Poland 2015 Part II

At home, the incumbent power elite was challenged by a wiretapping scandal that seemed to undermine the already dilapidated trust in Polish government politicians. Their private and revealing conversations were intercepted by a “waiter gang” who worked on behalf of a suspicious business leader. They were then published by the country’s independent media, which sought attention and financial gain. The publication of these talks (including very crude and derogatory language) played an important role in the political power struggle between the incumbent governing coalition and the opposition led by PiS.

Namely, it was almost exclusively central politicians from the governing party PO who were intercepted and presented in a very unfavorable way. This negative effect became apparent already during the regional elections in November 2014, elections which in addition resulted in accusations of electoral fraud. The sitting coalition did win the election, but a negative trend had been triggered and PiS got wind in its sails.

In the late autumn of 2014, the Polish Prime Minister and the prodigy of Polish politics, Donald Tusk , also chose to leave the Polish political arena after becoming President of the European Council . According to ENINGBO, many still believed that the incumbent coalition would ride out this crisis thanks to positive economic developments and the support of incumbent President Komorowski. According to all opinion polls, he enjoyed the greatest confidence in the population.

It could seem that an election strategy based on nurturing the fears of PiS and leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski (with prime ministerial candidate Beata Szydlo ) could again result in an election victory for the coalition parties . This strategy had yielded positive results for them in the past. Many Polish voters seemed to fear the more radical policies of Jaroslaw Kaczynski and the PiS party, who wanted a moral and political revolution in the country. The PO and the supporters had hoped to win the election not because they had a positive program, but because the program of the competitors was simply considered inedible for most of the voters. Here, PO was thoroughly mistaken.

Despite the fact that President Komorowski as recently as January 2015 was considered the most credible of all Polish politicians, he lost in the presidential election (May 2015) for the younger challenger from PiS Andrzej Duda .

Komorowski’s defeat did not bode well for his former party PO and coalition partner PSL. And things did not go so well with them at the next political crossroads in Poland either: the election to the parliament’s two chambers (the Sejm and the Senate) was held on 25 October 2015 and was won by PiS (37.58 per cent). This gave PiS a clear majority in the Sejm, the lower chamber of the Polish parliament. But the party lacked several seats to be able to change the country’s constitution alone; for that they needed a qualified majority of 2/3.

The incumbent coalition lost heavily and the entire political landscape in Poland was turned upside down. Two newly established parties (Kukiz 15 and the Modern Party) entered the Sejm, while the left-wing party that went to the polls as a coalition (barring 8 percent) did not get any representatives. This has never happened in Polish politics since the great upheaval of 1989.

4: How to explain the election result?

How did the relatively unknown Andrzej Duda , who came late on the field, manage to win the match against Komorowski? How did a party, where the leader is one of the politicians with the lowest trust among the electorate, not only manage to return to power, but also win so clearly that it could form a majority government alone?

ELECTION OF PRESIDENT: In order to answer these two questions, it is important to look at what the power struggle looked like for the voters. On the one hand, they could choose between a sitting president who seemed very confident and was “associated” with a party many perceived as arrogant. On the other hand, it was a younger and unknown, but perhaps more promising candidate.

PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS: On the one hand, they saw a coalition that had been in power for eight years, had accomplished a lot, but which apparently lacked a larger vision and was also associated with many scandals. On the other hand, voters faced a party that came forward with promises of a fairer distribution of burdens and benefits.

Komorowski and the PO invested heavily in continuing the previous political line with only a few small adjustments that would help increase prosperity somewhat. They warned against the Law and Justice policy . In PO’s view, it could be detrimental to the country’s economy and international position.

PiS, on the other hand, focused on a vision of a fairer distribution of benefits, lowering the retirement age, which the current coalition had recently increased to 67 years for both women and men and extensive support for families with children and other vulnerable groups in Polish society. Both Duda and, to an even greater extent, PiS also stood for a very critical approach to EU policy in several fields, first and foremost to the EU’s, and in particular Germany’s, handling of the ongoing migration crisis .

Duda, Komorowski, Szydlo and Tusk

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