Last week was unusually quiet in Polish politics. Probably because all the parties are planning how to begin the new term of the parliament. The only decision to be made was for the president to officially appoint Senior Speakers of both chambers of the parliament. In Poland, the Senior Speaker is mostly a honourable position: basically his only function is to lead the first moments of the work of the newly-elected parliament until the “proper” speakers are elected.
The Senior Speaker is to be chosen from the oldest members of the parliament. Usually president simply appoints the oldest one, but in the newly elected parliament that would mean that the honour in both chambers falls on the member of the opposition. Therefore for Sejm, the lower chamber, the president appointed Antoni Macierewicz, former Ministry of Defence and leading Smoleńsk Crash conspiracy theorist, as the new Senior Speaker.
This is a classic maneuvre by PiS, commonly described by Poles as “hiding Macierewicz in the broom closet” – because he is a very controversial figure, in the run-up to elections he is hidden from the public view (but often allowed to preach to his hard-line followers during minor events not covered by media) and the PiS pretends, that they offer the voters a new opening. Of course after the election he comes back with a bang and everything goes back to normal.
Other unexpected come-back took place when PiS announced that their candidates for a new Constitutional Tribunal judges will be Krystyna Pawłowicz and Stanisław Piotrowicz. They are both well known for being one of the most insolent and rude MP’s, and under normal circumstances they could serve as example of who should never become a judge. Krystyna Pawłowicz is known for her vulgar language and behaviour, and Stanisław Piotrowicz, former communist prosecutor, for his incredible insolence: not only in his contact with media (he was caught on camera contradicting himself in one interview, and then when reminded by the journalist that he said something completely opposite just couple minutes ago, accusing him of confabulation). He is also known for his role in piloting PiS’ hostile takeover of the Polish justice system and that he would stop for nothing: changes to law were pushed trough by brute force, and if the vote in the commission was not satisfactory, PiS was ordering “reasumption of the vote” until the vote went their way (because, for example, some PiS MPs were able to run to the room on time). Piotrowicz also made his name back in 2001 when as a prosecutor he defended a paedophile priest in a famous case of a priest from Tylawa (no, there is no mistake in this sentence, he was a prosecutor, and he was defending the accused). He was trying everything – he even tried to convince the public that the priest was healing children using his supernatural abilities – but despite his efforts the priestended up in jail for molesting 6 little girls.
Krystyna Pawłowicz hoped to become Judge in Constitutional Tribunal for years, but it was never considered seriously by anyone until now. One thing is clear – all that talk about decommunisation of the justice system and making sure, that such positions could not be taken by the politicians was obviously a blatant lie. Also PiS attempt to take over Highest Court by forcing its judges to retire early (which, to no-one’s surprise was found to be illegal by European Tribunal of Justice) can be now seen in a different light: all of PiS proposed candidates are well past the age of 65 in which, according to PiS, judges should retire. After 9 years in the office, every single of them will be around 80. But why Kaczyński decided to put forward such controversial figures? Your guess will be as good as mine, but I can see a few possibilities:
– one of the illegally elected judges has turned his back at PiS and no longer follows party guidelines. Perhaps Kaczyński wants to ensure, that the newly elected judges will unconditionally obey him?
– the Tribunal, after being taken away by PiS, became simply a façade, at best a tool to rubber-stamp PiS legal proposals that nobody really consider to be an oracle on the constitutional law any more, so a job there can be a way to reward the most fateful soldiers who helped to destroy it. Being a judge in PiS’ puppet tribunal might not be the most prestigious thing nowadays, but surely still has some perks: during their 9 years term, Piotrowicz and Pawłowicz could earn about 2 000 000 zł each, and then retire with lifelong generous pension.
– last but not least: those candidacies sparkled public outrage, as people feel that Kaczyński spits in their faces. Perhaps this is a chance for president Duda to shoot down those candidates, which can be then used by PiS propaganda to portray him as an independent man, standing up to Kaczyński, which can be important in the oncoming year of presidential elections.
It is clear that PiS does everything with election in mind and is ready to pull various stunts. But after the elections, it all gets back to normal. Local press in Podlasie reports, that next day after election half constructed police station in one of the villages was demolished. It’s construction has been one few electoral promises that PiS was about to deliver: they promised people, that they bring back all the rural police stations that previous government liquidated. Can the fact, that they now demolished this building be read as their admission, that Donald Tusk’ government was actually right when it argued, that small village police stations are not effective in modern policing?
