Saturday, November 11, 2006

No taxation without representation!

Who should ex-pats vote for in the Polish local elections this Sunday?

Since the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 foreigners with an EU passport can vote in municipal and European elections anywhere they are resident. So you would think that the government, and media aimed at foreigners resident in Poland, would be overflowing with especially tailored information about the Polish local elections, the first round of which takes place on Sunday.

In fact, the opposite is the case. Despite contributing to the local taxes that pay for the (sometimes non existent) services it’s as if the ex-pat is an unwanted guest at the Polish ballot box. The government web site on the municipal elections is dreadful. And when foreign media have covered it, they mostly don’t even bother to mention that we can be involved too (no surprise that as the English language media in Poland is generally worse than useless).

In Warsaw, two candidates have a chance of winning the mayoral election – ex-Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz of the ruling Law and Justice party, and ex-head of the Central bank, Hanna Gronkiewicz Waltz (of the main opposition Civic Platform). In third place will be ex-communist Marek Borowski (in an alliance of left wing parties). Unless one candidate gets over 50% of the vote – which is unlikely – then the contest goes to a second round in two weeks time when the top two candidates go head-to-head. As most of Borowski’s votes will go to Gronkiewicz-Waltz then she is favourite to become mayor.

So who will I vote for? Well, sorry, but all the candidates’ politics are so alien to me that I am not going to bother. Although I am tempted by one of them.

There is an alternative – it’s orange

During the Martial Law period, 1981-2, strange graffiti, drawings of gnomes wearing orange hats, began to appear on the walls of buildings. The artists were from the Orange Alternative, headed by Waldemar Fydrych, known to his friends as ‘the Major”. Whereas Solidarity thought it could whip the communists by strike action, Fydrych decided he would lampoon, mock and humiliate the communists out of power.

His method of protest was based on the Situationists of Paris 1968 (‘under the pavement the beach!’). His supporters would roam the streets handing out tampons to women (sanitary towels, like everything else, were in short supply in those dark days); Frydrych also had, and has, a thing about gnomes and dwarfs, which for some reason have an association with freedom for him. He once said: “Can you treat a police officer seriously, when he is asking you the question: 'Why did you participate in an illegal meeting of dwarfs?" But arrest him they did. Many times. Gnomes, dwarfs and elves, were subversive for the Polish communist. That’s how sad, insecure and pathetic they were.

Since gnome-power brought communism to its knees, he has stood in a few elections since 1989 and now he wants to be Mayor of Warsaw. And if the quality of the other candidates is anything to go by then I see no reason why a pro-dwarfist shouldn’t get the top job.

Other candidates taking part in the Warsaw Mayor election are:

Włodzimierz Całka (independent)

Marek Czarnecki (Self defense)

Janusz Korwin-Mikke (conservative, free market, monarchist weirdo independent)

Wanda Nowicka (independent, feminist)

Wojciech Wierzejski (League of Polish Families)

We will be blogging from 20.00 CET Sunday night when the exit poll results of the first round of the nationwide local elections are released. See you then.


Anonymous said...

"So who will I vote for? Well, sorry, but all the candidates’ politics are so alien to me that I am not going to bother."?

That's a cop out and you know it. If none of the candidates meet your approval then indicate that fact on the ballot paper. Just write the words "None of the above" at the bottom of the slip. It is your ballot paper and you can do whatever you want with it. If half the people who say 'all the candidates’ politics are so alien to me that I am not going to bother' actually went and voted "None of the above" I think that "None of the above" would probably get into the second round of the election.

You can talk about how the English language media in Poland is generally worse than useless but to be honest a lot of English speakers in Poland are also worse than useless. At NWE I organised a voter registration drive. I spoke to bar owners I know and found six good bars (Tortilla factory, Bar Below, Sense, NoBo, Kom, Bradley's) which would give a free beer (a large beer) to any EU citizen who went into the bar with the letter sent to him/her by a Polish electoral committee confirming that he/she was registered to vote in the elections. You know the kind of letter that I'm talking about don't you Beatroot?

Does anybody know the total number of beers which were given out in this campaign? Anybody? Anybody? Something E-R-O beers. Zero beers (excuse the Ferris Bueller's Day Off quote). Not only could expats not be bothered to register to vote (something which takes no more than ten minutes) but they couldn't be bothered to register to vote in exchange for six free beers.

Anonymous said...

Tut tut.
According to Gazeta Wyborcza you have no right to complain about things if you don't vote. So it looks like you'll have to wind this blog up on Monday.

Anonymous said...

