4th Mar 2024


Gloves off, as Polish ruling party fights for power

  • Polish ruling party chairman Jarosław Kaczyński (l) (Photo:
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Poland's ruling party has swerved even further right as elections approach, auguring badly for EU relations.

In its latest campaign stunt, the Law and Justice (PiS) party turned against Ukrainians in order to appeal to nationalist and rural voters.

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Polish social services have been taking care of some 1.5m Ukrainian refugees, fuelling tension with less well-off Poles. Polish farmers are unhappy about cheap Ukrainian grain.

And on Wednesday (20 September) PiS prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki jumped on a soundbite by Ukrainian president Volodomyr Zelensky at the UN General Assembly in New York to make a noisy show of putting Polish interests first.

Poland wouldn't deliver any new arms to Ukraine, Morawiecki suddenly declared, because of Zelensky's ingratitude, after Zelensky had spoken of Poland's "political theatre" on grain imports.

Morawiecki's words went around the world, making headlines in the BBC, CNN, and CNBC broadcasters, as a potential crisis in Western unity.

Poland's PiS-allied president Andrzej Duda also declined to meet Zelensky in New York and called Ukraine a "drowning person".

The Poles reassured the EU and US that nothing had really changed in their strategic front against Russian aggression.

But the fact PiS was willing to Ukraine-bash to win votes showed the nastiness of the political landscape ahead of Polish elections on 15 October.

PiS was "stabbing Ukraine in the back politically ... just because it will be profitable for their campaign," said Polish opposition leader and former prime minister Donald Tusk.

The nationalist-populist PiS is leading Tusk's centre-right Civic Coalition party by nine points in the polls, with the far-right Konfederacja party, known for still harder anti-Ukrainian jingoism, in third place.

PiS has ruled Poland for eight years of ever-worse EU relations.

Poland is under an EU sanctions procedure and has had billions in European funds withheld over accusations that PiS seized control of Poland's judiciary.

PiS has a record of anti-EU and anti-German propaganda and racist, homophobic, and misogynistic rhetoric.

The party's devouring chairman, Jarosław Kaczyński, also has a Roman Catholic vision of Polish society, in which women face a near-total abortion ban and some PiS-loyal municipalities call themselves "LGBT-free Zones".

And if the run-up to election day is anything to go by, those tendencies are only getting worse.

Kaczyński began campaigning in August by accusing the EU of plotting to stop Poles from mushroom-foraging — a cherished national pastime.

He personally starred in a fictional video-clip on 11 September in which he snubbed German chancellor Olaf Scholz by refusing to take his phone call.

And his defence minister, Mariusz Błaszczak, on 17 September published a secret Polish military map, claiming Tusk would have let Russians massacre Polish people in three towns if they invaded on his watch.

Military analysts said Błaszczak had betrayed Nato military secrets in doing so.

"The level of viciousness and irresponsibility [in the PiS campaign] is so high that it's robbed them them of their minds," said PiS-critic and former Polish president Aleksander Kwaśniewski.

'Fuck Tusk'

"Their whole idea is … fuck Tusk," Kwaśniewski said. "It's both funny and scary," he added.

Kaczyński is also holding a referendum on the same day as the general election, using language designed to stoke anti-EU sentiment.

"Do you support the admission of thousands of illegal immigrants from the Middle East and Africa, in accordance with the forced relocation mechanism imposed by the European bureaucracy?," the referendum is to ask.

And Polish Roman Catholic bishops have published a "Catholic's electoral vademecum [handbook]", whose preferred party is clear.

Voters should take into account their conscience on the "right to life" of unborn babies and on the rights of families, defined as a monogamous marriage between people of opposite sex, the vademecum says.

PiS shot itself in the foot on 15 September when it came out that Polish consular officials had been issuing hundreds if not thousands of EU-entry visas in return for bribes for people from as far afield as India, some of whom traveled on to the US.

Kaczyński's party prides itself as being tough on immigration.

But the European Commission and Berlin have sought clarifications on who the Polish bribery scheme let through, shining a pre-electoral spotlight on the PiS faceplant.

PiS deputy foreign minister Paweł Jabłoński had replied to the commission's questionnaire on the visa scandal, an EU spokeswoman said in Brussels on Friday.

But "we do not consider the reply is answering sufficiently" the concerns raised, she added, with a new EU deadline for a follow-up PiS reply on 3 October that is likely to make Kaczyński angrier still.


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