The Scare v. The Big Lie

The campaign to the European Parliament in Poland revolves around the weekends, when all the major political blocks try to impose a new narrative. This weekend is no different.

In the recent weeks PiS run an anti-LGBT campaign (failed) and a series of proposals with new spending programme (party successful). The European Coalition response so far is rather weak and reactive. No new proposals are made by the EC and PO leader Grzegorz Schetyna, as if the Coalition still needed to learn how to manage its own diversity first.

“The Scare”

The one idea of the European Coalition that seems to be gaining momentum is the “scare tactics”. The Coalition slogan is: The Future of Poland: the Great Choice. The European elections is a referendum in which Poles are asked to make a choice: “chose your future: us or PiS” and PiS means, for example, “Poland loses its chance to grow”, “Poland is marginalised”, “PiS politicians are decomposing EU”, “PiS – team of people full of complexes”.

The alternative is to catch up with the quality of life with the West, “strong Poland in a solidary EU”, “competent, energetic, efficient representation of Poland” and the “team of the great Polish pride”.

One of the leading candidates of the Coalition is Krzysztof Hetman MEP. He is No. 1 in the Lublin region with a major chance for re-election, as he originally comes from PSL (EPP), the agrarian party that enjoys major support in the rural region. Mr Hetman says that PiS is saying one thing and is doing another. Instead of being pro-European it secretly prepares a Polexit, the exit of Poland from the European Union.

Hetman: “I want to warn the inhabitants of [my] region that such gestures as flag removal show true intentions. I have no doubts about PiS’s intentions“. PiS officials were asked to remove the EU flag from their offices in the regional council. Beata Szydło, when took office of Poland’s PM in 2015, removed the EU flags from her office, too. Mr Hetman says today this is symbolic.

He continues: “They do not say it directly. However, creating such coalitions, or who they talk to, recently with the leader of the Spanish VOX, clearly speaks of intentions. I am most afraid of populists and those who do not talk about their intentions“.

Radek Sikorski, former foreign minister and the Coalition’s No.1 candidate in the Kujawsko-Pomorskie region, says along those lines, too: “Cimoszewicz led us to the European Union and he will not lead us out of it, but – can we be sure that the Chairman [Jarosław Kaczyński] will not do it by doggedness or plain stupidity? There’s a great choice in front of us”. Hashtag #GreatChoice or #WielkiWybór.

“The Big Lie”

PiS, meanwhile, is trying a new narrative. Following the controversial votes on the copyright directive and on the posted workers in transport, it calls on the MEPs of the Coalition as “big liars”. They call the Polish EPP MEPs “European statists” claiming they voted “against the Polish interest” on the copyright directive (labelled ACTA2 in Poland) or the mobility package. They also bring back the 2016 vote on the EP political resolution on the situation in Poland in relation to the rule of law.

Back in 2016 MEP Tomasz Poręba claimed that Mr Trzaskowski, current Warsaw mayor and a former MEP, has edited the EP draft resolution. Today Poręba argues that it was an anti-Polish resolution. Three years ago there was a “list of shame” of MEPs who supported the resolution that empowered certain neo-Nazi group to issue death threats against some of the MEPs back in 2016.

Ryszard Legutko, MEP and co-chairman of the ECR group in the European Parliament, is on fire: “There is a war against PiS, and more importantly against the Polish government. PO politicians have become impotent in Europe” and calls Donald Tusk “a little scout fighting the Polish government“.

The official PiS twitter account quotes Legutko as saying “The stake of these elections is whether the European institutions will be open to everyone or will remain monopolized”. There is the hashtag, too: #BigLie or #WielkieOszustwo.

Et alors

Why politicians lose their mind during the electoral process?

Just the fact check: Poland is growing under PiS and has been growing under PO before. To say by one of the parties otherwise is a pure lie. In 2015 PiS run a campaign under a motto “Poland in ruin”, which was false. The same could be argued today for the European Coalition’s scare tactics – is Poland losing its chance to grow under PiS? Be critical of their social policies, budget deficit, cutting important programs, the teachers strike, etc., but the unemployment is falling and the economic performance is positive. The future might be difficult – but that’s not what the Coalition argues. The Coalition argues with PiS Poland loses a chance to grow. Are they too simplistic or try to scare the electorate?

Mr Hetman might be right that PiS is having a secret agenda. That’s fair to campaign on the issue of Polexit, if someone believes this is a credible threat. Fair enough.

PiS on the other hand is full of lies, once again. The mobility package issue is the issue divisive in many countries and as a European problem it calls for a European regulation. The issue is not settled (yet) and some people are pushing for a fast-tracking of the procedure. As such it is as much in the hands of the Polish government (in the Council) as the MEPs to do their best to block the issue in the Council and/or the Parliament. This is not a done deal yet.

The copyright directive is as divisive in Poland as it is in other EU countries. It seems PiS tries a short-cut to reach out to the Youtubers community failing to communicate its own failings: where is the blocking minority in the Council? It may be noble to lose “for the cause”, but the true standing for someone’s interests is to be effective. The contentious Article 13 of the directive is as much as a failure of the EPP MEPs from Poland who voted the way they voted as of the Polish government which was unable to change the working in the Council. All provided the MEPs do not support the directive as it stands, because there are serious arguments for the directive and its article 13, too, that the PiS politicians conveniently downplay. In either case, this is not a national interest situation. Labelling the issue “EU steals your freedom of expression” is a pure exaggeration.

As for reminding the general public about the allegedly “anti-Polish statements” made in the European Parliament in 2016, the Law and Justice forgets the Parliament is a political and deliberative body, too. The adopted resolution was a political statement, not a legally binding act. As far as democracy and freedom of opinion is concerned, all views are welcome, defending the Polish government and opposing it.

Tadeusz Rydzyk, Mirosław Piotrowski MEP, Zbigniew Ziobro MEP

How PiS tries to lie to the Polish public is clearly manifested in one situation: back in 2012 there was a public hearing in the European Parliament. Speakers included right wing activists and journalists including Jan Pospieszalski and Rafał Ziemkiewicz (video below) who spoke about the situation in Poland criticising the Polish government for wrongdoing. The hosts? Law and Justice MEPs including the current Justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro; the guest list include speakers Bronisław Wildstein, Jacek Karnowski, Anita Gardas, Law and Justice MP Beata Kempa and media mogul Tadeusz Rydzyk.

The meeting title: “Freedom of Media in Poland. Case TV Trwam”. The speakers:

List of speakers at a conference in the EP in 2012
Ziemkiewicz is critical about the Polish government in the European Parliament in 2012

So it is OK to be critical of the Polish government in the 2012 European Parliament, but it is not OK to be critical of the Polish government in the 2016 European Parliament. This is a plain double standard, hence a lie.

European Parliament is your Parliament since you elect its Members. It is not “foreign” and there is no “Poland’s delegation” as the PO and PiS like to call the people elected Members of the European Parliament. There is the European Coalition team and the PiS team; some of them will make it to the house in Strasbourg; those who make it have to cooperate this way or another.

The duopoly EC v PiS serves both actors to do well in the upcoming elections. Spring and Kukiz’15 and far-right and far-left are all squeezed out. Only one or two of them have a real shot at the 5% threshold.

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