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The Warsaw Voice » From the News Editor » September 30, 2011
From the News Editor
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Ballot Box Brain Teaser
September 30, 2011   
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This month, most readers will have a colossal advantage over us. This edition of our monthly magazine hit the newsstands at the beginning of October and will be on sale until the end of the month. Those who read it after Oct. 9 will know the answers to some of the questions we were asking as we went to print. But probably not all the answers. At the time of writing, the election arithmetic had changed markedly following some surprising opinion poll results.

A few weeks earlier it had seemed that the only unknown in the Oct. 9 parliamentary elections would be the extent of the ruling Civic Platform (PO) party’s victory. The PO was a comfortable 18-20 percentage points ahead of the opposition Law and Justice (PiS) party. But within two weeks or so the PO’s ratings dropped several points while those of PiS rose by the same amount. As a result, PiS pulled back to within 10-12 points of the PO, while polls carried out for the opposition put the gap at 5-6 points.

In the shadow of this struggle, the remaining parties were either worrying about whether they would make it into parliament at all, or readying plans to present themselves as a coalition partner to whoever won the elections. The Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) appeared to be suffering a slump, with surveys showing its ratings dropping from 15-16 to 11-12 percent. Moreover, the position of SLD leader Grzegorz Napieralski was weakening steadily. The young politician, who performed well in the presidential election last year, winning more than 14 percent of the vote and coming third, found himself under fire from many in his own party, including prominent politicians of the older generation. The older SLD politicians were not hiding their dislike of Napieralski, who in his own constituency in the northwestern city of Szczecin was in third place, supported by only 6 percent of the electorate. The fact that Bartosz Ar³ukowicz, a former SLD politician who defected to the PO a few months ago, led the popularity ratings in Szczecin added spice to the election battle. Many said that a defeat would mean the end of Napieralski as party leader.

The Polish People’s Party (PSL), up to now the PO’s junior partner in the ruling coalition, hovered around the minimum 5 percent level of voter support needed to make it into parliament. But those predicting the disappearance of the PSL from the lower house and forecasting a new parliament comprising only three parties needed to remember that in almost every election after 1989, the PSL’s result was better than predicted.

The situation of the Palikot Support Movement (RPP) was unclear. In recent weeks, it seemed to be doomed to defeat. But recent surveys have shown voter support for the grouping more than tripling to over 4 percent. Was this just the short-term result of a concerted media campaign—Janusz Palikot seems to never be out of a TV studio these days—or a signal indicating that some voters would like to see a new, radical party in parliament? It was hard to say.

Finally, there is the PJN party, set up by dissidents who defected from PiS. Many predicted a bright future for the new party, even seeing it as a coalition partner. However, the PJN’s ratings have recently been close to the margin of statistical error, while deputies belonging to the party smiled sadly when asked by reporters how it would feel to watch the workings of parliament from the outside.

Witold ¯ygulski
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