TCS Daily

Poland's Great Right Hope

By Tomasz Teluk - August 19, 2005 12:00 AM

Some 15 years after the anti-communist revolution, Poles are turning to the right. This year is politically the most important in the new history of this young democracy.

Polands future depends on the next coalition of parties in power. But only one significant party seems to understand a free-market economy. This is the PO - Citizenship Platform (, whose leadership includes free-market liberals from Gdansk.


Voters will take part in three crucial political events this year: parliamentary elections on September 25, presidential elections on October 9 and, some time after that, the EU constitutional treaty referendum. But the third vote, thanks to the French, will probably not take place any time soon. The election winners will not waste much time and energy on organizing the referendum or backing the treaty.


Since the presidency is not as important as the parliament in Polish politics, the first vote will be the most crucial. However, effective cooperation with the president is necessary if Poland wants to complete its transition and build a strong position among European Union countries.


That is why recent polls showing strong support for Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz, an ex-communist and ex-foreign minister, are troubling. This anxiety is reinforced by a statement made by the other important presidential candidate: Lech Kaczynski from the PiS-Law and Justice party, which will probably be a member of the coalition with the PO. Kaczynski declared that if he becomes president he will never sign the act introducing the 15 percent flat tax. The flat tax act is one of the leading initiatives of the PO.


The PO seems to be the most business-friendly group of politicians in the country. They are trying for cut the privileges of the authorities. A few months ago they dismissed one of their leaders, Zyta Gilowska, because she gave a job in her office to one of her relatives. But we will never know how deep free-market changes will go. Insiders say that the PO is going to put off healthcare reform because of its high political risk.


The Polish right includes many different colors, but any coalition without the PO will be a tragedy for Poland. Which is the best partner for the PO? Probably PiS if it stays away from economic issues. In general the party has a socialistic outlook, with the exception of few young members of the European Parliament, including Konrad Szymanski. Another right-wing party, the League of Polish Families (LPR) is Euroskeptic, and anti-capitalist as well. The populist Self-defense (Samoobrona) party is a kind of political folklore.


The other parties are a big disappointment, the biggest being the Democrats ( which combines old Solidarity movement activists with their ex-communist opponents! For many Poles, it is evident that these two camps have shared power over the last 15 years and cheated the average citizen. Democrat politicians are morally discredited and voters do not trust them anymore.


I am also not optimistic also about the platform of Janusz Korwin-Mikke, a conservative-libertarian veteran ( in Poland. He is quite a controversial politician and his personality often divides free-marketers. His efforts are understandable only to a small percentage of voters.


What is irritating to many people is that his party, the Union of Real Politics (UPR), always has been more conservative than libertarian. Its leaders have a manic focus to concentrate on issues not crucial to citizens: the death penalty, safety-belts, secret service influences and homosexual rights. They are truly the most radical free-market politicians, but politics values actions, not declarations. The sad thing is that the charismatic Korwin-Mikke has no young followers.


Most free-marketers will probably vote for the PO, not wanting to waste their votes on the uncertain PJKM. The ideal situation for them would be a double victory in parliament and in presidential elections, where the PO candidate is Donald Tusk. But the backing for Tusk is still too low to dream about victory. That is why a coalition of right-wing parties in Poland is a must. Anyway, at least there is hope for change.



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