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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » November 25, 2011
Politics & Society
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PiS Splits
November 25, 2011   
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Law and Justice (PiS), Poland’s largest opposition party, has split after it expelled its deputy leader Zbigniew Ziobro and two other European deputies for criticizing party leader Jarosław Kaczyński. A number of Ziobro’s party colleagues protested the expulsion by setting up a parliamentary club independent of PiS. As a result, all of them were also expelled from the party.

“The Political Committee of PiS decided Nov. 14 to expel members of the Solidarna Polska parliamentary group from the party,” said Adam Hofman, spokesman for PiS. Solidarna Polska chief Arkadiusz Mularczyk said that given the situation a new center-right party would be formed. Mularczyk added he did not fear that the new group, set up on Nov. 7, would break apart. He said everyone in the group had taken a well-thought-out decision based on solidarity with the European deputies expelled from PiS: Zbigniew Ziobro, Jacek Kurski and Tadeusz Cymański.

The first signal of a crisis within the right-wing opposition was the series of interviews given by Ziobro, Kurski and Cymański after the Oct. 9 parliamentary elections which PiS lost. The three politicians criticized the “authoritarian and dictatorial” rule of PiS leader Kaczyński, the election campaign he had approved and the work of the PiS election campaign staff. What added weight to their criticism was that Ziobro, a former justice minister in the coalition government comprising PiS, Samoobrona and the League of Polish Families in 2005-2007, had contributed to PiS’s greatest election successes. He defeated Civic Platform (PO) politicians several times in his home city of Cracow and scored the best result for PiS in the 2009 European parliamentary elections. Kurski, for his part, was one of the architects of PiS’s successful election campaign in 2005.

The consequences were quick in coming. First, the PiS authorities proposed what they called a compromise—Ziobro, Kurski and Cymański were to retract their remarks and give up their party posts in exchange for being allowed to remain in the party ranks. Ziobro was deputy leader of PiS and Kurski a member of the party’s Political Council. After the three rejected the proposal, saying it was not much of a compromise, they were invited to a meeting with Karol Karski, responsible for disciplinary proceedings in PiS. After the meeting, held on Nov. 4, it was announced that the three politicians had been expelled from PiS by a decision of its Political Committee, with 22 of the committee’s 26 members voting for the expulsion of Ziobro and Kurski and 21 voting for the expulsion of Cymański.

“I am utterly surprised with this drastic decision,” Ziobro said after the meeting. He added he wanted to meet face-to-face with Kaczyński but the proposal was rejected.

Soon after expulsion from PiS, on the day the Solidarna Polska parliamentary group was formed, Ziobro, Kurski and Cymański wrote an open letter to Kaczyński, demanding that a congress of PiS should be convened. “We expect a positive response from you to the proposal of setting as early a date as possible for the Statute and Policy Congress, a congress at which our party would analyze our defeats and make changes, paving the way for the victory we want. We believe you are ready to be open to credible action to achieve changes needed within the party, changes through which the Polish right wing will appeal to the hearts and minds of Polish people and will start winning at last,” reads a letter attached to Ziobro, Kurski and Cymański’s appeal to the Political Committee against their expulsion from PiS. In their letter, the European deputies wrote that the illegal, as they put it, decision of the Political Committee led to a division within the Polish right wing. “It is sad that instead of undertaking a serious debate on how to reform PiS and what to do for Law and Justice to become a stronger organization, one better organized and able to win elections despite external constraints, you are expelling from the party people who have served it well,” they wrote, repeating accusations that Kaczyński’s main focus was to ensure that his personal power in the party is not undermined.

“In the short run, there will be some turbulence in surveys, there will be some confusion among the center-right electorate, but in the long run everything will get back to normal,” PiS spokesman Hofman said, commenting on the departure of Ziobro’s supporters. He argued that Ziobro stood no chance of defeating Kaczyński and becoming leader of the Polish right wing. Hofman pointed to other attempts to split PiS by former parliamentary speaker Marek Jurek and his Right Wing of the Republic party and a group of politicians who formed the Poland Comes First (PJN) caucus. Both suffered a severe defeat at the polls. According to Hofman, Ziobro and Kurski’s chances of forming a new right-wing party are very slim.
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