Tuesday, October 23, 2007

How Kaczynski blew it

Two weeks before polling day Jaroslaw Kaczynski was ahead in most opinion polls and looked like pulling off a miracle victory. And then it all went horribly wrong. What’s worse, it’s all his own fault.

I bet when Jaroslaw went home election night he gave the cat a good kicking. Not that the cat had anything to do with the conservative’s thumping by Polish voters. Kaczynski has nobody to blame but himself.

The crucial moment of the campaign came in the head-to-head debate with the eventual winner, Donald Tusk. Immediately after the broadcast many on this blog saw it as a significant gaff by the prime minister, and a good performance by his challenger. Mike Farris said it was the ‘political performance of Tusk’s life,’ and the first time he looked like he had the balls for a fight.

Maybe. But though Tusk looked better, he got lucky: throughout the debate Kaczynski looked like he couldn’t care less.

On Polish Radio this morning he admitted that it was a crucial turning point and he maybe he should have avoided the whole thing altogether. British prime ministers would have warned him – debates are there for sitting PMs to lose – challengers usually get the upper hand as they have no record to defend and so cannot look to be on the defensive. Kaczynski spent the whole debate on the back foot.

But it finally gave Tusk some momentum and he took advantage of the gift Kaczynski had given him.

While liberals think that Kaczynski’s arch-conservative politics was the ultimate reason for the government’s downfall, many conservatives are claiming that he failed because he was not conservative enough!

For instance, columnist Paweł Milcarek told Polish Radio:

'The problem was that [Law and Justice] broke a kind of an agreement with conservative opinion. The so-called Fourth Republic was supposed to be built upon the values of ‘Civilization of Life’.

However, it turned out that when it came to the protection of life, pornography laws or coherent pro-family policy, Law and Justice contradicted its pre-election promises.

The second thing was that they tried to replace a real reform of the state with just the appearance of it. Conservative voters just have had enough.'

In other words, Law and Justice lost the election because they were too liberal.

But that argument just doesn’t work. More people voted Law and Justice in this election than in the ballot two years ago, which they subsequently won. So they mobilized more supporters this time around – problem for them was that Civic Platform mobilized even more of theirs.

Kaczynski also said this morning that he blames public television for his defeat. TVP ran a perfectly legitimate campaign to get young people out to the polling stations. In the last election only 40 percent bothered to vote at all, and the under 25 year olds were the most underrepresented back then.

The TVP ads said: ‘Get out to vote – go change Poland.’

Kaczynski said this morning on the radio: “The ‘go out to vote’ part was fine – but the ‘go change Poland’ thing was a clear suggestion that they should vote against the government.’

Try as he might, the blame for his defeat must lay with Jaroslaw himself and the boorish way he has spent two years in office. Blaming public media will not change that.


michael farris said...

Don't forget the gorilla in the corner.

Roman Giertych did more to convince young people that the results of elections matter than a thousand lectures by old farts like us.

He wasn't the only reason or even the most important one. But he was, I'd say, a major contributing factor.

Anonymous said...

I don't see why the "not conservative enough" thesis doesn't dovetail with your own. Clearly the Left managed to get its vote out and the Right failed to do the same to such an extent.

In a democracy there are only two people you can blame for losing an election -- it's either the candidate or it's the electorate. What the Right in Poland (and the rest of the West) has to ask itself is why young people vote so overwhelmingly for leftwing parties. And is there anything that can be done to correct this?

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one reading the title "How Kaczynski blew it" and thinking "Snick snick fnarr!"? Probably.

Oliver: PO can be called many things but leftwing is not one of them.

Everybody else: it's marvellous that PiSs think they lost because they were not rightwing enough. Next time they'll be even more nuts and so attract even fewer voters and make even more people turn out just to vote against them.

beatroot said...

Clearly the Left managed to get its vote out and the Right failed to do the same to such an extent.

But the right did get their vote out. More of their vote went out than two years ago. But the reasonable majority - for two years the silent majority - decided to get off its arse and impose itself.

As for the point about young people and left, this has always been so. The reason for that is that young people see the folly of older peoples' mistakes. They are naturally progressive. The problem today is that the liberal left has turned 'green' which is a very conservative world view.

If the right wing wants to connect with the 'youth' then it has to appear forward looking and future orientated.

beatroot said...

Harry - I totally agree with the 'snick, snick', but I will have to disagree on the 'fnar'....

michael farris said...

Strange ... I thought 'fnarr' was his strongest argument.

Anonymous said...

To call PO a party of the "left" is absurd. On an issues basis, there was what the late George Wallace "not a dime's worth of difference" between PiS and PO.

The PiS ran aground with their blundering appeals to prejudice, their series of empty, trumped-up and false charges of "corruption" against Kaczmarek and Kornatowski, and the correct public perception that the K twins were gunning for the title "Putin Brothers."

Anonymous said...

Ummm... The Left is dead in Poland. Kaput. No more. The younguns have voted right, i.e. PO.

PiS is not a right-wing party; not with respect to economy, anyway. It is a socialist party, but since it is conservative on social issues, so it calls itself conservative. But it has nothing to do with conservatism in the UK.

