PiS EP tactics: buy & scare

23 February, Jarosław Kaczyński, PiS chairman enters the stage to present PiS’ new political offer. On the agenda are five key points, which soon are labelled “the Kaczyński Five”. In the following days the details come in.

Are votes for sale? Or the Kaczyński Five:

The most radiant is the extension of the PiS government signature social programme, “500+”. This programme was first introduced in 2016. It offers every family extra 500 zł (circa. 116 Euro) a month for every 2nd, 3rd and subsequent child until the child turns 18. The new extension of the programme will include payments for the 1st child. The new rules are expected to begin in July. Hence this is not a strategy to win the European elections; this is a preparation for the power confrontation in the fall national parliamentary elections. The first point has a title: THE FAMILY.

The second point of “the Kaczyński Five” is a major new give-out. At first even the PiS chair does not know if what he says is a one-off give-out, or a regular programme. When he introduces the 13th retirement payment a year to the pensioners, he adds this should be a permanent programme “if possible”. In the next days it appears PiS is ready to turn this payment into a regular programme. The pensioners should expect an extra payment of 1,100 zł, or 250 Euro already in May 2019, ahead of the European elections.

The third element of what PiS presents as equalisation of income is a tax relief for the young employees. Everybody who is under 26 years old is relieved of direct income tax. This solution is not expected to enter into force before the May elections. THE YOUNG.

The next element is for the general public – the direct income tax is reduced from 18% to 17%. This solution shall be translated into reality for the next fiscal year. LABOUR.

Last element concerns another issue of the society: Mr Kaczyński wants to double the density of bus connections in the country to serve better the countryside. INFRASTRUCTURE.

The costs of all those programmes are estimated at about 40 billion złoty (9,3 billion Euro) additional annual expenditure. Mr Morawiecki, the prime minister is certain the state budget is able to sustain the extra costs. How? Tax tighter controls, economic growth, cutting the bureaucratic and administrative burdens.

The Fallout

Poles like the government plans. According to the latest surveys more than half of the population supports each of the proposals. At the same time they worry about the financing of the new spendings.

The Civic Platform’s response by Izabela Leszczyna MP, former deputy finance minister on the TOK FM radio: “Law and Justice stole and twisted our ideas” about the 13th pension to the pensioners, but the action was “rushed” in order to “cover up” the K-towers scandal. PO most likely will support the extension of the 500+ programme to first children, the relief of the direct taxation of the young and the support for the pensioners.

Following the five proposals a wave of criticism goes through the country: the economists, the political scientists, the Internet memes, the historical vote record of Law and Justice which shows PiS voting down first children back in 2016, the amount of “dislike” buttons on the web: in a rare occasion Law and Justice seems to loose the internet debate. It finds itself on the defensive with a need to continuously justify the costs of the projects.

Leszczyna on TOK FM: “This is no check-mate [for the opposition]. People are smart. Everybody knows PiS has stolen our ideas to cover the scandals of Srebrna and Jarosław Kaczyński [K-towers], Kazimierz Kujda, Marek Chrzanowski, the Polish Financial Supervision Authority, the National Bank of Poland, Adam Glapiński, and all this terribly scandalous society, which unfortunately rules Poland. PiS put our ideas on the table and thought that they can move on”.

Voters to scare in the Heart of Europe:

On 9 March another PiS convention takes place. This time it is about the candidates of Law and Justice in the EP elections. The meeting’s title: “Poland is Europe’s Heart”. There is also the programme in the “European Declaration of Law and Justice” that PiS leading candidates sign. The document reads:

  1. Europe of Freedom: the original EU values
  2. Europe of Family: the right of parents to bring up children;
  3. European support for the Polish Countryside
  4. EU Budget good for Poland
  5. European Internal (Common) Market: equal treatment of Polish companies;
  6. Secure borders of Europe: security and defence of EU’s external borders;
  7. Europe independent energetically
  8. The same quality of goods across Europe
  9. Europe of equal opportunities: equality of nation states in the European Union;
  10. Just climate policy of Europe
  11. Sustainable development – the source for a strong EU: the cohesion policy
  12. STOP the illegal immigration

The LGBT scare

The 12 points are accompanied with speeches. Prime Minister Morawiecki: “Our political competitors understand Europeanness as a moral revolution, for us Europeanness is a better life of Poles”.

