If you think Law and Justice (PiS) is anti-European, anti-systemic, anti-liberal democracy, think again. Not because Law and Justice presents itself as a modern, pro-European party with a logo “Poland at the heart of Europe” and with the European flag behind their backs. Law and Justice is a conservative party arguing in favour of Christian values in modern societies, less tight European integration, favouring the de-politicisation and degrading of importance of the European Commission. You may be critical of Law and Justice for their terrible reforms of the judicial system (challenging the independence of the courts) or the mismanagement of the school system. You may not like their closeness to the Catholic Church or cutting support for liberal NGOs. But this is what democracy is according to PiS: rule of the majority. In this logic there is no room for the respect of the minority rights. You can disagree with that, too.
However, many Poles like what they see. The courts are not important for the average voter. The schools are a problem, but not a reason to take the PiS government down. What’s good about the PiS rule are the give-aways, the 500 zł per child benefit and… the fact they are against those ‘dangerous’ liberal values and policies coming from the West. What comes in the package is a national rhetoric and strong historical links. The omnipresence of history in schools and public debate makes many Poles more aware about what are the important issues of 1944, 1945 or 1946 that of what are the issues of 2019 or 2020.
The focus on history and on the nation’s fate, on the defence of the national sovereignty and the lack of the subtle nuances in the discourse (“no to migrants”, “no to Euro”) gives a paradoxical effect.
Ahead of the Sunday vote the sociologists say there is no fluctuation between the electorate of PiS and of the European Coalition composed of PO, PSL (members of EPP in the European Parliament), SLD (member of S&D), .Modern (an ALDE member) and the Greens. The two blocks are in a virtual deadlock: most opinion polls predict PiS to come out first just an inch ahead of the Coalition (37% to 35%).
For the last four years the Law and Justice has recognised that the liberal opposition is the threat to their rule, especially the biggest party, the centrist Civic Platform (PO). In the last days ahead of the 26 May, however, that’s not exactly the case.
Since there is no fluctuation between PiS and the EC electorates, this means the outcome of the Sunday vote is left to two factors: first is the mobilisation of your own electorate, and second, to the performance of two parties to the right of PiS.
For a long time it seemed that the main party to the right of Law and Justice is Kukiz’15 led by a popular rock star. Mr Kukiz movement prefers direct democracy, but proved futile as it failed completely last year in the local elections. The opinion polls give Mr Kukiz between 3 and 6%.
The real threat for Law and Justice is elsewhere. Every day now gives the Confederacy a greater support, even up to 8%. Confederacy is a coalition in their own right, of extreme views. Openly nationalistic, xenophobic, anti-LGBT (i.e. Kaja Godek talks about same sex couples adoption ‘real purpose’ being to abuse children) and anti-Semitic (what drives the support up in recent days is a protest against the American law Just Act-447 about the Holocaust victims restitution of property).
Sexualisation of children
It is Law and Justice who put the subject of sexualisation of children on the political agenda in February by blowing out of proportion the LGBT declaration signed by Warsaw mayor Rafał Trzaskowski. Today Ms Godek is more “credible” on the issue and her fellow confederate Grzegorz Braun wants to punish gay people with flogging.
Even worse, the issue haunts PiS with the Church paedophilia scandal that the whole country talks about since it aired on Youtube two weeks ago. The issue demotivates the PiS electoral from showing on Sunday, most likely.
Is Trump’s America stubbing PiS in the back?
Law and Justice is unquestionably pro-American. Every visit of the Polish officials in Washington is reported with a fanfare in Poland. Earlier this year Poland hosted the US-sponsored anti-Iranian propaganda summit. A few weeks ago the Polish government purchased the HIMARS defence system. For the first time a major defence system like this has been purchased with no off-set financial system to make sure that some of the funds spend would be re-invested in Poland. President Trump is expected back in Poland for the celebration of the 80th anniversary of the start of World War 2, come 1 September.
Law and Justice is not anti-American. A few years ago the PiS government withdraw its anti-private TV station campaign (TVN) after the owner of TVN, the American company Discovery Inc., raised the issue with the US ambassador in Warsaw.
And now Confederacy runs protests against the Just Act-447.
Law and Justice tries not to be anti-Semitic and over the previous 18 months has failed in this regard a number of times. Every time the ruling party fails it tries to make amends. This is not as easy since the PiS electorate is unaware with the notion of ‘nuance’ and the Israelis, on their side, also use easy anti-Polish sentiments popular among some sectors of the society. At the same time the business links and tourism between Poland and Israel flourish. The Polish airline LOT offers flights to Israel from 5 airports in Poland.
Another important value PiS tries to use this spring against the European Coalition is freedom. Law and Justice argues that EC is anti-freedom since it wants to censor the Internet (the copyright directive)… Again, Confederacy is more ‘credible’ in defending the ‘freedom’ understood as anarchy and absence of rules. The champion of this topic is Janusz Korwin-Mikke, a leading face of the Confederacy.
Krzysztof Bosak, the Confederacy no. 1 in Warsaw on Thursday: “the climate package should be terminated as soon as possible by Poland”, “the government closes the mines”, “Public opinion is not told this is the fault of EU regulation”. The bad guys? PiS and the EU.
More of Mr Bosak on same sex unions: “We disagree for the EU to dictate to us the conditions. We will defend our cultural autonomy. In our opinion, there can be no consent for the EU to promote deviations and dictate our values. Europe is not multiculturalism and the blurring of our values. No one can censor us”.
If you are a conservative voter, you have a problem. Every time the populist government of Mr Mateusz Morawiecki and the populist party of Mr Jarosław Kaczyński procures a new ‘line to take’ on sovereignty, on LGBT, on Israel, on judges, on freedom, on the Church, on history, on economy, it is the Confederacy who can out-bet the ruling party, not the European Coalition.
The European Coalition survives the attacks from Law and Justice largely untouched. But by focusing on EC, PiS has allowed for the Confederacy to grow in popularity. Only in recent days the government proves how unprepared they are against the Confederacy attacks (especially on the Just Act-447).
Yet the main goal of the European Coalition is to win with Law and Justice. Will they? We shall know for sure only after 9 PM Sunday night. Their struggle has been largely with the consistency of the offer: united in diversity as they are, their may struggle is to remain attractive to a variety of voters, conservative, liberal, centrist and progressive as they may be, as long as they are democratic.
The EC has a liberal challenger, too. Robert Biedroń’s Wiosna, the Spring, has been showing a decent support in the recent weeks, of between 9 to 14%. Yet the last week of the campaign is not as positive for the party, mainly due to a niche-scandal-blown out of proportion about a leading Spring candidate getting rid of her dogs (she gave them away to a shelter; the animal right lovers are in shock). Some polls show Mr Biedroń’s party enjoys only as low as 6% of support. Still, the main messages of the Spring are: to end the dominance of two mega parties, to ‘energize’ the opposition on social issues, women’s rights, gay rights, secularisation of the state and decarbonisation of the Polish energy sector.
Let me play a prediction game. Following the polls and the trends and the public debate this is what I’d like to predict as an outcome (it is NOT a poll). I may be completely wrong, but this is my prediction:
- European Coalition 41% (the higher the turnout the better for EC)
- Law and Justice 29% (the higher the turnout the better for PiS)
- Spring 12% (the higher the turnout the better for the Spring)
- Confederacy 10% (the lower the turnout the better for Confederacy)
- Kukiz’15 4.5% (the lower the turnout the better for Kukiz’15)
- United Left 3%
- Others 0.5%
The overall turnout at 35%.