus 'nazism'. So, who was worse? They were both on the same level. Beatroot, you should be more specific as to what is 'silly'. Your writings and opinions weigh more on absurd if anything. You should educate yourself a little more in Polish history. I've lived through it my entire life. You weren't even born in Poland and have never felt or experienced first hand the impact of communism in Polish society from the period 1945 - 1989. Your views are only based on research and readings, mine on personal life experience.

Michael Farris said...

rivka,
blah, blah, blah, so you're mad at your parents, join the human race.
While you're busy coping, please explain how your precious 'decommunization' can be carried out in a transparent and impartial manner by the current government.
Feel free to reference the uplifting and enlightening Gilowska case and explain why she shouldn't be disqualified from the government by the Kaczynskis own standards (who nevertheless need her economic credibility to balance their lack of same).

beatroot said...

Your views are only based on research and readings,

Tut tut, I really must get out of that habit. Research! Reading! Whatever next?

Magda said...

I must immediately travel back in time and arrange to have myself born of communist party members in order to be able to hold an opinion on communism equally valid to Rivka's.

Or I could just do some research and reading.

Magda said...

I presume, Rivka, you are aware of the implications of your position: only those with first hand experience from a communist background are entitled to judge communists. So the staunchly anti-communist Kaczynskis that you so admire have no right to lustrowac communists.

A twelve-person jury wouldn't do either. Some of the jurors might not have experienced communism. Others might actually have been communists.

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