segunda-feira, 11 de janeiro de 2016
PiS partisans to Polish critics: Up yours
PiS partisans to Polish critics: Up yours
Meet Law and Justice’s core electorate.
By JAN CIENSKI 1/12/16, 5:30 AM CET
WARSAW — The new Polish government is getting a lot of bad press abroad and is coming under growing pressure at home — but this isn’t the place to hear those views.
On Sunday, for the 69th month in a row, a crowd gathered in front of the Polish president’s palace to commemorate the April 10, 2010 plane crash that killed President Lech Kaczyński and 95 others.
They are the most loyal supporters of the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS), people who month after month, year after year, have shown up in central Warsaw to show their support for PiS and their disdain for the centrist Civic Platform party that ruled Poland until elections in late October.
While the new Law and Justice government’s actions — including steps that critics say will hobble the Constitutional Tribunal, bring the public media under tighter government control and politicize the civil service — create rising concern, among the demonstrators there is nothing but praise for the government.
“This government talks to the people, the previous one didn’t,” said Wincenty Seroczyński, a retired teacher. “I think that what they’ve done so far is fantastic. The public media wasn’t really pluralistic. Their other promises are very good as well.”
Seroczyński approvingly reeled off some of the government’s key economic pledges. The idea of paying 500 zlotys (€116) a month per child for families with two or more children is “hugely important because Poland is depopulating.” Hiking taxes on banks and big shops makes sense because, “most of them aren’t Polish and they’ve been sucking money out of the country.”
“I want a free country — and for the Germans to shut up and keep their noses out of our business” — Magdalena Zalewska
“I want a free country — and for the Germans to shut up and keep their noses out of our business,” said Magdalena Zalewska, a retired civil servant.
Both Zalewska and Seroczyński are regulars at the monthly commemorations. That makes them a core part of Law and Justice’s electorate, a group that isn’t at all shaken by the controversies surrounding the party’s first few months in power.
“This part of the electorate hasn’t gone away and won’t go away,” said Marek Migalski, a political scientist at the Silesian University in Katowice and a former Law and Justice-backed MEP. “There is no alternative for them besides PiS. They are getting what they want: 500 zlotys per child, a tax on the ‘banksters’ and national pride versus Germany.”
In the October 25 parliamentary election, Law and Justice took 37.6 percent of the vote, enough for an outright majority in parliament — the first time any party has done that since 1989. It won in part by appealing to a more centrist electorate dissatisfied with eight years of Civic Platform rule.
But the government’s recent actions have stirred up strong opposition. A day earlier, as many as 20,000 people demonstrated in front of the public television offices in Warsaw, complaining about the new media law.
A government under attack
The growing controversy dogging the administration, which has also come under fire from senior EU officials and NGOs, is scaring away some of the lukewarm centrist voters who backed PiS last October. A new survey shows PiS with only 27 percent support.
That’s the level the party has maintained for close to a decade, thanks in large part to people like those who braved the chilly Warsaw winter to demonstrate Sunday.
The party’s core backers tend to be older, poorer, more religious, more overtly patriotic and often from smaller towns that have done less well out of Poland’s quarter century of economic transformation than the big cities, said Norbert Maliszewski, a political scientist at the University of Warsaw.
They have been joined by younger voters, often more nationalistic than those in their 30s and 40s. “I see that among the students in my classes,” said Migalski.
“I see good changes. They’re working for the soul of the nation,” said a bearded man holding a Polish flag, his young son at his side. He refused to give his name.
While the flightiest voters may have gone, the government still commands relatively deep support among almost a third of the electorate.
Marcin Gromnicki, the owner of an outdoor advertising business, was a little disturbed by some of the more abrasive methods used by the government, but generally approved of the direction of travel.
“I’d prefer it to be calmer, but I understand why they’re acting so quickly,” he said by telephone. “The government only has three to six months to make changes, otherwise they run into a wall of bureaucratic resistance. If you don’t move fast, it quickly becomes too late.”
He was particularly approving of steps the government says it plans to take to bolster Polish businesses, especially smaller ones.
“The role of the state is crucial,” he said. “We need state support, and not pure market liberalism.”
The charismatic leader
Tax rates and state intervention in the economy were far from the minds of the several hundred people gathered in front of the presidential palace when Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of PiS, twin brother of the dead president, and by most accounts the country’s most powerful politician, made an appearance.
As chants of “Jarosław! Jarosław!” rang out, the party leader gave the crowd what they were looking for.
He hinted that the full truth about the Smolensk crash is still unknown — much of the party rank-and-file believes it wasn’t an accident, as investigators have determined, but that it was an assassination plot probably steered from Moscow.
He then blasted Germans, and in particular European Parliament President Martin Schulz, for criticizing the changes in Poland. “No pressure and hollering, no words, especially those which should never come from a German’s lips, will turn us from this path,” he said to cheers from the crowd. “We will make Poles happy.”
“We’ve finally won,” said retired teacher Seroczyński, as he observed the presidential palace, now occupied by Andrzej Duda, the PiS-backed president, and the two ramrod-straight soldiers deployed to the monthly commemoration by Antoni Macierewicz, the PiS defense minister. “We’re gotten our country back. Poland is rising from its knees.”