Monday, October 26, 2015

Poland's populist conservative party back in power after nearly a decade

By Rick Moran 

Poland's conservative Law and Justice Party scored a big victory in parliamentary elections on Sunday, defeating the pro-business Civic Platform who governed the country for 8 years.
The leader of Law and Justice, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, found vindication in the results as the former prime minister, who lost his brother, the Polish president, in a plane crash in 2010, but failed in his own bid for the presidency in 2012.
Washington Post:
Kaczynski, dressed in the trademark black suit and tie that he has worn since the death of his twin brother, President Lech Kaczynski, in a plane crash in 2010, said he plans to follow a moderate course, an indication he is abandoning his divisive style of the past.
“We will exert law but there will be no taking of revenge,” Kaczynski said after polls closed Sunday night. “There will be no kicking of those who have fallen of their own fault and very rightly so.”
When Law and Justice last held power a decade ago, there was a lot of turmoil domestically as Kaczynski sought revenge on his political foes and on former communist collaborators. Ties became strained with the country’s European partners, particularly Germany, with Kaczynski focusing heavily on Poland’s historical grievances against Germany and Russia.
His government, formed with two small, fringe parties, collapsed after just two years and for a time it seemed Kaczynski would stay in the political wilderness. Even in 2010, just after his brother’s death, he was defeated in his bid to take his brother’s job, his negative image outweighing the huge outpouring of sympathy he had at the time. The party was again trounced in the previous parliamentary election, in 2011.
On Sunday, back in the limelight, he appealed to political opponents to come together in the spirit of national unity to change the country for the better.
“There should really be a lot of us because our tasks are huge and extremely difficult,” he said.
According to an exit poll released early Monday, Law and Justice won 37.7 percent of the votes, trouncing the governing pro-business Civic Platform, which took 23.6 percent. Official results are expected later Monday.
The results must still be confirmed but it appeared that Law and Justice has a chance to form a majority government. With a president backed by Law and Justice already in office since the summer, the party would be in the strongest position yet to put forth a vision for Poland that mixes conservative Catholic values with more help for the poor.
Civic Platform was seen as favoring corporations over small business, and having a too liberal stance on the illegal immigrant issue roiling Europe. There has also been a strain of Euroscepticism running through Poland in recent years as the people see themselves as more and more distinct from the western euopean-dominated EU. Poland will probably not leave the EU, but will agitate for changes in its relationship with it.
Kaczynski, whose outsize personality has been a force in Polish politics for decades, gave in to reality and put up another party member for the prime minister post. Beata Szydło will serve in that capacity. Kaczyinski knew he would be too divisive a figure to carry Law and Justice to victory, so he opted for one of his trusted allies.
Szydio ran against Civic Platform candidate Ewa Kopacz - the first time two women have faced off for a European country's leadership since 1993. As for Poland's future, Law and Justice has promised more aid to the poor, and tax breaks for the middle class, among other programs that are designed to help small business compete in the European marketplace. 
Kaczyinki is seen as pro-American, although the attitude of Szydio toward the US is not well known. No doubt whoever is running Polaind will continue the strategic cooperation that has developed between the US and Warsaw to counter the threats of Vladimir Putin to reassemble the Warsaw Pact.

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