Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Election debates and other spectator sports

With 12 days to go it is looking increasingly likely that the ruling Law and Justice will win the general election in Poland (see here, here, here). But can the opposition put the skids under PM Jaroslaw Kaczynski in the televised debates remaining? (the photo above is actually Lech Kaczynski and not Jarosalw, but what the hell...same difference...)

Eight million people watched the first TV debate last Monday – which in these days of multi channel TV and internet, is a televisual blockbuster.

Kaczynski will now likely debate leader of the Civic Platform on Friday evening and there will probably be a three way debate on Monday between Kaczynski, Tusk and the ‘face’ of the Left and Democrats campaign, former president Aleksander Kwasniewski.

That the Left and Democrats have to put Kwasniewski into the ring for them – someone who is not even standing for parliament – is a rather pathetic sign of what a race of pygmies they have become.

Fact is, he is still their biggest personality, and TV debates are all about personalities.

In Britain, where I am from, prime ministers don’t do debates – why run the risk of making yourself look an idiot? (Risk is not on the menu for UK politicians – look at the mess Gordon Iron Jaw Brown has got himself into: people are shocked by his lack of guts, ignoring the fact that Brown has a long history of bottling it.).

Usually, prime ministers can only lose debates, opposition politicians might just win one. In last Monday’s debate both candidates managed not to lose any support. The more Kwasniewski taunted Kaczynski that he was making his country a laughing stock abroad (and there is no doubt he has) the more Kaczynski’s supporters cheered him on – they want his confrontational stance in the European Union and elsewhere.

On Friday it is Kaczynski versus Tusk. Tusk, being from Civic Platform, will do what the Democrats do in the US – they will try and appeal to reason and give lots of little policy initiatives that they think their supporters want.

Kaczynski will continue to act like a US Republican: give them one big message – ‘Poland is ruled by corrupt liberals and ex-communists’.

Kaczynski seems to understand campaigning much better than Tusk, who is getting the reputation as being a bit of a wuss - a wish-washy dullard, who lacks the balls for a fight (a Polish version of the UK’s hapless leader, perhaps).

The coming TV debates are likely to emphasize these differences. Kaczynski is giving his supporters - those in rural areas, the old, the poor, the ones who lost out in the transition to capitalism - what they want. Tusk is frustrating his. We have had two years of the weirdest government I have ever seen. If Tusk and Kwasniewski haven’t been able to nail Law and Justice by now then they will not be able to do it - no matter how many TV debates they have - in the remaining couple of weeks.

Get ready for a Kaczynski win. The only thing really in doubt now is whether he will get a big enough majority to rule alone.


Damien Moran said...

Get ready for a Kaczynski win. The only thing really in doubt now is whether he will get a big enough majority to rule alone.

Absolutely agree with that. Good article.

The polls certainly vary widely though in predicting PiS's potential result - will it be 32,37,41%?

Maybe the next 2 Sunday church sermons will play a pivotal role in mobilising a sufficient amount of lazy voters to get on their horse and cart and vote for PiS to grant them a majority.

I doubt any PiS supporter will be swayed one way or the other by a TV debate. I think Tusk, on the other hand, has everything to lose - his potential support base will have far higher expectations for him to come across as a political Golota (that is as regards the Polish boxer's recent performance aainst Kevin MacBride).
Will Tusk manage a knock-out blow in the 7th round?
This is how he could do it.

He should try pull a George Bush Senior stunt and vomit on Kaczynski.

No joking, I think it would work a treat.

Explanatory note:
Bush senior had some bad sushi 15 years ago (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/3200032.stm) whilst on a State visit and puked on the Japanese Prime Minister.

If Tusk can manage to eat some dodgy steak prior to the debate and surprise Jaroslaw with a little projectile and fluid, then I predict he might just be the next prime minister of Poland. If that doesn't solidify his fanbase, at least it'll give us a good topic to blog about.

Donald, I beseech you, please watch this video in preparation for the most important debate of your life.

Damien Moran said...

Sorry for the double comment BR. Please delete one.

beatroot said...

The ting about the opinion polls is that PiS consistently get two or three percentage points lower than they do in actual elections. So add three percent onto every poll you see and they are sometimes close to overall majority.

varus said...

I agree that it looks like PiS will win again and that this is mainly due to a lack of gutso from PO. Hwoever, this links back to a discussion on one of your blogs (Can't remember if it was BR's or Damiens)about stability of the political process and a need to get rid of all the little parties. What Poland needs is: Firstly a government that actually stays the course, secondly the weakening of coalition juniour opartners with strange ideas (preferably total irradication) and thirdly politicians who have a life long commitment to one party and don't keep jumping ship (e.g. Ex PM). If Poland had these things then the electroate might actually have some confidence in the political process.

P.S. The recent stories of the CBA investigating PO in the TRi-City have surley shown that they are just the enforcers of PiS and not an independent and reliable government agency.

michael farris said...

Does anyone else find the election scenario as funny as I do?

PiS is accusing PO of planning a coalition with LiD and acting as if this would be illegal or immoral. Meanwhile, PiS has an open de-facto coalition with LiD in order to try to sabotage pre-election front runners PO. What's even better, they're working together better than PiS ever has with any formal coalition partner.

Politics do make strange bedfellows.

