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.


jannowak57 said...

This divide has existed in Poland for many decades, it was even discussed during the 1930’s, and educated urban Poland was culturally different then rural and poorly educated Poland. What makes things different today is that urbanization has transferred power away from rural Poland.

Komorowski and Tusk have been handed a double edged sword by the voters, on one hand the freedom to move the governments agenda forward but at the same time in a difficult economic period were down sizing budgets and government are going to be an imperative. The latter will not endear them to those already in marginal circumstances, hence as you suggest Kaczynski may get an opening.

Tusk needed someone in the presidency that could bridge the divide, and here I think he chose poorly and as time goes on it will prove to be a costly error, unless Komorowski can morph into something more useful and that’s filed under the faint hope clause.

jannowak57 said...

As Poland’s democracy slowly matures, I don’t think the media in Poland is fulfilling it’s role, not at least in the terms that would be expected in an advance democracy. Its true that all media have some bias or favouritism towards a candidate, but the over the top partisanism of the Polish media seems unique. This unfortunately serves as a disservice to voters.

ge'ez said...

What kind of specific austerity measures can be expected from the Civic Platform ruling majority?

Downsizing what budgets? Downsizing government in what respects, specifically?

And how is economic development (and what kind) to be stimulated or advanced in whichever way?

jannowak57 said...

Reducing the deficit by cutting the size of government ie the civil service and the budgets of the various ministries. But where the pain is going to be felt most will likely be based on political considerations. Not much is going to happen until after the parliamentary elections have concluded.

Poland has a large and very inefficient bureaucracy known for being both wasteful and an obstacle to economic growth, this needs to be addressed on two fronts, one being reform of the civil service and reducing unnecessary regulations. The other major problem is entitlements pensions and other benefits do not reflect the countries financial position. As an example nobody knows what Poland’s actual unemployment rate is because some components represent people choosing not to work and people scamming the system by working off the books.

I think that Poland stands somewhere in 72nd place as a business friendly country, this speaks volumes about the obstacles businesses faces in a bureaucratic and over regulated society.

The policy thus far has been not to rely on stimulus spending because you dig a deeper hole for yourself in return for little long-term gain.

The future economic growth of the country is at stake, failure to act now will cause in the worst case both a debt crisis and prolonged slow economic growth.

jannowak57 said...

Just to give you an idea of how fucked up Poland is, lets say you’re a business man who wants to build a simple warehouse, so lets say it’s a million dollar project.

In a normal western country, I will use Canada and Germany for example you will need to go through 12 to 14 regulatory procedures and expect 75 to 100 days to get through it.


This is just one example of the obstacles business faces in Poland and reflects in the countries overall economic performance. Fixing simple stupidity does actually cost that much money however it requires able people in government not the steady collections of buffoons the Polish electorate feel comfortable with.

ge'ez said...

Catch 22.

If you cut down the number of clerks and other low level bureaucrats who monitor the 30 procedures over the 308 days,the process will take many more days, maybe even taking two years. Or those remaining will do shit jobs, ensuring that public safety is compromised.

So it would seem that the trick is to ensure that the upper level bureaucrats actually do their jobs to streamline the number of proceedures. The chances of a bunch of incompetent bureaucrats doing that aren't that great. And the chances of getting rid of such do-nothings aren't any better given that they have all kinds of political connections who will protect them.

beatroot said...

I think the key, apart from dealing with the past, is economic growth for the eastern and rural bits of Poland. They need massive infrastructure projects and they need insentives to get involved in the 21st century.
so any austerity measures in Poland better not affect these people too badly.

And I dispute the need for cuts apart from rationalising the state secotr some. The key is not cutting jobs - it's providing real growth in the economy so you can keep up payments on government borrowing. If you do that then you can run a deficit pretty much for ever.

ge'ez said...

What kind of government-subsidized infrastructure projects will stimulate economic growth in what sectors of the economy in eastern Poland and other rural areas?

All too often in the US, politicians and their representatives on various economic development agencies decide on where subsidies for such projects go on the basis of contributions to political campaigns. It's a racket where the foremost consideration is the mutual short term financial benefit of a small group of players. The failure rate for businesses given money to start up, expand, or just to continue production and avoid layoffs is all too high.

Do you think Poland can avoid all this crap?

And again, what kind of infrastructure projects?

Again, in the US, these have too often been done in a manner which has screwed up urban development in certain respects: highways through neighborhoods, polluting businesses. etc. -- all of which drive out homeowners, etc.

jannowak57 said...

