We use cookies to make sure our website better meets your expectations.
You can adjust your web browser's settings to stop accepting cookies. For further information, read our cookie policy.
IN Warsaw
Exchange Rates
Warsaw Stock Exchange - Indices
The Warsaw Voice » Politics » February 25, 2011
You have to be logged in to use the ReadSpeaker utility and listen to a text. It's free-of-charge. Just log in to the site or register if you are not registered user yet.
Gov’t Losing Support as Election Looms
February 25, 2011   
Article's tools:

Less than eight months before the parliamentary elections, the governing center-right Civic Platform (PO) party is beginning to lose its comfortable lead over the conservative Law and Justice (PiS), the main opposition group. Support for the left-wing opposition Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) has been yo-yoing, while some newly formed groups are struggling to reach the 5 percent voter support threshold needed to enter parliament.

The current composition of the Polish parliament was determined in the wake of the October 21, 2007 elections, which ended in the victory of the PO. The party gained 45.43 percent of the vote, ahead of PiS, with 36.09 percent, the Left and Democrats (LiD) election coalition, with 11.52 percent, and the Polish People’s Party, with 6.74 percent. The PO won 209 seats in parliament, PiS 166, LiD 53, and the PSL 31.

As a result of the election, the PO-PSL coalition was formed, which continues to govern the country under the leadership of Prime Minister Donald Tusk. For a long time, the PO’s position in the polls was unchallenged. There were months when up to 55 percent of those polled declared an intention to vote for the PO. It seemed that the ruling party was guaranteed another four years in power—an unprecedented feat in the history of Poland’s young democracy. After the collapse of communism in 1989, no governing coalition managed to stay in power for a consecutive parliamentary term. Prime Minister Tusk has repeatedly said in interviews that there is no one who could defeat his party in an election. His words have been confirmed several times. In the European Parliament elections on June 7, 2009, the PO won 50 percent of the seats, while PiS secured 30 percent, the leftists 14 percent, and the PSL 6 percent. The PO’s presidential candidate, Bronisław Komorowski, defeated PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński in the second round of the presidential elections July 4, 2010, thus ensuring an absolute grip on power for the PO. Finally, the local elections on Nov. 21/Dec. 6, 2010 resulted in the PO winning 40 percent of the seats in provincial assemblies, compared with 25 percent for the Law and Justice, 17 percent for the PSL and 15 percent for the Democratic Left Alliance.

But in recent months the approval ratings of both the government and the PO have plunged. A survey by the Homo Homini polling company, commissioned by state broadcaster Polish Radio, shows that if parliamentary elections had been held on the first weekend of February, the Civic Platform would have garnered 34.1 percent of the vote, Law and Justice 27.7 percent, the Democratic Left Alliance 15.3 percent, and the Polish People’s Party 7.4 percent.

Poland Comes First (PJN), a party formed by a splinter group of former members of PiS, would have won 6.7 percent. The Palikot Support Movement-Modern Poland, a group founded by controversial businessman and PO deputy Janusz Palikot, was supported by a paltry 2 percent of respondents. Other parties did not cross the 1 percent mark.

Meanwhile, in a survey by the CBOS Public Opinion Research Center that was carried out at around the same time, 38 percent of respondents expressed their support for the government of Prime Minister Tusk, while 30 percent disapproved of the government and 27 percent were undecided. Compared with December, support for the government fell 3 percentage points. The number of opponents rose by 4 points, and the number of those undecided fell by 2 points.

Forty-four percent of respondents (down by 4 points) said they were satisfied with the prime minister’s performance, while 40 percent (an increase of 3 points) said they were dissatisfied; 16 percent were undecided.

Fifty-one percent of respondents (up 6 points) said the government is unlikely to improve the economy, while 33 percent of those surveyed (down 7 points) expressed their approval of the government’s economic policies.

According to political scientist Aleksander Smolar, “the PO’s showing is a warning signal that the disenchantment of many voters is structural, not a passing phase.”

Analysts looking for the causes behind the government’s declining approval ratings are mentioning four key factors. The key factor is what critics describe as the government’s inadequate reaction to a report by Russian aviation inspectors examining the causes of the April 10, 2010 crash of Poland’s presidential plane near Russia’s Smolensk airport. The opposition at home has lambasted Tusk and his aides for a belated response to the report—as a result of which the Russian version of the events was widely reported internationally, while Poland’s version was not. The Russian report blames the Polish pilots and their supervisors for the tragedy.

Another frequently mentioned factor behind the PO’s falling ratings is the government’s plan to reduce contributions to private Open Pension Funds (OFEs) in a move that would benefit the state Social Insurance Institution (ZUS). Critics argue that this plan aims to bring about a temporary improvement in the state budget at the expense of the painstakingly reformed pension system.

The government may have also lost some of its support during parliamentary debates on the opposition’s push for the dismissal of Defense Minister Bogdan Klich and Infrastructure Minister Cezary Grabarczyk. Klich was accused of neglect that contributed to the Smolensk tragedy and an earlier crash in which a group of senior air force commanders were killed in a CASA military airplane. Grabarczyk was blamed for rail transportation problems after a wave of subzero temperatures and heavy snowfall hit the country late last year and at the start of this year.

In another survey, by the MillwardBrown SMG/KRC polling center, respondents were asked why they support the Civic Platform. Fifty-six percent of those polled said the main reason is that they are afraid that PiS could return to power; 48 percent said they liked the PO’s style in policymaking; 30 percent mentioned the party’s ability to form and maintain the governing coalition; 28 percent said they approved of the PO’s long-term vision of the country’s development; 28 percent praised the party’s political platform; and 27 percent mentioned the party’s economic program. Eleven percent of respondents said that they liked the PO’s consistency in carrying out its election promises.

Respondents appear mainly motivated not by enthusiasm for the PO’s track record, but by the desire to ward off a repetition of the 2005-2007 scenario, when Poland was governed by PiS in coalition with the radical Samoobrona (Self-Defense) party, led by Andrzej Lepper, and the nationalist League of Polish Families (LPR), led by Roman Giertych. Today Samoobrona and the LPR are no longer in parliament and play a marginal role in Polish politics after suffering a series of election defeats.

Commenting on the results of the polls, parliamentary Speaker Grzegorz Schetyna, who is considered to be number two in the PO and a rival to Tusk in terms of influence in the party, said that the “anti-PiS fuel” which allowed the PO to govern comfortably for many months is running out.

But Rafał Grupiński, vice-chairman of the PO’s parliamentary caucus, said that there is still no alternative to the PO in Polish politics. “In terms of further development and modernization of the country, there is no better scenario than a second term in power for the PO-PSL coalition,” Grupiński said.
© The Warsaw Voice 2010-2018
E-mail Marketing Powered by SARE