Monday, September 17, 2007

A week is a long time in Polish politics

On the first day of the election campaign last Sunday, Civic Platform was…nowhere.

Instead of a rollicking barnstorming speech by the party leader, Donald Tusk, we got Jan Rokita – the other main personality in the party – in a very serious interview on television about some constitutional irregularity by the government on….snooze…

And then, a couple days later, Platform GOT EXCITING, and unveiled a Big Catch – former defense minister for the Law and Justice (PiS) government, Radek (did you know my wife is ace journalist, Ann Applebaum, and I once was a journo in Afghanistan and I carried a gun….I really did!) Sikorski – the Polish political action man.

Sikorski gave a short speech saying that he was, ‘Disappointed with Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski…etc,’ and then stalked off, smirking.

So, a big coup for Platform. And then...

Jan Rokita’s wife – Nelly - announces that she was going to work for …President Lech Kaczynski, to advise him on …‘women’s issues’!


Quite apart from what she will tell the president about women – many wags have said that Lech’s brother, Jaroslaw, needs the advice about women (but it would be beneath the dignity of this blog to discuss such things), it was quite an embarrassing thing to happen to Civic Platform. What was one of the party’s leader’s wives doing going to work for the dreaded Law and Justice government?

But Nelly – an eccentric character, who shares the same taste in hats as does her husband – had left Civic Platform a while ago, since Jan supported the PiS candidate in the last mayor election in Krakow.

Then Rokita had a hissy fit last week when all Tusk’s mates were put on the election list in Krakow but none of his were.

Rokita won that little battle by getting some of his mates back on the list and everything appeared to have calmed down.

And then Nelly – the political elephant - went and spoiled it all and turned up at the presidential palace.

Oh, dear. Enough for Jan, who has now ‘retired from politics’ and will now not be standing for election on October 21.

Tusk said that he understood that Jan’s throwing in the towel was ‘personal’ and not ‘political’.

Yeah, right. Rokita has never felt that comfortable in Civic Platform – he is more to the right and conservative than Tusk. Platform is really two different parties – as are all of Poland’s election machines, which are in effect, shaky alliances, waiting to break apart whenever someone sneezes.

But Nelly could be a rather expensive luxury for the Law and Justice party. With Rokita out of the way, Platform are far more likely to go into a coalition with the ex-communists after the election – something Jan Rokita would never have stood for.

So it is now not enough for Law and Justice to become the largest party in parliament. If they can’t form a coalition – and nobody really wants to get into their messy bed anymore - then it will be up to the Left and Civic Platform to form the next government.

A week is a long time in politics, and last week was a particularly long one for the Platform.


michael farris said...

It's not just that Rokita was uncomfortable in PO, he'd be uncomfortable in _any_ party situation where he isn't universally agreed with and every spur-of-the-moment decision isn't greeted as divine revelation.

He's a loose cannon and a prima donna and overall PO is better off without him. It's just too bad that he managed to time his withdrawal for maximum damage to his erstwhile party, but then I would expect no less of him.

Anonymous said...

And I just read, pray tell, that Dziwisz, Glemp, and the Bishop of Warsaw are calling for controlling "the Church" taking control over Rydzik, well sorta. And K-ski's defending him (even after the Ryd dissed him and the wife).

beatroot said...

Well, indeed Geez...Kaczynski's need him more than they probably have contempt for him.

And Mike - a prima donna - oh, yeah. But I really think that now he is out of thew way then PO are more flexable as far as coalitions go.

And in PO there was always a Krakow vs Gdansk tention going on. And as usual, I go with Gdansk anytime against Krakow.

Anonymous said...

Way off subject I'm afraid -- mea culpa -- but this website has a bunch of really interesting talks on diverse subjects. A less partisan effort and lots more substantive, it seems to me, than certain others (no dig intended here):

Anonymous said...

