The Irish Times view on Poland’s election: stability – at a huge cost

Recent courtroom wrangling between Warsaw and Brussels will soon enter its political endgame

In the eyes of the wily PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, securing enough seats for a second term would be his party’s just reward for a job well done. Photograph: Piotr Nowak/EPA

In the eyes of the wily PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, securing enough seats for a second term would be his party’s just reward for a job well done. Photograph: Piotr Nowak/EPA

 

In advance of Poland’s general election on Sunday, all opinion polls indicate the national conservative Law and Justice (PiS) will triumph with an even greater parliamentary majority than in 2015. In the eyes of the wily PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, securing enough seats for a second term would be his party’s just reward for a job well done.

Founded in 2001, PiS has delivered a stability Poland has longed for since the 1980s Gdansk shipyard protests against communist rule. The three decades of post-communist transition forced often brutal neo-liberal economic medicine on Poles and created a chaotic and emotional political culture where the split was often the only item on the agenda. PiS has ended all of that, with firm leadership and political promises delivered.

Its leftist welfare policies and conservative social policies have wrong-footed Poland’s statist left and free-market liberals. The PiS election sweetener in the last election – a 500zl (€115) child allowance – didn’t break the bank, as critics predicted. Instead it made a huge difference to the lives of millions of lower-income families. This election’s promise – a 2,600 zl (€600) minimum wage by 2020 – has been just as popular.

But Poland’s stability and success comes at a cost. PiS has polarised Polish public life to unprecedented levels by mastering fear-mongering and scapegoating: of Russians, Germans, Muslims, immigrants and their allies, and – in this campaign – the LGBT community. Its allies: a politicised Catholic clergy and a pliant state broadcaster. Kaczynski views a second term as a popular mandate to complete his self-styled patriotic transformation of Poland. Critics fear redoubled political efforts to bring the judiciary to heel and crack down on independent media.

Recent courtroom wrangling between Warsaw and Brussels will soon enter its political endgame. When this happens, Poland’s neighbours will have to choose: to remain sideline observers or intervene to defend non-negotiable principles of EU membership: the rule of law and separation of powers.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.