Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Uncle Bronek slaughters Kaczynski with…slim majority

What happened there, then? A few weeks ago Bronislaw Komorowski was around 15 percent ahead of Jaroslaw Kaczynski in opinion polls which gave respondents the choice of ten candidates. But on Sunday, Bronek squeaked home in the presidential elections head-to-head by just six percentage points, in a two-Polands-type split.

At one point, Sunday, the momentum seen in the opinion polls leading up to election day seemed to point to the unthinkable.

About 5 pm, election day on Sunday, three hours before polling stations closed, I got gossip, from two independent sources, that opinion pollsters OBOP - who was polling for public broadcaster TVP - was seeing a lead in its exit poll of 53 % Kaczynski, 47% for Komorowski. This rumour was going around all the TV and radio broadcasters.

It appears that this came from someone seeing early returns from pollsters, which had excluded many polls from urban areas. But many journalists got into their heads that Kaczynski was on for a miracle win.

In the end, after a brief lead for Kaczynski in early official vote counts, Komorowski prevailed.

At 53 percent of the vote, however, Bronislaw ‘personality by-pass’ Komorowski doesn’t really have a massive mandate to allow his mates in the government an open door policy for any legislation it wants to shove through parliament. But it must be tempting, right? I know I would!

Was the better than expected performance by Jaroslaw Kaczynski down to the ‘Smolensk balance’ - a sympathy for Jaroslaw after he lost his twin brother on a foggy day in Smolensk?

In the first round of the election 36 percent voted Kaczynski. So the ’bounce’ was more a ‘bobble’ as his total support consisted of just one-in-three Poles. It isn’t that most Poles don’t feel sorry for the poor guy. It’s just that many loath him as a politician.

But in a two way split, Jaroslaw and his type of politics will receive around half of the votes up for grabs, many from the usual reservoir of ‘hold your nose’ voters.

The fact is, the almost fifty-fifty split in votes is just where Poland was back in 1995, when it divided like a pie cut down the middle, between Lech ‘I’m a living legend’ Walesa and his nemesis, former communist party card-holder Aleksander ‘two-wins’ Kwasniewski .

(I could have used other metaphors there: in fact I put “divided like…” into google to see what would happen, being suddenly bereft of metaphors. The best it could come up with was “divided like a butt…”, but I digress).

Political maps of Poland (Komorowski in orange) have looked like the one pictured above for years.

What’s changed is that where once voters would have voted SLD, Kwasniewski’s ex/post communists, now they vote what foreign journalists refer to as ‘pro-business’ Civic Platform - or, in other words, a centre right candidate like Bronislaw Komorowski.

So this is a ’two Polands’ split, almost, on cultural, not political lines. Following the collapse of SLD, Civic Platform have taken up the urban, more secular, aspiring vote. And Kaczynski has got the eastern half of the country: the rural, many of the poor, elderly, church-going, disillusioned with capitalism.

Civic Platform, however, have been handed a metaphor-like poisoned chalice. No more excuses. They can pretty well do what they want. They can pretty much screw it up as they want.

Kaczynski knows this, and, with almost half of Poland to be potentially tapped for support, watch for his return, like (metaphor alert) the prodigal …um…twin, in the parliamentary elections scheduled for next year.

You have been warned.