There is a little more to the story -- allegedly there is a conflict in PO in Kraków between Rokita and the "old guard" and the young people over the election lists. He is now out of the way, so it looks like the youth will get the lists. Which, God willing, should finally accelerate the very much needed generational change in Polish politics. We cannot eternally have our collective heads turned back at who was on which side of the fence in the Shipyard. (Or, who claims to be on which side, actually).

Plus, one of my main reasons NOT to vote for PO is gone.

Anyway, the elections in Kraków will be something to watch, because PiS will put Zbigniew Ziobro at the top of its list. So we will see who will the Platform put against PiS' most popular politician, and how will he fare.

Theoretically in Kraków PiS should win by a large margin, because the city is very much on the conservative side (SLD-esque major Majchrowski notwithstanding).

And in PO there was always a Krakow vs Gdansk tention going on. And as usual, I go with Gdansk anytime against Krakow.

My friend, a time will come that the capital will go back to Kraków; and it will be a time of great prosperity.

beatroot said...

Geez. It does look good.

Yoy from Krakow, or what?

Of course, I do like Krakow - it is where me and She Who Must Be Obeyed went on our first naughty weekend,...November 11. So it is our place of Dependence.

But Gdansk I like more. Cheaper and such a different atmostphere to Krakow. I know it has changed a lot in recent years but is still this superior attitide down there.

And yes, the generational change will be welcome - though being young does not mean....well....look at Bosak!

YouNotSneaky! said...

The way I remember it, and it's very possible I'm way wrong on this, Rokita, or more specifically his arrogance, was one of the main reasons why the POPiS coalition never materialized after the last election.

Having said that I actually always sort of liked him. Seemed to have a lot more personality than the stiff Tusk.

And I still can't see a post-communist - PO coalition. A lot of people still support PO precisely because they're not post-communists nor have they ever gotten in bed with them (the split in the UW was partially due to that fact) and of course because they're not the conservative PiS. But who knows what can happen in Polish politics?

Anonymous said...

Yoy from Krakow, or what?

Yup. Family lineage going back four centuries. Take that!

.well....look at Bosak!

C'mon, what do you want from the guy? He's now a TV star and gays think he's hot. Pretty good for a 25-year-old. Are you jealous, or what?

(As a side note, I regard with great sadness kicking out Sandra Lewandowska out of Dancing with the Stars yesterday. For a brief moment it looked like something good was going to go out of Samoobrona.)

Anonymous said...

Why is Krakow so "conservative"? I know the phrase "Krakow conservative" dating way back centuries but can't understand why it is still the case today being a university city and so cosmopolitan in many other ways as well.

Aren't students registered to vote there? Or do they just not vote because of the putridity of the bizarro alternatives? PO being a bunch of stuffed suits and PiS being so paranoid. And how do you explain away the "progressive" mayor?

BTW, I always got the feeling that Warsaw folks were the ones who felt themselves superior to Krakow folks whom they view as provincial parochial peasants still rooted in the countryside, incapable of speaking proper Polish, slurring words.

Anonymous said...

Kaczyński took on Nelly Rokita as his adivser for women's affairs as a way to de-claw Gretkowska's Partia Kobiet (Women's Party). PK has very little support but you can't be too careful: they have about as much support as LPR and look what they did.

Anonymous said...

Why is Krakow so "conservative"?

Because south Poland is in general socially conservative. (Yeah, this is largely hypocrysy, but still).

Aren't students registered to vote there?

They are. But the sentiment between them is that they largely don't care. (I don't remember having a single political discussion while being at the uni).

And how do you explain away the "progressive" mayor?

Easily. First -- during the campaign nobody was asking about gay marriage, but about road and bridge building. Second -- last time his PiS countercandidate was a guy with a biography which involved hippies, drugs and sex. As a result LPR decided to support the SLD candidate...

Anonymous said...

his PiS countercandidate was a guy with a biography which involved hippies, drugs and sex.