In that light, suddenly a new infrastructural investment in a small village of Golubie Kaszubskie, where at the cost of around 6 million zł a new transport hub at the local train station was build. The hub consist of a P+R facility for about 15 cars, a bicycle parking (with a bike-share station) and a footbridge, which proved to be controversial. Because the footbridge does not helps to cross neither the train line, nor the road. It’s a winding footbridge along the road, tracks and pedestrian path. The footbridge goes over another path, that leads to nowhere and ends with a fancy loop allowing pedestrians to turn around. The new development can be already seen on Google Maps:
As you can see, there is an idiotic footbridge to nowhere, but there was not enough money for 20 metres of pavement connecting the new hub with the train station, that is the very reason of its existence. The local council together with the (female) architect are defending the bridge, pointing out, that this is actually not a bridge, but a viewpoint, and it’s shape is an emanation of the SLOW philosophy, allowing local people to slow down and enjoy the view. I am not an architect, but I got a feeling that if the bridge was actually crossing over the train tracks, the view would be equally beautiful. But perhaps, that would not allow people from other side of the tracks to enjoy the SLOW philosophy – now they have to waste time by going around through the nearby level crossing, adding around 400 m to their route – or to appreciate the life – as they can do, if they choose to risk their life by illegally crossing the train tracks instead.
Slow philosophy is probably also followed by president Duda. Michał Bilewicz, a respected professor awaits presidential signature for over a year (in Poland a Titular Professor is the highest academic degree, in opposition to the “university professor” which merely describes a function at the university. The nominations have to be approved by the president). When the professor wrote a letter to the presidential office, asking if they received his documents, he was informed that “the law does not specifies the time bracket in which president has to make decision”. While this is true, no other professor had to wait for so long for the presidential approval: could the fact, that prof. Bilewicz is a well known researcher in the topic of Polish anti-Semitism will be the reason of this delay? After all his work is completely incompatible with PiS’ historic narration, in which Poles and Poland were always the model of virtues of all kinds?
But I believe that sooner or later prof. Bilewicz will get the honour he deserves. Just as Łukasz Sitek, former “journalist” of TVP got, what he deserved – five months in jail. He was just sentenced for the row he caused in train after refusing to pay penalty for riding without a ticket, when he abused stuff and wrestled with the police (we wrote about it 50 chapters ago).
Back then at least police dealt with the aggressive drunk in an appropriate way. Shame that they are not so willing to take decisive action when it comes to drunk drivers. It has emerged, that Artur Zawisza, a former PiS politician who injured a cyclist while driving despite having been banned for driving under the influence, and then caught driving again on the same day, should be in court much earlier, as the police was aware that he drives despite having his license revoked,, In September this year, he forgot to turn into entrance to his house and continued to the end of the road, trough the fence and 20 metres into his neighbours property. Then he struggled to drive his car out, causing further damage to both the fence and the vehicle. Police has been called, but took no action, as he admitted it was his fault and promised to pay for damages…
Luckily some other institutions take their responsibilities seriously. A medical court has suspended one of the doctors for spreading anti-vaccine quackery. At least here experts are valued, unlike in TVP, where the invited guest was not allowed to take part in the program she was invited to as an expert. It was a Breakfast TV show about keeping capuchine monkeys as pets. The monkey owner told the producers that he won’t go on air if the other guest, a monkey expert who points out, that it is a bad idea to keep a monkey as a pet at home, will also be alowed on air. Having a choice between a cute monkey and an expert, TVP decided to kick the expert out of the studio.
At least the expert left on her own will. Some other cases require police intervention: when a homeless lady entered sacristy in Catholic Cathedral in Świdnica and begged for help, the priests showed her Christian love and called the municipal police, demanded for the trespasser to be removed. Luckily the officers showed more humanity and made sure, that he got help she needs from social services.
But if you think this is sick, wait until you hear the biggest recent scandal. In Bełchatów one of the priest noticed, that one of the boys instead of swallowing the communion wafer has put it into his pocket. The 13-years-old was instantly apprehended and held in sacristy until his parents and the police arrived. The priests were to accuse the boy of offending religious feeling but “luckily” the adults forced him to swallow the wafer, and thus no desacration took place.
This caused an outrage. There were many voices pointing out, that yet again Police became clergy’s errand boys, or simply an enforcer of religious laws like in Iran (the police itself cuts itself from it, claiming, that they just went there to investigate what the whole thing is about). Others point out, that it was an outrageous case of psychological violence towards a minor, and that forcing him to swallow “the body of Christ” undermines basic citizen rights to religious freedom.
But some Poles were not moved by it at all, or tried to dispose of it with humor. “A priest is outraged because 13-year old boy first took it into his mouth, but then refused to swallow? Come on, what else is new?”