Maybe while they intended to vote, they weren't inclined to swill beer much less beer that smacked of their having to sell out politically?

But true enuff about BR's copout. Write in the name of whoever is unalien to you and stop whining, BR. Write in your own name if you please (unless you've become alien to yourself). Really, you're starting to sound Polish. How long you been there? Jeez.

Anonymous said...

How is it selling out politically to register to vote? There was no condition to vote for any political party or even to vote at all. Only to register to vote. According to the woman in the srodmiescie registration office only three non-Poles had registered there.

Anonymous said...

Anon: I can only surmise that folks may well have thought they would have to listen to some kind of political spiel even if there were indeed no conditions noted. Nonetheless, only three folks registering is indeed pathetic. And if such folks don't register or vote, they should not complain or demonstrate and just take the medicine they deserve.

beatroot said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
beatroot said...

Actually, if I had got my act together earlier I would have stood as a candidate for the beatroots Polish Pro Corruption Party (PPCP).

Alas not.

Sorry about not hearing about the NWE voter drive! Although I am probably not alone in not hearing about the NWE voter drive...

As far as voting in Poland is concerned…to be honest, I have mixed feelings about this EU idea about the ‘European citizen’ being able to vote, without any conditions of time being in the country etc. It’s reducing the process to transferable flight tickets.

And as far as voting in general is concerned, I gave up voting in 1992! Have not voted since. Was a very active member of the Labour Party (West Norwood constituency) in Britain back then. But that election was my last. When the 1994 election for Labour leader came about after the death of John Smith I was still eligible to vote but I took a look at the three names on the ballot and could not find anyone to vote for.

Tony Blair won that election.

Since then politics really has collapsed, and party politics in particular. I am still active in various things, but I see no possibility of political change through party politics when the parties are just empty shells.

And I don’t see what the point of putting ‘none of the above’ on ballot papers does. The millions who stay at home say exactly the same thing. “None of the above, you don’t interest me, you do not inspire me enough to engage me in this process, so get stuffed”.

If nobody is worthy of someone's vote then they shouldn't get it.

Anonymous said...

I understand how people missed the NWE voter registration drive, it was hidden away in the Club Corner section!

There are actually conditions on the time of being in Poland for EU citizens to vote here. You have to be resident here. Not just a tourist.

You don't see the point of writing 'none of the above'? The millions who stay home do not say exactly the same thing. What they say is 'Maybe I don't think any of the candidates represent me and maybe I just can not be bothered to get off the sofa and vote, so just ignore me'. If they actually went and told the political elite that none of the candidates represented what they actually want then perhaps things would change. But they won't and so things won't.

Not that that means I will stop trying!

beatroot said...

I think the ruling elites know they are a shambles, Harry. That's why they look for populist knee jerk type issues to try and connect with us. But they don't, really.

I had an incredibly high temperature Thursday/Friday this week. I got it after staying up watching the US elections all night. I do know of other people who have had this virus (no other symptoms but high temp) but I think it was electionitus!

If it was in the club section of NWE then it sounds like it was your initiative. Bud that would have been a great editorial theme leading up to these elections: “Ex-pats, must register to vote” type thing ….it could have been like a NWE ‘Rock the Vote’ in the US. That’s worth a few appearances on Polish media, I’d say. But…alas, it was not to be.

You see what I mean about the English media here, generally (but not always), lacking a certain imagination? It would have been good for sales, image. But a little bit risky. And risk they can't afford when ads and cover price revenue is so low. Can't afford to upset anyone, so the solution is to be boring. Shame.

beatroot said...

Sorry, I forgot to say that the real changes in Poland are not going on at the Sejm (which rolls about the place like a drunken sailor and always has) but outside. And that's a much more fruitful place to get involved. Poles really are changing their country. Painfully.

Anonymous said...

That may have been the case with Solidarity during Communist rule.

There is democracy now, for better or for worse. And it will certainly be for worse if a bunch of twits monopolize power and are not challenged directly through the political process.

Organic work? Sure. Fine. But please don't so cavalierly dismiss the importance of politics.

Frank Partisan said...

I voted in MN, for a Green folksinger Papa John Kolstad, for attorney general. That was his name on the ballot. His son is Cadillac Kolstad. What can I say, I come from Jesse Ventura country.

I wonder if your cynical atitude toward the electoral system, is connected to your end of ideology ideas? That's not a values statement on my part, just a description of your politics.

michael farris said...