The long and short of it is that a bloated civil service is carrying out unnecessary levels of regulation. There is just no excuse for 30 regulatory procedures. The upper level bureaucrats are irrelevant because it is an absence of political will that is the issue.
The eastern and rural bits of Poland are in trouble because the government gives these people a life support system through various entitlements and they continue with their irrelevant economic activities. There is no economic basis for their existence. Just examine what the farm sector gets, if you are a successful farmer and making a go of it you likely have at least 30 hectares. Government policy should be to deny any support or entitlement payments to farmers with 10 or less hectares.
Governments do not do wealth creation; they function as the instrument of wealth redistribution. Only private enterprise actually produces a nations wealth and meaningful employment.
Just another quick note on fucked up Poland, a commercial dispute over an unpaid invoice takes as much as three years to resolve in the court system.
The only obstacle in Poland to creating a modern economy and the vastly improved material condition for the people is a backward system and culture. To put it less sympathetically all your problems are made in Poland.

ge'ez said...

If you are saying that there is no political will to make the upper level bureaucrats do their jobs, I'll agree with you. But don't forget who feeds that political will.

Governments do not do wealth creation? I disagree. And where do you find "private enterprise" nowadays? You have no problem with subsidization of large farmers or industries, too, I assume.

Maybe you would support collectivizaton of all those 10 hectare farms???

beatroot said...

Of course governments can do wealth creation. If the state wasn't economically as active as it is - even in the US - then the economy would collapse. That's modern capitalism.

In Poland infrastructure projects proceed, if at all, sloooowwwwwly. It's like Jan says - red tape wraps up some more red tape. Road building is one of these issues. There is enormous work planned, but planned is the only operative word for it. Euro 2012 is meant to being huge infrastructure improvements in highways, rail travel, tourist infrastrcture etc. But not that much is going east apart from some EU money. But that's because, like jan says, the people there just want to stay in the 17th century and if things did modernise then PiS would have few supporters left. So the political will is not there either.

beatroot said...

Jan - "the top partisanism of the Polish media seems unique".

Well, in my experience, I agree. There is something very odd going on here.

The public media - well, it's obvious how parties scramble to get hold of these whenever they can. And then complain when they don't have control of TV or radio that the public TV and radio is "bias"!

Watch now how Tusk et al will carve up first the TV and radio council, then the supoervisory boards and then the bourds of directors, handing out jobs as they go to their lackies and cronies.

And then we have private broadcasters - equally as bias. Look at the puke-making TVN (especially TVN 24) over the election period. Baff.

Why not just call it Tusk TV?

Many Poles I talk to, sadly, think all this is normal. It ain't. Time for radical change.

ge'ez said...

Seems normal to me in terms of every political spoils system I've ever come across. It sucks but it is the nature of the beast. What kind of radical change do you propose to institute? And how do you do that if those in power are happy with the ways things are (as long as they are in power)? And given your own experience in public media, how radical can you get aside from wry subversive guerilla witicism?

sonia said...

This map is really weird.

At a first glance, it seems to have a simple historical explanation. Parts of Poland that belonged to Germany before 1918 voted for PO. And Parts of Poland that belonged to Austria and Russia before 1918 voted for PiS.

But the big cities like Warsaw, Krakow and Lodz don't follow that trend. And most people living in western Poland came from "Austrian" Lwow and "Russian" Wilno.

So the real divide seems to be "with roots" vs "without roots": regions of Poland where people have been living in the same place for many generations vote for PiS, regions where people came from somewhere else vote for PO.

The only exception are "zubry". Polish bisons have been living in the Bialowieza Forest for many generations, and yet they seem to be voting for PO...

Anonymous said...

Sonia, you might be into something. Or maybe not, or maybe partially. The colors do not indicate that all folks voted one way or another, but rather which side did prevail and to what extent. Blue colors are aligned not as much with the Russian partition, but rather with times before partition. What I thought of when I looked at this map was the term used before WWII, which was Poland A, B and C. Look at the map of US, where you see red and blue states and that division is driven highly by the local outlook and past history. One might say (jokingly) that Poland is actually divided into left and right, though one might argue that maybe Poland is divided into inverted left and right, when you look at the layout of the map.

Reagarding what shape Poland is today, as per other participants of this discussion, in my view Poland is in a much better shape than it was thirty years ago. Had a chance to compare recently, though I must say that old habits do not die easily and a generation must go away before more significant cultural changes will take place. So those impatient for a more significant change just have to wait before our generation slowly dies off. Having said that, for all its lacking, Poland and Polish folks living there did not have such good times as they enjoy today for the couple of past centuries. Congratulations, great job you didi. Still a way to go to catch up with others in Europe and elsewhere, but the progress has been tremendous since the fall of you know what, so do not stress too much. By the way, I am not so impressed by the new president, though this is not my business to tell folks in Poland who should they have as their president. Let them choose, since they have a democracy. All the best to you all.

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