You mean only folks who never listened to the G. Dead, who never used (what kind of?) drugs, but who are celibate and say they don't support gay lifestyles and are against abortion on demand can win in K-kow?

And K-kow is conservative because it is?

Uh? How close was the mayoral election? And how many folks registered didn't vote? And what percent of eligible voters didn't register?

beatroot said...

Biofuels update!
Polish fuel producers have begun to invest heavily in biofuels – The merger of two major Polish biofuel producers will triple the production of rapeseed esters to 200,000 tonnes. In 2007, production will further increase, with new companies investing in biofuels. The plans provide for a production level of 1m tonnes, which requires 2m tonnes of rapeseed(canola). Poland's biofuel rush is a consequence of the EU directive forcing the country to achieve a 5.75-percent level of bio-additives in fuels used in transport by 2010. The Economy Ministry is considering introducing legislation stipulating a minimum bio-component content in fuels of 5 percent.
The largest growers of rapeseed in EU are France, Germany and Poland.

Poland is very ken on diversifying its energy supply to wheen itself off russian oil.

And has been exempt from the 10 fallow land policy, as are other new EU countries.

Anonymous said...


1.) What kind of land does rapeseed have to be grown upon? Can it be grown on relatively crappy land or does it require choice soil?

2.) Why is rapeseed more popular than sunflower seed? Aside from everything else, it seems sunflowers grow spectacularly well in Poland. And they sure do look purty. Fields of 'em.

3.) Where/how can(ola) I buy Polish rapeseed stock?

beatroot said...

Geez, why do you want to buy rapeseed stock? I think rapeseed should be banned.

a) because it look disgusting, all this yellow crap being grown everywhere,,,and

b) what kind of name is 'rapeseed' anyway? Sounds like forced fertilizzation...

Anonymous said...

I guess I've become a profiteering capitalist in my middle ages.

And I just have a vision of some guy in a suit aside an outdoor pool telling Dustin Hoffman, "One word m'boy: Rapeseed."

Why isn't it just called canola seed?

Anonymous said...

You mean only folks who never listened to the G. Dead, who never used (what kind of?) drugs, but who are celibate and say they don't support gay lifestyles and are against abortion on demand can win in K-kow?

I repeat: gay rights, abortion, etc. are not an issue at the local level. They are not even come up during the campaign, because they are mostly out of the competence of the local authorities. Local authorities are expected to focus on roads and bridges. So if you ask me what were the candidates opinions on gay rights -- I honestly don't know.

(Regarding the equality parade in Kraków -- our major allowed both gays and LPR to march, with police separating them.)

Warsaw is different, but this is because in Warsaw the local elections are needlessly politicized.

How close was the mayoral election? And how many folks registered didn't vote?

59,57% to 40,43%. Turnout 38,84%.

And what percent of eligible voters didn't register?

In Poland you have to register your address with the government, you get automatically put on the voters list in place where you live.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the follow-up.

So as long as the candidate in K-kow looks like he or she can manage city affairs, he or she can get elected if he or she is or was a deadhead and supports legalized abortion on demand and gay rights, no matter what party. And that makes Krakow a conservative city?

beatroot said...

It's to do with history, Geez, innit? Krakow was in Austria, and you can see similarities to the ladies who sit in cafes around the square, pretending to talk about 'culture' but basically gossiping, to the Vienna set who do exactly the same. But they have always thought of themselves as the 'Culture' of Poland whilse Warsaw is this vile, now comercial city with a bunch of peasants running the place.

The Warsaw - Krakow antagonism is, for an outside like me self, quite amusing, but the participants are deadly serious.

I'll stick to liking Gdansk as a cop out...(She Who Must Be Obeyed is nationalistic Warsaw).

YouNotSneaky! said...

Of course Wroclaw is the scientific and intellectual capital of the nation.

Anonymous said...

It's a good thing there are no cities or towns East of the Vistula. Can you imagine the animity if there were?

Anonymous said...

Wroclaw is better than both Warsaw and Krakow.