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Poland’s upcoming elections. Kaczynski’s party projected as favourite, but the Country is divided

Sunday October 13 Polish citizens will be called to vote for the renewal of their national Parliament. The ruling party (PiS) is projected to win popular consensus, while oppositions are divided. Election campaign issues, the bishops’ call for responsibility and appeal to vote

(Omar Marques/Getty Images)

A few days ahead of the national elections in Poland, scheduled for 13 October next, opinion polls unanimously give the victory to the current ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) led by Jarosław Kaczyński. Dr. Sławomir Sowiński, lecturer at the Institute of Political Science at Catholic University “Card. Stefan Wyszyński”, envisages problems with the formation of the future government if all five political groups in the country should pass the 5 per cent threshold of the Sejm (the lower house of the Polish Parliament with 460 deputies). In order to secure a majority government, PiS, projected to gain 40 to 44% of the vote, would have to win some 7 million votes (out of 30 million eligible voters). Four years ago, it gained 5.7 million votes, while improving its result in the European elections last May, with 6.2 million. In the run-up to national elections, Sowiński observes, PiS strategy requires “not only mobilizing its own electorate but above all reassuring that of its opponents, convincing them that not participating in the vote will not have disastrous consequences.” He explained: “should there be less than five parties in the Sejm, PiS is more likely to have the required majority to form the future cabinet alone.”

Ex-presidents’ appeal. “On 13th October we will not be facing ‘normal’ elections, rather, the vote will determine whether Poland will be a democratic country based on the rule of law or if it will continue to slip into an authoritarian dictatorship”, wrote former Heads of State Lech Wałęsa, Aleksander Kwaśniewski,  Bronisław Komorowski and numerous representatives of the world of culture and science on Sunday 29th September, calling on all political opponents to join forces to defeat the PiS-led group in the Senate (the Upper House of the Sejm with 100 senators).

Lights and shadows. Tomasz Terlikowski, renowned Catholic expert in Polish politics, is very critical of Kaczyński’s party despite the fact that the latter has repeatedly tried to be acknowledged as a defender of traditional values and went so far as to argue that “every Pole must be aware that outside the Church there is only nihilism that should be rejected, for it is utterly destructive”, a view from which the Polish episcopate has distanced itself. Terlikowski told SIR that in his view “PiS is not a conservative party, its only aim is power, a strong state and the reform of the judicial system”, he accuses the current political majority of “not having kept its promises with regard to the protection of the life of newborns, although it had the strength to uphold at least the law prohibiting abortion in the case of a diagnosis of Down’s syndrome in the newborn.” For Terlikowski, judicial reforms introduced by PiS (contested by EU institutions) led to the Constitutional Court “being totally devoid of any authority” while, despite Kaczynski’s “many fine words” in favour of families, his party did nothing to address the growing number of divorces when “divorce itself is a much more pressing problem than the LGBT ideology”, against which several members of the party are lashing out. However, while criticising Kaczynski, Terlikowski acknowledges that the former has put in place “a proper redistribution of public funds that benefits the poor”, adding that “despite the government’s determination not to implement pro-immigrant policies, over a million Ukrainians, Pakistanis and Hindus have settled in Poland in the last few years. For Terlikowski, the problem of immigration is a typical example of the “real issues” that are not being discussed as a result of the fact that there is “no normal right/left debate” in the country, hampered by social media aggressiveness.

“Economic crisis ahead.” Maciej Giertych, invited by John Paul II as auditor at the 1987 Synod on the vocation and mission of the laity in the Church and in the world, is even more critical of Kaczyński’s party. He foresees a new global economic crisis, and observes that “for Poland this crisis will be much more serious and will inevitably hit the most vulnerable.” The latter, “the poorest and less-educated social brackets”, are “captivated by public Television” that “spreads lies.”

Political opponents’ proposals. Opponents made several mistakes considering that in a democratic system such as the Polish one these mistakes led to the present political unbalance in favour of Kaczyński’s party. But in order to resolve this situation, it won’t be enough for the Civic Platform coalition (Po, the former party of European Council President Donald Tusk), for some centre-left parties and the Greens to support Małgorzata Kidawa Błońska as head of government, with a programme that prioritises the legalisation of de facto couples, the financing of assisted fertilisation and anaesthesia during childbirth, the liberalisation of the sale of contraceptives and sex education in schools.

“Church taxation”. The Democratic Left (SLD), together with two other parties – Robert Biedroń’s Wiosna and Razem (that proposed to introduce a flat tax rate in Poland) – in addition to above-mentioned proposals of the Po coalition, suggests to “tax the Church”, and to “establish a secular State”, despite the fact that the Polish constitution guarantees State equanimity in religious matters, and to eliminate the teaching of religion from school curricula.

Other coalitions. “Unite the Poles” is the slogan of the coalition formed by the People’s Party (Psl) and Kukiz’15 who have hitherto supported the Kaczyński government. This political group opposes the “growing tensions” in the public debate, and is against the “provocations of LGBT movements” that “hurt the feelings of believers and lead to the desecration of Catholic religious symbols.” They voice opposition also against “the growing aggressiveness of the extreme right environments.” The “Freedom and Sovereignty” political group of a national-popular nature, that during the election campaign promptly criticized the ruling majority for “not having fought more effectively the LGBT ideology”, could be another potential partner of the future PiS government, should the party be forced to seek alliances.

The words of the bishops. “Moral righteousness, political and civil competence, testimony of family life” are the main features of the ideal candidate in the upcoming elections indicated by the president of the Polish bishops in a message released over the past few days in view of the vote of 13 October. While recognising “the legitimacy of diversity of opinions” among Catholics, Msgr. Stanislaw Gadecki points out that “pluralism is not moral relativism.” Thus Catholics “cannot support programs that support abortion, try to redefine the institution of marriage, or attempt to limit parents’ rights in the context of their responsibilities in children’s education.” Moreover, Mons. Gadecki wrote, Catholic voters “should not choose a candidate who expresses opinions that are morally unsustainable and politically dangerous.” The prelate, encouraging Polish voters’ participation in the upcoming elections, stressed that “nothing, other than exceptional circumstances, can justify the absence of Catholics in matters of public life”, with the hope that the last stage of the election campaign will be “not a time of struggle for power but a time of fruitful debate for the good of the country, along the path of its integral development.”

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