The state of votes
The well-known scenario
Toward the stabilization of Poland's political arena
Maria Dziumak | 2012. January 20. 13:39
In October 2011, the two main right-wing parties were competing for the votes. Polish electors have chosen the same political group as four years ago. A sign of an approval of its political programme? For a more accurate picture of their political victory the actions of the previous government and the specificities of the Polish political scene have to be analysed.
The parliamentary elections took place on 9th of October 2011 in Poland and resulted with the re-election of the leading political party, the Civic Platform (PO), which received 39% of votes. Thus, Civic Platform had defeated their main political rival, the Law and Justice (PiS), which obtained 29% of citizen’s vote. The interesting phenomenon on the Polish political scene was that the two main parties and the two biggest rivals are both on the right-wing. This provoked the unusual polarization of the Polish political scene which is nowadays divided between a liberal right party (PO) and more a conservative one (PiS).
Regarding that the leading party did not obtain the majority of votes, it is once again forced to create a coalition with Polish Popular Movement (PSL), a centrist agrarian party which was supported by 8 % of voters during the parliamentary elections. As it is the second term of this coalition, it seems legitimate to make some evaluations and remarks on actions taken by the government during its previous four year term and to draw some conclusions.
The first point of evaluation can be the retirement reform which the Civic Platform elaborated during the 2007 election campaign, namely the increase of pension for the retired. The reform introduced in 1999 by the previous parliament turned out to be too weak to withstand the wave of economic crisis in 2008, thus the former coalition faced serious difficulties not only in order to fulfil its electoral promises, but also to prevent the collapse of the pension system as a whole. Harsh measures like later retirement age and its adjustment of both men and women that was certainly not what citizens voted for.
Another self-declared success of the ruling coalition PO-PSL also deserves to be looked upon critically. The state commission “Friendly State” (Przyjazne Panstwo) was aimed to simplify the country’s administration. As a result bureaucracy became even more incomprehensible for citizens and was occupied with issues that turned out not to be crucial regarding the economic needs of the society. As an example, the reform of GDP taxation can be cited: at first it was aimed it aimed at the reduction of 21% tax, finally ended up with its increase to 23%.
Finally, a positive result of the Polish economy during the economic crisis in Europe is considered to be the main success of the previous government by the public opinion and citizens. Nevertheless, economists strongly support the idea that this aspect cannot be seen as government’s virtue, since the large field of economy is independent of governmental actions. Thus, the most common argument that proves an effectiveness of Polish leading party seems to be irrelevant.
As far as Polish citizens and their attitudes are concerned, their disinterest is apparent. Many electors are not willing to take any decision at all (which consists of the 51% of polish voters this year). It seems that a small group of Polish voters takes into consideration the political programmes of each party and does evaluate critically the political actions led by each of them during their cadencies. However, the image of the leader tends to overshadow the score of the party. Therefore, the elections become more and more a contest of personalities than a choice of the nation’s representatives.
The failures of the previous government as well as the lack of the self-conscious support of the leading party by the Polish citizens can legitimate the doubts expressed by many political scientists in Poland regarding the future four years of the State’s development. The conflicts between many political parties, similar in their objectives and ideologies, reveal the main weakness of Polish political scene: the lack of the clear position of representatives to choose and to follow. Nevertheless, the existing situation does not seem to provide conditions in which Poland could use its potential to the fullest, especially in the hour of its accelerated development.
Zuzanna Jablonska | 2012. January 20. 13:39
Parliamentary elections were held in Poland on the 9th of October 2011. The victory of Tusk, the first Prime Minister of Poland to be re-elected since the fall of communism in 1989, clearly marks the stabilization of Polish political scene. Even more, this is a good sign for the European Union.
Parliamentary elections to the Sejm (lower house) and the Senate were held in Poland on the 9th of October 2011. It was the first time Poles living and working abroad could vote by mail, which is quite important since more than 2 million Polish citizens chose to leave their homeland.
The results were quite predictable concerning the "leading couple", that is the centre-right Civic Platform (PO) and the nationalist-conservative Law and Justice (PiS). Donald Tusk's Civic Platform party took 39,2 % of the vote, while Jaroslaw Kaczynski's Law and Justice party took 29,9 % of the vote.
However, the great support (10 %) for the new left wing and anti-clerical Palikot's Movement was unexpected. Mr Palikot's party came third, before last coalition ally Polish People's Party (8,4 %) and Democratic Left Alliance (8,2 %).
Voter turnout reached 49 % which is a relatively good score for Poland's parliamentary elections.
No one expected such success from the brand new Palikot's Movement - a breakaway faction of Civic Platform that followed Member of Parliament Janusz Palikot. Such satisfactory results of the Palikot's organization prooves the need for fresh players on the Polish political market.
Mr Palikot's party is the first to strongly highlight its anti-clerical programme. Indeed, Polish political parties have always tried to win the Roman Catholic Church's support, or at least tried not to make direct anti-Church statements. Palikot's Movement seems to change this paradigm. The party wants to legalise abortion on demand, same-sex civil unions as well as marijuana.
Donald Tusk is the second Polish Prime Minister of the Third Republic to govern for a full four-year term of parliament (after Jerzy Buzek, the current President of the European Parliament).
What is more, Tusk has become the first Prime Minister of Poland to be re-elected since the fall of communism in 1989. It clearly marks the stabilization of Polish political scene.
In fact, the second successive triumph of Tusk's pro-business party should allow PM Tusk to accomplish unfinished or long-term reforms.
The Civic Platform's victory has been welcomed by financial markets. Poland is actually the largest Eastern European market. In the middle of the serious debt crisis in the euro zone, Donald Tusk's re-election and, what it entails, four more years of the economic and political stability reassure investors.
In addition, Tusk has developed good relations both with Germany and Russia. He has continued the Polish-Russian rapprochement despite tensions due to a Polish presidential plane crash in Russia in April 2010.
Re-electing a governing party for the very first time in Poland's post-communist history shows that the Polish citizens wish for a secure, predictable government.
The re-election of pro-European Tusk is also a good sign for the European Union. Without a doubt, Donald Tusk is a reliable partner and politician with consistent political agenda who encourages closer European integration.
Euro-sceptical Jaroslaw Kaczynski's government would have been a difficult partner, likely to block the EU proposals, as did his twin brother, then-President Lech Kaczynski between 2005-2010.
Tusk's reelection predicts a relative stabilization in Polish politics at least for the next four years both for Polish citizens and the European Union.
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