About this time, the summer media should be well into the silly season (called the ‘cucumber season', here) in Poland, when UFO’s are spotted in a pub in Olsztyn. Well, not this summer…not yet.
The Sunday morning TV news was full of dire weather warnings of another thunder storm heading this way, after a tornado had blown off roofs in southern Poland on Friday night – apart from that, everything as normal: there was the ubiquitous Andrzej Lepper spouting off about being Andrzej Lepper (and his alleged sex scandals). Nothing new there.
And then at about 11 O’clock the news of the horrific crash of a coach carrying Polish pilgrims from the north coast to a shrine near Grenoble in France.
‘Thirteen dead’; ‘at least thirteen dead’; ‘twenty dead….twenty six dead.’
After the shock, the search for what, for whom, to blame began. It seems the brakes failed on a tight bending mountainous road in southeast France. But why had the driver taken the coach down that road in the first place, when there was clear signs that it was not suitable for large vehicles? Since then we learn that many Polish coach drivers have been doing the same, taking passengers down a road known in the area as a notorious black spot. Many dead, human error.
President Kaczynski pronounced three days of national mourning. This has led to minor deprivations for Poles – such as Rod Stewart delaying a concert in Gdansk by one day. The Rolling Stones will go ahead with their gig, Wednesday in Warsaw. I’m sure the Poles can cope.
Election, or not, announcement delayed
But can they cope with the delay of an announcement by the Kaczynskis whether or not they are finally going to ditch their troublesome junior coalition partners of the League of Polish Families and Lepper’s Selfdefense, and have an election that has been on the cards since the very beginning of the government, exactly one year ago last week? Now Poles will have to wait till Thursday.
Someone I was talking to today – who probably thinks of himself as urbane, and not one of the government’s natural constituency – was pessimistic about any future election anyway. He blames the ‘low turnout’ (41 percent last time) for putting in ludicrous regime’s like the Kaczynski’s into government here, anyway.
That view is backed up by a recent Newsweek article:
Widespread voter indifference underscores opposition worries. Turnout in the last elections, in 2005, fell to just 41 percent. Many of those who might vote against Law and Justice—and the new generation of politicians who might stand against it—have already left the country. As for those who've stayed behind, they seem unable and unlikely to redeem Poland's name in Europe.
But maybe many of those who do not vote – often poor, uneducated – would come out and vote for Kaczynski anyway.
I’m sure the Poles can cope.
Mazur free, trail cold
Last week we also had the announcement from a court in Chicago that Edward Mazur – a Polish businessman that has lived in the US for over forty years – would not be extradited back to his homeland to stand trial for plotting the murder of police chief Marek Papala in 1998.
It was alleged that Mazur had relations with organized crime and Papala was getting in the way of ‘a little bit of business’, so he had him eliminated.
The American judge that heard the case said she could not believe how the case prepared by the Polish government against Mazur was so clumsily and sloppily put together. Even small but necessary details like dates were incorrect. They had failed to make a proper case. She threw the extradition request out of court.
The man ultimately responsible for the farce, Polish justice minister, Zbigniew Ziobro, vowed to ‘fight on’ to get extradition.
Though the present government was requesting extradition, it was the previous ex-communist SLD government which had let the trail go cold on the Papala murder. It had seemed, under the premiership of Leszek Miller, reluctant to dig too deep into the case.
The present government has pointed to links between Miller, former first lady Jolanta Kwasniewski, etc, and Mazur, the ex-communists and organized crime.
Whatever, many here think that they never now will get to the bottom of the case.
Can Poles cope with that?
Maybe it’s time for a few cool cucumbers…