The elections went as predicted. While PiS came out with the highest result as a single party, they have only secured 194 seats in the parliament, which will not allow them to rule even if they teamed up with right-wing Konfederacja which secured 18 places, as the majority required is 231.
Donald Tusk’s Platforma Obywatelska came out second with 157 places, but with its coalition partners, it has a secure majority of 248. Yet, as predicted, President Andrzej Duda entrusted Mateusz Morawiecki with creating the new government. Of course, this is what he promised, saying he will give the job to the leader of the party that came first. And if only he stuck to that it would be alright. But being him, he needed to prove yet again that the writer Jakub Żulczyk was right when he called him an idiot. And so he made a speech in which he amused everyone that “he needs to consider it before making a decision” and said that “we have two political leaders that claim they have majority” and that this is very unusual and he has to consider it well as it’s impossible, apparently to tell which one is telling the truth (if only there was some kind of a system in place to check it. We could call it, I don’t know, “elections”?).
There are two options: either he is really that stupid that he doesn’t know that 248 is bigger than 194. But it could be worse. It could mean that he believes the political standards are so low that he really believes that PiS will be able to bribe 37 MPs to change sides. But, as we say in Poland “każdy mierzy swoją miarą” – everyone measures with his own measure.
And so as for today, Mateusz Morawiecki pretends he still believes he can create the government that can survive the vote of confidence. PiS politicians are asked by journalists keep up their appearance, but refuse to disseminate any information on how they plan to achieve a majority. They try to make some advances towards PSL the peasant’s party, but even if they succeeded in dragging them across to their side it would still be not enough for them. And they won’t as the official PSL line is that they are going along with the coalition, and after the fate of Monika Pawłowska who switched from Left to PiS a couple of years back (see more here) only to fail to be re-elected this year makes it clear that voters would never forgive them for it.
Anyway, as I write those words the coalition has been already established. For the first time, the coalition agreement is not being kept secret, and everyone can see what the party representatives have signed on the dotted line (except for the representatives of the left: Włodzimierz Czarzasty and Robert Biedroń who for some reason ignored the dotted line and signed at the bottom). You might have to notice that one signature is missing: Razem, the left-wing party of the younger generation decided not to join the government after the other opposition parties refused to include elements of their program: depenalisation of abortion, facilitation of trade union laws, better worker protections and increasing budget spending on health service, education and housing. As there are only 7 members of Razem in the parliament, the coalition still has a secure majority, and in any case, Razem declared they will still support Donald Tusk’s government. I find this development pretty surprising if we remember that the result of those elections is largely due to the outrage caused amongst Polish women by altering the already drastic abortion laws. Allegedly it was the PSL party that opposed reform of the draconian abortion laws, which is strange, as polls show that a great majority of their voters expect relaxations of those. But I guess with Razem out of government, there will be more positions to grab for PSL…
Unfortunately, it will be some time before the new government will be able to get to work. Now while Morawiecki is marking his attempts to gather a majority sufficient to get through the vote of confidence, the real politics is happening backstage. On one side the outgoing government tries to siphon as much public money as possible: they appoint new people or change laws to allow higher redundancy pay and yearly bonuses. The Minister of education established a new scientific institute tasked with the “popularisation of Polish heritage”. But those are pennies. Just two days after the elections the Ministry of Justice announced they are going to give away 15 000 000 zł for crime prevention. So if you are one of Ziobro’s pals and want to buy some estate or electronic equipment (because that’s how you fight crime, apparently), you can apply and I am sure you will get a decent chunk of that money. And up to 25% of it can be spent on “administration”.
PiS also takes action to ensure the people whom they illegally placed in, for example, justice system, will be harder to remove. President Duda changed the voting procedures in the High Court, so there will be no longer a need to secure a 2/3 majority of all judges. Instead, the resolutions will go through if just a half of the judges present in the room during the vote opt for them. It means that illegally elected judges can basically vote to say they are legally elected judges. Crude, but effective.
The outgoing government also makes sure that on taking over the government Donald Tusk will be immediately stepping into a minefield. For example, the puppet Constitutional Tribunal suddenly decided to look closer at the case of unfair pension valorization that took place from the 2009 year onwards and ruled that pensioners will have to be paid compensation. Which, of course, is fair, but why they were sitting on the case for years to suddenly make an express ruling about it? Well, their decision means that next year’s budget will have to find nearly 5 billion złoty somewhere.