Jarosław Kaczyński focuses on the family because the family apparently is threatened: “This threat is an attack on the family, an attack on children. A specific social engineering is used. It is difficult to call it upbringing – to change a human. What’s at its core? Very early sexualisation of children, from the earliest age of life”. PiS chairman continues with an awe: “It is unbelievable, but it is to start from the birth of a child up to the age of four. The more you read it, it makes your hair curl. The very issue of boys and girls identity is questioned. This entire process of social preparation of children for the future role of a woman and a man, a mother and a father, is challenged. In the name of what? It’s hard to guess”. Clearly he refers to the Warsaw Declaration of LGBT+ rights.

PiS, like most Poles, is tolerant, but you can not confuse tolerance with affirmation. Affirmation is support.

Jarosław Kaczyński
The Warsaw LGBT+ Declaration signing in February

The latest Jarosław Kaczyński speech is an echo to many previous other Law and Justice politicians’ and conservative organisations’ speeches, comments and statements in the last three weeks. They all are outraged by the declaration the Warsaw mayor signed on LGBT rights. Rafał Trzaskowski signed the Warsaw LGBT+ Declaration [Polish only] on 18 February to fight the discrimination against the LGBT community. Among the items in the declaration most contested is the issue of sexual education according to the WHO standards. Those standards are highly controversial among the PiS politicians. PiS accuses the LGBT+ community, Warsaw mayor and the WHO standards of abnormal sexualisation of children. Some call it directly: paedophilia.

On 6 March the web portal Oko-press accuses the ruling party of running an incitement campaign against the LGBT+ community the same way PiS run a successful anti-migrant campaign in 2015.

The leading PiS politician who is running the accusations and scare tactics is Partyk Jaki, deputy justice minister, a former candidate for Warsaw mayorship and PiS candidate in the European elections. The potential MEP says about his motivation to run for office in the EP: “Last term the European Parliament spoke about 250 times about the LGBT issues. Gigantic resources are invested into something I fundamentally disagree with and I want to fight against”. Also the education minister Anna Zalewska, who is PiS candidate for the EP protested against the LGBT+ declaration: “there is no room for it in the schools“.

Another angle of the anti-LGBT hysteria is to accuse the agrarian, conservative party PSL of siding with its coalition partners of the European Coalition on the issue, even if PSL is not pro-LGBT. This is a PiS classic attempt to scare the voters away with the “guilty by association” logic.

The far-right magazine is warning about the “homo-terror”; the 2012 Olympic medallist Zofia Klepacka accuses the Warsaw mayor of promoting LGBT and she is against it; the Legia fans turn out to be extremely homophobic:

Et alors?

It is impossible to say if PiS is successful. Clearly Law and Justice confuses promotion of LGBT+ issues with prevention against LGBT+ crime and youth suicide, which is high. According to the 2017 report 69% of the members of the LGBT community were confronted with some kind of violence, 64% were verbally assaulted and 13% physically attacked. According to the same report 69% of the Polish LGBT+ youth were thinking about suicide. Are we talking assistance or privilege?

Recent polls suggest Poles are more relaxed about homosexuality. The issue is no longer a taboo. Robert Biedroń is probably the most recognisable gay person in Poland; also the Warsaw deputy mayor Paweł Rabiej (of .Nowoczesna) is openly gay. Mr Biedroń has proven time and time again that he is electable. There are celebrities who are out in music, film, TV and literature industries. Openness towards the LGBT+ among the youth is most visible.

On the initiative of the 17/18 year-olds in Warsaw…

This is what makes the LGBT+ issue so much different from the migration issue. LGBT+ are visible. Migrants were not. If Mr Kaczyński or other PiS politicians believe LGBT+ people are not discriminated against in Poland, they are denying reality. Nor for the first time.

As for the economic pay-outs let me quote a Polish saying: “if they give you something, take it, if they beat you, run away”. To take a gift from the government does not necessarily mean that the voters feel contractually obliged to vote Law and Justice. Maybe PiS can win with the argument that the party always lives up to its promises. More likely the latest moves will change very little in the partisan support: Law and Justice and the European Coalition are in a virtual clinch, each has about 35% support.

Meanwhile, when PiS is busy giving out millions to virtually everyone their credibility is compromised (at least partially) as teachers unions have called for a general strike, demanding a 1000 zł salary increase…

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