Polish Government in Crisis

Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his party PiS, Prawo i Sprawiedliwosc (Law and Justice), are in trouble. A scandal has erupted threatening the already unstable government. The situation is extremely unpredictable, and every day brings new revelations and new possible outcomes.

Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his party PiS, Prawo i Sprawiedliwosc (Law and Justice), are in trouble.

In early August, Janusz Kaczmarek, Minister of the Interior and PiS loyalist, became a victim of Kaczynski's methods. He was accused of leaking information vital to an anti-corruption probe against a deputy prime minister with whom Kaczynski was in conflict. While out of the country, Kaczmarek was sacked and threatened with criminal charges. Kaczmarek is now making breathtaking allegations concerning the abuse of the security services by PiS to illegally monitor, intimidate and compromise opposition politicians, journalists, and even government ministers. "We are living in a totalitarian state", he said. This was the last straw for a very unstable government coalition between PiS and two smaller parties, Catholic nationalist LPR, Liga Polskich Rodzin (League of Polish Families), and right-wing populist Samoobrona (Self-defence). In mid-August, LPR and Samoobrona supported Kaczmarek's claims and were thrown out of the government, leaving PiS isolated and elections seemingly unavoidable.

Elections will probably take place on October 21, although this still needs to be agreed by the Sejm (parliament). Before the vote to dissolve the Sejm takes place, the opposition wants to establish a commission to investigate the abuses of power under Kaczynski. The scandal is being called "the Polish Watergate". The government predictably is using bureaucratic tactics to block an investigative commission. On the other hand, the smaller opposition parties want to string out the process of exposing the government before the elections, to improve their own electoral chances. Thus, we now have the bizarre spectacle of the notorious former Education Minister from LPR, Roman Giertych, posturing as a defender of democracy. All this manoeuvring could lead to the date of the elections being put back. The situation is extremely unpredictable, and every day brings new revelations and new possible outcomes.

Latest opinion polls show support for the main opposition party, the openly neo-liberal PO - Platforma Obywatelska (Citizens' Platform), running at 31%, with PiS on 22%. LPR and Samoobrona, who are in an electoral alliance, just reach the 5% minimum required to enter the Sejm.

The centre-left is represented by an electoral alliance with the strange name of Lewica i Demokratow  - LiD (Left and Democrats) which has 12% support. LiD is dominated by the main left party SLD - Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej (Democratic Left Alliance) which was heavily compromised by its disastrous period in office in 2001-2005.  In 2001 it received an unprecedented 41% of the vote, but by 2005 its share of the vote had gone down to 11%.

A significant 20% of voters say that they are undecided, which is an indication of dissatisfaction with the current parties and also shows the potential for significant shifts in support for the parties in the upcoming election campaign.

So it seems that the most likely outcome at the moment is that PO will be the largest party in the next Sejm. The party is committed to an extreme neo-liberal programme, including the flat tax at a rate of 10% for business and 15% for individuals coupled with cuts in social benefits which PO claim will lead to a zero budget deficit. Maybe, but the costs for the working class will be horrendous. Propaganda for the flat tax has already started in the neo-liberal media. The front page of the August 28 edition of Rzeczpospolita (Republic) newspaper praises the flat tax:  "Countries which have introduced a flat rate of income tax are experiencing the highest economic growth... In this part of Europe only Poland, Germany, Hungary and Belarus do not have the flat tax... Economists underline that in this situation the question is not if, but when Poland should introduce the flat tax."

Large sections of the Polish population are afraid of PO's economic policies and this is one of the factors in the continuing relatively high level of support for PiS who pose as the defenders of the ordinary citizen against big business. This, together with the Kaczynski twins' undoubted propaganda skills and the support of the Catholic Church for PiS, means that PiS could still win these elections or at least close the gap significantly with PO despite the scandals in which the government now seems to be drowning. In the event of a very strong showing by PiS, the possibility of a "grand coalition" between PiS and PO cannot be ruled out. At any rate, an outright majority for PO seems unlikely at this stage and therefore they will probably have to seek a coalition partner. Unfortunately, LiD is interested in this role. In a recent interview for Reuters, Alexander Kwasniewski, former Polish president and head of the LiD alliance said: "A coalition between PO and LiD would be politically natural", and even signalled that LiD could agree to back PO leader Donald Tusk against incumbent Lech Kaczynski in the 2010 presidential election. Kwasniewski's comments show the ideological bankruptcy of the SLD leadership and the reason why in its current trajectory the party cannot regain the trust of the working class of Poland.

Many Poles are relieved that the nightmare of undivided power in the hands of the Kaczynski brothers and their stooges seems to be coming to an end. But although any weakening of the authoritarian power of the Kaczynskis is to be welcomed, it is up to the Polish left to show that within capitalism there can ultimately be no lasting and universal solution to the problems facing the Polish people.


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