Anonymous said...

BR wrote: "Tusk, being from Civic Platform, will do what the Democrats do in the US – they will try and appeal to reason and give lots of little policy initiatives that they think their supporters want."

Seems PiS is more like the Dems in the US in terms of "little policy initiatives." Civic Platform seems more like the Republican Party in terms of economic policies. No?

Appeals to reason? Seems more like both US parties fashion their appeal to raise campaign $$$.

Anonymous said...

Beatroot said: “Kaczynski seems to understand campaigning much better than Tusk, who is getting the reputation as being a bit of a wuss - a wish-washy dullard, who lacks the balls for a fight (a Polish version of the UK’s hapless leader, perhaps).”

This is exactly the problem with Tusk, if given the ammunition he was presented with by PiS and he failed to make political capital with it, how can you not question his competence in the political arena. And if elected how can you expect him to have the strength and toughness to sustain himself in Poland’s rough and tumble political environment.

The polls should not be taken too seriously as Poles are notorious in not being forthright with pollsters or actually showing up to vote. If results nearly the same as last time look for major crisis trying to form a coalition.

John Page said...

Do you think the likely new Polish government will sign the EU constitutional treaty?

michael farris said...

My own opinion is that the government wants two things simultaneously:

1. Be seen as standing up to decadent western European moral lapses and threats to Polish sovereignty (this plays well with the elderly and not especially highly educated in Poland).

2. Get as much financial benefit out of the EU as possible (this plays well with ... well everyone in Poland).

My prediction: they'll talk a tough game when the money flow is not endangered and quietly fold when the purse starts to close.

beatroot said...

Mike has it totally � the Polish government needs the structural funds, but likes to play the nationalists game. Bite the hand that feeds it. That is the post-communist EU member dilemma.


The Polish government will push for a �blocking vote��.not a veto, and that will be the compromise�.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to hold my nose and vote for the kashubian for the main reason unlike kwasniewski and kaczynski he has no relationship with George(the worst president of all time)Bush.

Brad Zimmerman said...

Others have said it before me ...but yeah, PO and Tusk seem really ...well, lacking in balls. They've done nothing to really fire people up, whereas PiS saying stuff like "commies Commies COMMIES!#!#*&()!*)(!! Aieeeee!@#!@#" is guaranteed to get stupid people (not just old people) to vote with them. Sure PO's ideas are smart and generally solid, at least compared to what else is being offered, but since when are the voters sensible?

PO might as well just promise everyone a 100.000 PLN tax rebate (Walesa!). They could claim they'll take it back from all the commies or something.

Appeal to the idiots, get elected and do what you want. It worked for PiS.

michael farris said...

Appeal to the idiots, get elected and do what you want. It worked for PiS.

Anecdotal evidence, in Poland the elderly vote at _much_ higher rates than the young, who mostly would rather be waterboarded than admit any interest in the outcome of an election. This is pretty typical.

What I think may be unique in Poland is that the less educated seem to vote in much bigger numbers than the educated, who like to complain loudly about the results of elections but often don't bother to get their own carcasses into a voting booth.

beatroot said...

I don;t think we should be so quick to label people 'idiots' who vote for PiS and the oh so intelligent ones vote for...well, beats me.

This is the line the Democrats have in the US - Republican voters must be fools - ignoreing that the Democrats find it hard to win elections because the Democrats are ...crap. It's not the voters who are the idiots.

But it is about inspiring people with a 'vision'. OK, PiS have one weird vision, but at least they have one. Whereas all Platform can come up with is: "Poland is ashamed...' blahhhhhh

Fact is, not all of Poland is ashamed - some of them like the rich, commie, liberal, salon bashing. And I think the cause of that is economic and they have not had the benifits of the change to capitalism as many have.

So, idiots do not vote for PiS - the disgruntled do. And that is the fault of the system and previous governments, not theirs.

And when the political class become so discredited then that opens the way for populists. It opens the way for PiS et al...

michael farris said...

I was sloppy in forgetting to put quotation marks on the sentence I borrowed from mr zimmerman, but ...

I certainly did not (and would not) label PiS supporters as idiots. I would claim that polling data indicate that among those with less formal education (not to be confused with less intelligent) PiS does better than PO. Disgruntled? Again, those with more formal education are more gruntled than those without.
For the record I think the educated folks who stay away from voting are far more stupid than those who vote (levels of school learning aside).

Metka by Traczka said...

PiS winner? But why? Why? Why?
Why all Poles now, instead of drinking healthy vodka and having fun, they drink vodka and talk about politics??? Why? Why? Why?

beatroot said...

Mike - sorry, it is just me reading too quikc.

michael farris said...

Until you update things.

I was extremely pleasantly surprised by Friday's debate.

Tusk had his problems (as always) but more often than not he reduced Kaczynski to defensive posturing, distraction tactics (interrupting Tusks's time to run out the clock before Tusk could tear Kaczynski's weak answer to shreads) and nasty below-the-belt attacks (yes, Tusk slipped there too with the gun story).

In other words, Tusk just had (I daresay) the political triumph of his life tonight and breathed new life into the campaign.

Look for the _real_ mudslinging from PiS to start very quickly. Jacek Kurski, your closeup is coming in 5,4,3....

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