There is many examples of things like that. It will be a true walk through a minefield. Another example of a difficult situation is the energy bills. The electricity rates for private customers were artificially frozen this year. Unless this bill is prolonged, they are going to bump back to the market rate, which might mean up to 70% hike overnight. Even if the new government wanted to sort this out, it would be unable, as instead of taking care of stuff like that, they have to sit and twiddle their thumbs while Morawiecki and Duda play that theatre that they believe he is able to gather majority support for his government. And when they finally get into government it might be too late for that, as the new tariffs have to be approved soon.
So that’s about it when it comes to the big politics. And how’s life going in Poland apart from that?
Oskar Szafarowicz, a despicable young PiS activist who revealed that a son of an opposition MP was a victim of a pedophile and then posted several mean comments about her when her kid took his life (see more here) had been a subject of the disciplinary procedure at his university and was given a warning and reprimand for his inappropriate behavior (which, to be frank, was just a slap on the wrist). Apparently, he never learned his lesson as he – supported by the whole force of PiS propaganda, from the army of internet trolls to the minister of education himself – paints himself as a victim punished for his patriotic beliefs. Meanwhile, his fellow female student who started a petition demanding a disciplinary hearing for him (that was signed by more than 30,000 people) is now the subject of an online hate campaign. She received countless threats, including rape and violence.
A big news was also a tragic accident in which a BMW driving, according to experts estimates, well over 300km/h, smashed into a Kia car. As a result Kia immediately burst into flames resulting in the instant death of all of its occupants – a young couple with a child. To the outrage of everyone, despite dashcam videos of the incident being widely circulated online refused to treat the incident as a multi-vehicle accident, despite the fact that the police present at the site of this tragedy spoke to the occupants of the damaged BMW that managed to stop several hundred meters down the road. Only due to enormous public pressure and outrage the justice system take action against its driver, but at this time he managed to flee abroad (although he since had been arrested in Dubai). The rumors are that it was all because one of his passengers was a lawyer who was a friend of Zbigniew Ziobro. The passenger denies this while the driver, Sebastian Majtczak, fights extradition in the UAE’s court, saying because of the public outrage and (oh the irony) fact, that due to PiS justice system reforms the courts in Poland are too politicized, he believes he won’t get a fair trial.
And what’s new on the religious front? The division between eastern and western Poland is clearly visible. In the West, local councils openly oppose the church – like the city of Wrocław that demands to be relieved from their obligation to pay for religious education in schools, arguing that it’s not fair to other pupils that they have spent millions on the classes attended by a minority (the concordat makes it obligatory for the education system to organize religious education, but the idea that they have also to pay salaries to priests, nuns and catechists is government’s own initiative, that has not been contested until recently). Meanwhile in the east one phone call from a local priest was enough for the municipal cultural center in Zagórz to cancel the planned screening of the horror movies on Halloween. Apparently, it was not acceptable to hold such an event in a building that used to be a monastery.
In the academic spheres, there is still outrage after the minister of education fiddled with a point-based system of academic publications again to favor academic journals run by his friends and right-wing organizations. So if you want to be awarded with a maximum number of points (which is important for your career, it’s something similar to an impact factor), you can either get something published by “Nature” or “Science” or be accepted for publication in journals such like “Annals of Catholic Teology”, a peculiar periodic published by Papal university in Kraków entitled “The Person and the Challenges. The Journal of Theology, Education, Canon Law and Social Studies Inspired by Pope John Paul II” (yes, that’s a full title, check for yourself if you don’t believe me) or, if religious studies are not your thing or you somehow struggle to include John Paul II’s teachings in your academic research because your field of interest is, say a reinforced concrete, you can still for example “Science” or, for the same amount of points, equally known journal “Cement, Lime, Concrete”.
But if the academic world is too challenging for you, good news. There are still jobs where you won’t get any stress at all. Or, actually, any work. With the opening of the canal across Vistula Split, a new border crossing had to be established in Nowy Świat, where the sea lock is located. So far not a single vessel used it to enter or leave Poland (there were a few sailing boats from Kaliningrad trying to get in, but they were sent away due to sanctions).
But let’s end with some positive note. Regular readers of this series might remember a young man, who in 2018 was seen wearing a patriotic armband sticking his fist out in the neo-Nazi gesture in reaction to a Pride March that was captured in an iconic photo as he was threatening the participants in the march (more about it here).
Over the last five years he changed his views, left the right-wing Konfederacja and apologized for his behaviour and this year he helped to organize the Pride march himself as a volunteer.
I like such stories because they show us that there is still hope for this country.
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