The first Polish opposition party collapses – POLITICO
WARSAW – Poland’s biggest opposition party, the Centrist Civic Coalition (KO), is in crisis, with top politicians in Warsaw and Brussels, leaders in disarray and the party crater in the polls.
And it is all the fault of Poland’s recent vote to ratify the € 750 billion European pandemic relief program.
The ruling right-wing coalition, led by the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, was desperate to push through the legislation – but needed votes from the opposition to do so. KO hoped to form a united bloc that would overthrow the government and lead to early parliamentary elections. Instead, the left-wing party broke ranks and lent its support to the government in return for a series of promises.
Now KO has been left to hand – he has failed to kick PiS out and is trying to explain why he refrained from voting for the massive and popular relief program. This is a difficult message to convey to supporters of the strongly pro-EU party.
“You are not playing political games aimed at hitting or even overthrowing the government when billions are at stake for your country and the EU,” said Aleks Szczerbiak, University of Sussex political scientist and longtime observer. date of Polish policy. . “In the end, KO had the worst of both worlds as a result. They haven’t hurt PiS, nor have they come out in favor of the stimulus fund. “
The PiS now faces fractured opposition and is in pole position for the 2023 elections, meaning long-standing tensions between Brussels and Warsaw are unlikely to ease anytime soon.
KO – which is formed by a party called the Civic Platform with a host of small add-ons – is hammered in opinion polls, falling to 17%. It’s a humiliation for Civic Platform, a party created by former Prime Minister and President of the European Council Donald Tusk, who ruled Poland from 2007 to 2015.
PiS, on the other hand, has stabilized at 36%, even after its popularity was dented by the pandemic. Now the ruling party is seeking to strengthen its position by announcing the “Polish Deal”, a plan to overhaul the tax system coupled with increased spending on health care and infrastructure. It aims to build support among the party’s main low-income voters.
Meanwhile, KO leader Borys Budka is being criticized for his lack of charisma and failure to come up with an attractive election platform that would challenge the PiS.
“This is the fate of all opposition: instead of complicated plots, the way forward is slow organic planning until a political opportunity presents itself and things start to change very quickly,” Szczerbiak said. .
Confusion in the ranks
Budka ousted two MPs who openly criticized the party leadership in media interviews – Paweł Zalewski, a former MEP, and Ireneusz Raś. On Wednesday, the two men were removed from their committee functions in the Polish parliament.
“When your support is 30% and you kick someone out, it has a disciplinary effect. But if your support is 12 percent, the effect is demoralizing, ”Zalewski Told the weekly Polityka of May 18, referring to a particularly poor poll result.
Róża Thun, a prominent MEP for the party, resigned on Monday, citing confusion over the pandemic relief program.
“I do not agree that badly run cross-party games will come at the expense of projects aimed at supporting hundreds of millions of European citizens, including Polish citizens, during the crisis”, Thun mentionned in a report.
“We have not even participated in the party’s discussions on the stimulus fund, which is surprising given that we are at the heart of where it was decided,” Thun told POLITICO, adding: “I felt that I had no influence. [in the party], yet I had to take responsibility for it.
The disarray in KO benefits a new party called Poland 2050, formed by former talk show host Szymon Hołownia. He is polled at 23% and several KO deputies have already joined his ranks.
KO and PiS have dominated Polish politics for decades, so the new Hołownia grouping is attractive to people looking for change.
“[KO is] still closely associated with a government that people got rid of in 2015, giving power to PiS. Poland 2050 does not have this problem, ”Szczerbiak said.
Make the case
Budka says he is rebuilding party support, story Sunday’s Rzeczpospolita newspaper: “We are working on our future actions, our spring offensive and a plan to meet people all over the country.” Its vision is “as much state as necessary and as much civil society as possible”, where local authorities, government and citizens work hand in hand instead of fighting.
Budka also rejected the knockout slide in the polls.
“We went through this once, in 2016, but we rebuilt ourselves,” he said.
Szczerbiak stressed that the party still has “too many assets to write off them. It has structure, money and controls a large part of local government. It is still the largest opposition group in the Polish parliament in terms of number of deputies and senators. “
Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of the PiS and de facto ruler of Poland, is reluctant to rule out his former rivals.
“I would never say that the fate of Civic Platform is determined,” he said. mentionned Wednesday. “I had my own experience – I was in the political grave several times and I was resurrected in one way or another.