Poland Votes 2019: four days to go

In four days Poles will chose their Parliament. There are 460 seats in the Sejm and 100 Senate seats to grab. Five electoral committees are competing for the votes: Law and Justice (PiS) is the ruling party, the Civic Coalition (KO) is the centrist opposition, the Left is the progressive coalition, the Polish Coalition (KP) is the centre-right coalition and the Confederacy is on the alternative right flank.

Lech Wałęsa addresses the KO on Sunday

Wałęsa’s blows the KO’s chances

Since Sunday, 6 October, the campaign enters into its final week. On Sunday Lech Wałęsa, the legendary leader of the Solidarność trade union in 1980s and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate attends the final gathering of the Civic Coalition. From the stage Mr Wałęsa describes Kornel Morawiecki, who just died a few days go, as:


Lech Wałęsa on Kornel Morawiecki

Kornel Morawiecki (1930-2019) was an opposition activist during the Communism, who founded the Fighting Solidarity back in 1982. He was an MP 2015-19, and most importantly, his son is Mateusz Morawiecki, the Prime Minister and PiS golden boy.

Mr Morawiecki’s funeral is a state event. It takes place on Saturday. The KO’s final convention was initially scheduled for the same day. Out of respect to the PM’s father the event is postponed to Sunday. During the KO event speakers are respectful. Until Mr Wałęsa speaks.

Since the speech Mr Wałęsa witnesses a heavy criticism for being insensitive. Naturally he is criticised by the PiS supporters. Yet equally heavy criticism comes to him from the opposition forces.

It does not matter for the former President. He is known for believing he is always right. Still, under the heavy KO criticism on Tuesday Mr Wałęsa changes his mind. He no longer supports the KO. As of now he supports the centre-right Polish Coalition (KP). The KP is surprised, they say they did not seek Mr Wałęsa’s endorsement.

Kornel Morawiecki funeral

Biedroń’s a saviour, again

“Biedroń saves a kid from fire”, scream the headlines. Robert Biedroń is a co-leader of the Left coalition, alongside two other parties. Mr Biedroń’s original party is Wiosna (Spring), founded earlier this year. With Wiosna Mr Biedroń is elected MEP. Now, he campaigns for the entire Left, and for his life partner, who is a candidate for the Sejm in Wrocław.

Monday, 7 October, Mr Biedroń drives towards Warsaw. He sees an accident: a car is in flames on a side road. He stops to help. With his fire extinguisher he fights the flames before the fire brigade comes. They will praise him for it later. In the car there is a family with a 2 year old baby, the father takes them out of the dangerous car, looks for a good refuge for the kid… in Mr Biedroń’s car.

Mr Biedroń after the incident congratulates the fire brigade and says there is nothing heroic about his actions. Still, the attention this news gives him and the Left a few days before the vote, is invaluable.

The TVN debate: Leszczyna – Horała – Zandberg – Bosak – Kosiniak-Kamysz

The debate

Tuesday, 8 October, the TVN debate takes place. One of two TV debates these elections, it is poorly attended. Jarosław Kaczyński does not engage in debates since 2010. This was last time he was debating his opponents. He lost. Today his party is too powerful. There is nothing in a debate for him to win. There is too much in a debate for him to lose.

Hence PiS sends a no-name to the debate. Marcin Horała, a 38-year old MP tries to convey the party message: that the rules of the debate are unfair as he is “attacked” by the other four committees. He calls them “anti-PiS”. As one of the commentators will point out after the debate: to include Mr Horała in a debate is pointless, as his words are meaningless for the direction or the policy of the party. He does not call the shots in the party.

The KO sends a mid-ranking MP, too. Izabela Leszczyna is the only woman in the room. But if the KO wanted to send a lady, why didn’t they send the candidate for Prime Minister, Ms Kidawa-Błońska?

Or maybe the largest parties did not care about the debate as much as the smaller committees. Maybe it was an opportunity to promote the future frontrunners? To increase the chances of Ms Leszczyna to be elected and Mr Horała to become a minister?

The other committees send more relevant people. The Left’s Adrian Zandberg is one of the co-leaders of the progressive coalition. The KP’s key member, the PSL’s leader Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz came to the TV studio. The Confederacy’s Krzysztof Bosak is a leading face of his coalition.

And… they all did a pretty decent job. The conversation was on climate, energy, rule of law and economy, health care and the social policy. But it mattered not as much what they said: the true decision-makers were not in the room.

That is, unless Mr Zandberg and Mr Kosianiak-Kamysz play important roles next week.

PiS minister dies

Jan Szyszko dies on 9 October. On 8 October he speaks in a debate in Pruszków, just outside of Warsaw. There he voices his opposition to building new nurseries. According to the ex-minister the crèche system as the “heritage of the old system, Communism, and of the Civic Platform”. He conveys a traditionalist message that women’s place is not necessarily at work. “It is about the demographic security of our country”, he claims. The Polish society is ageing. He’d like his family to take care of him when he is older.

This will never come. Mr Szyszko, former environmental minister in three governments (1997-99, Buzek’s government, 2005-7, Kaczyński’s government, and 2015-18, Szydło/Morawiecki’s governments) dies unexpectedly at the age of 75. He will be remembered internationally as the black character in the Białowieża primeval forest battle. Locally in Warsaw he will be remembered for his opposition to the construction of the Warsaw’s Eastern road bypass. The road has been in planning for some twenty years.

With Jan Szyszko and Kornel Morawiecki gone in one week there is a strong signal of a generational transition in the Polish politics. The question is hanging about the future PiS leadership as Jarosław Kaczyński (70 years old) hints these could be his last general elections.

It is only Wednesday. Four more days until the big day.

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