Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Zbigniew Ziobro is no messiah – he's just a very naughty boy

What does a political party do when it loses successive elections? It starts to eat itself – just like a fox eats its paws, eventually, after it has spent a while caught in a trap.

Mariusz Błaszczak was reselected today to lead the opposition Law and Justice (PiS) in parliament, amid a row which could see the expulsion of a former rising star from the party – Zbigniew Ziobro: a populist politician when he was in cabinet, but who is now seen by leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski to be a threat to his authority and the unity of the conservative Law and Justice itself.

Blaszczak, Jaroslaw Kaczynski's man, got the vote today of 141 Law and Justice MPs and senators, with just 22 voting against. But paranoia was in the air, with Jaroslaw Kaczynski supervising the count personally. There is an air of conspiracy and power-play in Law and Justice, as it faces another four years in opposition.

The defeat in the 9 October parliamentary elections – which followed successive elections where party candidates have done badly – has forced Ziobro to make his move. And he's going to get kicked out of the party for doing so.

Ziobro is currently serving time as a member of the European Parliament, where he has been trying to fashion a statesman-like image (and failing miserably to make much impact at all among the eurocrats). He has been an almost Shakespearian figure (I said 'almost') waiting in the wings for his moment of greatness to come upon him.

He was once Mr Justice in the Law and Justice party when he was justice minister, in the mould of Lech Kaczynski, when he was in the same office. He was the heir-apparent to the populist-mantle worn by the Kaczynski brothers.

And then Civic Platform toppled them from power. Ziobro, meanwhile, went to Brussels.

But now he's back, showing his hand.

After Law and Justice got trounced, again, in the elections on 9 October, Ziobro called for “more democratic” decision-making within the party, a dig at party chairman Jaroslaw Kaczynski's autocratic style of leadership.

Ziobro, who was careful to distance himself from the party leadership during the recent doomed election campaign, muted the idea this week that if Law and Justice can't get elected as one party then they may as well split into constituent parts – centerist and nationalist – and develop their own electorates.

Expect Ziobro to be expelled within the next few days. Kaczynski told party members at a behind closed doors party meeting today, reports the PAP news agency, that: “The Ziobro issue must be dealt with quickly and decisively”.

In the last 12 months, bits of Law and Justice have been falling off. Moderate bits are with the now parliamentary seat-less Poland Comes First (PJN). Ziobro, with MEP Jacek Kurski and others, will become yet another PiS-splinter group, as the conservative-national party begins to flake like pastry, possibly condemning them to endless opposition.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Beatroot's Back!

From Saturday 22 October I will be reactivating this blog.

Yeah, I know I said that before but I had to get the appetite back.

Well, the appetite's back and I am HUNGRY!

This blog used to be, by far, the most widely read on the politics of Poland as it managed to break out of the English language blogging ghetto in this country. Not many do. I was asked to contribute to the EU's Open Democracy project; The Economist called the beatroot "one of the better English-language bloggers on Poland"...top left wing blogger, Norman Geras, in the UK featured me in his weekly 'profile'; top right wing blogger in the UK, Richard North, asked me to join his merry band of bloggers, was asked to cover the 2007 Polish elections for Pajamas Media...to mention but a few of the names that picked up on the beatroot.

The blog will be covering what looks like a second term for the deathly dull coalition government led by Donald Tusk and chums in the Civic Platform (PO) party and their mates in the Polish Peasant's Party (PSL).

Many Poles would say better a deathly dull Tusk than a slightly demented Jaroslaw Kaczynski at the helm. And they may be right. I don't support any party in Poland so it's not really for me to say. A plague on their houses... etc.

I will not just be covering Polish politics however: the EU and central and eastern Europe in general will be the targets for my ire.

I aim to post three times per week. See you then.

West gets twitchy conscience after Gaddafi death

Calls by the UN and many in the 'international community' for an 'investigation' into the circumstances which led to the grizzly death of Col Gaddafi beggars belief.

“It would have been better if he had been tried in The Hague,” said Poland's Foreign Ministry as the body of Muammar Gaddafi was still warm, Thursday, shortly after his death was announced by the National Transitional Council (NTC).

The Polish government was not being daringly original, or independent, in its demand (whenever has it been?). The UN's commissioner for human rights, as well as Amnesty International - that self-appointed guardian of the international community's conscience – have called for the same.

Confusion surrounds the nut-ball dictator's demise.

The semi-official line taken by the NTC is that he was captured alive in his home town of Sirte, only to take an accidental bullet in the head during a fire-fight between rebels and what was left of Gaddafi's army. But mobile phone footage shows that he was probably executed.

I was going through the European Press Association's (EPA) photostream on Friday to see if there were any of the photographs of Gaddafi laid out in a meat storage facility in Misrata that I could use for another place. The caption below the photographs all warned: ATTENTION EDITORS: THIS PICTURE CONTAINS GRAPHIC CONTENT.

Indeed, the content was so 'graphic' I decided none were publishable. But I am looking at them now and I will describe them for you here.

The body on, what looks like, a mattress, is recognisably Gaddafi's. There is his trademark curly hair and his goatee beard. He has been stripped to the waist and there is, what appears to be, one large bullet hole in the centre of his stomach.

The NTC is saying that he died from a bullet to the head but that bullet to the belly would have killed him by itself. There are at least two other marks which could be bullet holes on his abdomen and blood has been coming from his head, suggesting another bullet went in there. But it could be another kind of wound as his head was bleeding in the mobile phone footage taken when he was being dragged around the streets of Sirte after capture.

Cuts cover his face and blood marks are all over his body. It is a gruesome sight.

The NTC is currently (Saturday afternoon) promising a post-mortem and then he will be buried some place – maybe out to sea, as was Osama bin Laden, so his grave cannot be turned into a shrine in memory to mad despots everywhere.

Libyans are not too concerned how Gaddafi ended up in cold-storage, they are just glad he's gone. His madcap, often brutal 42-year dictatorship is over. Finished.

But the West – the international community' – has got a little squeamish about it all. This summary execution – if that is what it was – was not in the script, which went something like this.

When the insurgency broke out in February in Libya, and Gaddafi refused to make a graceful exit and fought '”the rats” of the uprising, France, UK, US jumped at a chance to regain some international respect and authority after the débâcle of Iraq, Afghanistan. Here was a dictator with few buddies internationally – that someone like Hugo Chavez was one of the few to give him his support all the better.

So France and UK took the lead in the air support, to “protect civilians” from Gaddafi's demented anger. The US could stay behind the scenes, in case the Arab world saw another example of American militarism trying to get its way in the Middle East.

It was all going swimmingly until Gaddafi was taken out of a drain pipe, beaten and killed.

To maintain the western moral high ground, in jump human rights NGOs and the UN. “He should have stood trial in The Hague” they said, the place where the West usually lines up despots from Africa or the Balkans on charges of 'war crimes'.

No mention, of course, that the bombing of Gaddafi's forces in Sirte and elsewhere were on the border of 'legal': how was this “protecting civilians”?

Nasty things happen in wars and nasty things always happen in civil wars ... they don't play to the nice set of rules drawn up by the Geneva Convention.

If I was the NTC I would tell the 'international community' to kindly get stuffed. If someone has to hear charges for the execution of Gaddafi then it should be in a court in Tripoli, not The Hague.

The West encouraged the rebels to tear down his regime and now Libyans, and the international community, are going to have to live with the consequences.

Sunday update - doctor confirms bullets to head and stomach killed Gaddafi.