Beat, surely you're not saying that had more young affluent people voted
(probably resulting in a PO victory) the last year would have been identical in Poland. I'm not sure if the last year would have been substantially better but it probably would have been a little better (which would be fine with me)

I think you're showing the classic signs of burnout. It's like you invested too much in the political process and so when you quit you went cold turkey and regard any backsliding the way a recovering alcoholic does a single gin and tonic, harmless enough in itself, but you're afraid what it could lead to...

I never have invested much in the political process. Of course what people do in their everyday lives is a lot more important than what politicians do (in the absence of severe dystopian/utopian scenarios) but what elected politicians do does matter a little and it's generally a good idea to try to get the less alarming/incompetent people into office.

I don't vote in state/local elections in the US partly because it seems presumptious since I don't live there.
I did vote in the 2004 presidential elections (for all the good that did, grrrrr).
If I could vote in Poland, I certainly would. If for nothing else for symbolic reasons.

In the Warsaw mayoral elections, any of the three leading candidates would be acceptable if not great. My order would be Grontkiewicz-Walz, Borowski and Marcinkiewicz. But none of them would be as alarming as a Korwin-Mikke Wierzejski victory (or are you seriously saying either of those would be acceptable to you?)

beatroot said...

A Korwin-Mikke Wierzejski alliance would be very funny – they would kill each other In about three weeks.

It’s not me that was burnt out in the early 1990s it was the left/right ideological divide that was exhausted.

For me, political culture has degraded so much now that what’s more interesting is the view we have of ourselves as human beings. Liberals, environmentalists, religious conservatives share a view in common of humanity which says that we are a virus ruining the planet; we are vulnerable and need to be protected from gays/ free speech/advertising/junk food/ (delete as app). So I am much more interested in defending free speech (we are not robots waiting to kill at the drop of a casual word or image); there is a campaign in the UK against the mass vetting of adults before they can work with children. The authorities seem to think we are all potential pedophiles (we see the same thing happening in Poland but with a gay subtext). Of course, the vetting process will further alienate children from adults and adults from adults.

I could go on…politics is impossible until we regain a sense of ourselves as autonomous human beings, not the victims of forces out of our control. And that’s the area I am interested now.

These issues are way beyond the scope of petty party politics. But if I was ‘burnt out’ then I would pick the lazy way out and limit any political activity to the banalities of the ballot box.

Anonymous said...

Beatroot is absolutely right. All the parties in Poland are bankrupt. Micahel Farris said voting for PO this time last year might have left us in a better position than PiS. Maybe. Maybe not. You vote in this country for a cat in a sack as they say in Polish or a pig in a poke as in English.

You never know who your elected politician is going to wake up beside in bed the next morning. Lots of PiS voters expected a POPiS coalition.

As for "none of the above" -- it's a nice gesture but nowhere near as effective as a riot.

beatroot said...

Although Harry is right in pointing out that sitting at home throwing bricks at the TV is no substitute for political engagement. My point is that the political culture that underpins the whole party political thing prohibits real political engagement as they are all feeding from the anti-humanist trough. With the general degenerate view of humanity that is dominant both on the ‘left’ and ‘right’, genuine progress is simply impossible. So I am much more interested in pointing out the similarities of the parties, liberal and conservative, religious and environmentalist, and showing that there is another argument.

Anonymous said...

Just been and voted. I voted for Krystian Legierski for town council (a very easy choice because I know him, like him and trust him plus he was standing for the correct political party as far as I'm concerned). For mayor I semi-swallowed my principles and voted Grontkiewicz-Walz because I wanted to do all that I can to stop that homophobic fucktard Marcinkiewicz from getting back into politics. For borough council I wrote 'None of the above' on the basis that I didn't want anybody from any of the parties offered to me.

Interestingly there were two non-Polish voters on the list at my polling station (there is a seperate list for foreign scum). We both voted. Would be interesting to see what percentage of foreign scum who took time off stealing Poland and corrupting its youth to register to vote actually did vote.

beatroot said...

homophobic fucktard Marcinkiewicz !

What principles did you swallow in order to vote PO?

Anonymous said...

^ I should have voted for Borowski as the Green party support him.

Anonymous said...

^ What you mean is that you can not be bothered to get off the sofa and actually vote. If you want to refuse to vote then that is fine but actually refuse to vote - something which is not the same as simply not bothering to vote.

All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing (one of Burke's better lines). So if you just can not be arsed to vote you are as responsible for the shitstorm that Poland is currently engulfed in as the fucktards who actually voted for the League of Polish Fascists.

Becca said...

four non-Polish voters at my polling station but I suspect I was the first to show up because finding the 'EU list' was not all that straight forward...