Anonymous said...

I'd say PiS is more so conservative on *cultural* issues than "social" issues. And to call their platform socialist is as much an exageration as to call the K-twins the Polish Talibans.

And didn't BR earlier refer to PO as a Thatcherite party?

But I also think there is more than a dime's worth of differences betwixt the two parties. Maybe about a quarter's worth. That said, I don't know how I would have voted (or not voted). Certainly, I was turned off by the K-twins appeals to fear and bigotry. But I'd be just as scared off by a lot of the laissez faire economic policies of PO. Then again, I'm still a fucking peasant as far as I can see, so maybe I would have voted for the Peasant Party.

Anonymous said...

"The Left is dead?" Nnno.
Just resting. If PO fails to deliver the miracle they promised (and it will), the Left may do well in the next elections - if they can run united.

beatroot said...

The point about PiS ‘left wing conservatives’ is one I have been making here since the 2005 election. But PiS are not ‘of the left’ in any meaningful sense that term has been understood since the French revolution and the terms left and right started being used. In fact the ‘left’ in that old sense is all but meaningless these days.

PO fit the British meaning of ‘conservative’ much better than PiS – as we will see in the coming months and years.

Anonymous said...

Going by the sense of relief all around that Jaroslaw is no longer dictating to Poland,I get the impression that the vote for Civic Platform was a natural desire for normality. A relief from the PIS destructive tendencies within Poland and in relations with Europe.

Let's hope that Poland can move on and prosper now.

John in Poznan

luridtraversal said...

"Kaczynski said this morning on the radio: “The ‘go out to vote’ part was fine – but the ‘go change Poland’ thing was a clear suggestion that they should vote against the government.’"

This just goes to show that this man will do anything to place the blame on anything and/or anybody else. Anybody with half a brain wouldn't mistake that commercial for what it was: A COMMERCIAL TO GET PEOPLE TO VOTE. Nothing more. He's such a moron.

beatroot said...

I have been thinking about the slogan: "Go and vote - go change Poland'. That could have been the slogan for any of the parties in their election campaign: LPR, PiS PO etc....all have claimed that they want to 'change Poland' in different ways - PiS said Poland needs change regularly - so this is just the usual ducky paranoia.

He should see a doctor (or a vet).

Anonymous said...

Why can't Kaczynski just accept that voters just turned out en masse to vote against anyone who was involved in the government of the IV RP? (cf. the post-electoral fate of LPR and Samoobrona)*.

Instead he resorts to his usual 'homo sovieticus' defence of portraying himself as a victim of unknown political/media forces (forces which incidentally he did the best within the power he has now been stripped of to control - and failed) rather than admitting that a large part of the electorate simply turned out to reject the policies practised by his government over the last two years.

Of course, Kaczynski's performance in the TV debate looked poor face-to-face with Tusk but anyone, including Kaczynski himself, who thinks that the reason for his defeat can be explained away by 'having a bad day' or making the wrong choice to participate in the TV debate must be severely deluding themselves. PiS and the other parties from the outgoing coalition lost this election on the strength (or weakness) of their policies/rhetoric, designed to appeal to a select group of the electorate rather than to include, and to suggest otherwise is to simply underestimate the importance of the fact that many Polish voters have (at last!) turned out to take control of their political destiny.

(OK a higher percentage of voters voted PiS this time round but my feeling is that they pulled voters away from other minority parties (LPR, perhaps less so Samoobrona?, ...) as part of the process of the vote being polarized in the face-off between the two main parties PO and PiS.)

As for the debate itself, well, yes, Tusk did get the upper hand but he did that not only in terms of presentation but again on matters of content, showing up Kaczynski for misrepresenting the facts about his opponents policies and revealing the emptiness of his attempts to drag the debate down into ad hominem attacks on his opponent.

If Kaczynski feels bad about having decided to take part in the debate and can't accept the results of what was after all a free and open discussion in a society where we still (no thanks to PiS) have some freedom of the media, then you simply feel like saying:

"If you don't like the political heat, then stay out of the kitchen"

Oh and keep your mits of those cooker controls!

beatroot said...

They certainly took votes from LPR. They increased their vote by 2 million, so maybe it was those voters. But again, this doesn;t work well for the 'not conservative enough' argument - because why would LPR voters vote for PiS if they were not conservative enough? Don;t make sense.

Anonymous said...

The only distressing thing I see coming from the elections is that the modern-day Feliks Dzerzhinski, Mr. Ziobro himself, was returned to the Sejm. He is a frightening man.

Frank Partisan said...

The rhetoric is identical to the Republican Party. after they lost midterm elections, word for word.

They are not going to say conservatism is bankrupt, and offers no alternatives.

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe - even of Kaczyński - that he has the gall to blame TVPiS for his defeat. Public TV was in his pocket all the way. They showed Kamiński's exciting press conference of Sawicka's fall two or three times and her emotional press conference the nect day not at all. PiS was on the box far more than the opposition parties.

beatroot said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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