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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » November 30, 2010
PiS Going to Pieces?
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PiS Going to Pieces?
November 30, 2010   
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The expulsion of several members of the opposition Law and Justice (PiS) by its leadership threatens to split the party in two. Several current and former deputies and members of the European Parliament founded a new, rival grouping Nov. 16 in a move that could lead to the emergence of a new political party.

Somewhat provocatively, the new association named itself Polska Jest Najważniejsza (Poland Comes First)—PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński’s catchy campaign slogan in the recent presidential election.

The founding of the group was announced at a press conference by Joanna Kluzik-Rostkowska, the coordinator of Kaczyński’s presidential campaign, who was recently expelled from PiS along with deputy Elżbieta Jakubiak, who was also at the briefing. They were joined by Sejm deputies Paweł Poncyljusz, Tomasz Dudziński and Lena D±bkowska-Cichocka and European Parliament deputies Adam Bielan, Michał Kamiński and Paweł Kowal, all PiS members. Also among the founding members was Marek Migalski, an independent Eurodeputy after being expelled from PiS.

During the press conference, Kluzik-Rostkowska said the association named itself “Poland Comes First” because “eight million Polish people liked the idea of a new opening in Polish politics that was presented in Kaczyński’s campaign.”

While running for president, Kaczyński portrayed himself as a calm and level-headed politician who tried not to attack his opponents and proposed dialogue instead. But soon after he lost the second round to Bronisław Komorowski of the Civic Platform (PO), the senior coalition party, Kaczyński switched back to his usual, confrontational style. He has been since getting increasingly radical, to the point where a political dialogue is out of question, as are any contacts between PiS and PO.

Thrown out
Given the situation, the future was sealed for PiS politicians regarded as liberals. In early November, the PiS Political Committee unanimously expelled Kluzik-Rostkowska and Jakubiak for “acting to the detriment of PiS and violating the party’s statutes.” According to the two deputies, the decision was incomprehensible and showed the party was “incapable of holding an internal debate.” Mariusz Błaszczak, the head of the PiS caucus, said the Political Committee decided to expel the two because of what they told the media, which during the local election campaign “led to a damaging debate on relations within the party.”

Several days later, European Parliament deputy Kamiński said he was expecting to be expelled from the party as well, because he refused to give party authorities an account of a meeting he had with Kluzik-Rostkowska. Appearing on a popular political show on the TVN24 private news channel, an emotional Kamiński said all the money in the world could not turn him into an informer.

Kamiński, Kluzik-Rostkowska, Jakubiak and Poncyljusz, who for weeks had been telling the media about the difficult situation in PiS, were also criticized by Zbigniew Ziobro, a deputy in the European Parliament and a popular minister of justice in the PiS government of 2005-2007. Regarded as the second most important figure in PiS, Ziobro said that back in August, certain Polish Eurodeputies were planning on “changing the conception of PiS or creating something new.” Kamiński, Bielan and Kowal immediately denied ever intending to cause a split the party. Jakubiak and Kluzik-Rostkowska later said the same, but their statements changed after the formation of Poland Comes First.

“I suppose the next step is to set up a caucus in the parliament,” Jakubiak told TVN24. “Nobody is forcing anyone into anything. It is up to individual deputies to decide if they want to continue standing under a wall and throwing cudgels at opponents, or if they would rather engage in an actual conversation.”

Analysts skeptical
Analysts are skeptical about the group’s future. While they do not deny there is a “liberal wing” in PiS, political scientists say PiS owes its success mainly to the charisma and popularity of Kaczyński and his twin brother Lech, the president of Poland in 2005-2010 who died in the air crash in Smolensk in April. Recent history provides plenty of evidence of the failures of all previous projects undertaken by party activists who had parted ways with PiS in one way or another. Neither ex-lower House Speaker Marek Jurek nor former Interior Minister Ludwik Dorn has succeeded with their own groupings, and both used to be far more popular than Kluzik-Rostkowska, Poncyljusz, Bielan or Kowal are now.

The founding members of Polska Jest Najważniejsza speak cautiously of their future as well. “The future depends on the public response,” said Migalski, who prior to becoming a deputy in the European Parliament was a popular political scientist. “If the public still feels contented watching the war between PiS and PO, our association will only get to take care of things of less-than-secondary importance. We need public support to be able to take care of affairs of primary importance. When that happens, it will be worth considering transforming into a political party.”
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