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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » March 29, 2012
Politics & Society
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First 100 Days
March 29, 2012   
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The coalition government of the Civic Platform (PO) and the Polish People’s Party (PSL) Feb. 25 marked 100 days in office since winning a historic second term in power, taking the opportunity to turn the spotlight on what the prime minister and his allies described as their successes.

The opposition, however, lambasted the government for what it said were a string of failures.

“We managed to keep to a course that is safe for Poland in economic and financial terms,” Prime Minister Donald Tusk said at a press conference. “This period was complex and full of tension. With a major contribution from Poland, we managed to save Europe from splintering. It is worth assessing these 100 days with as much care as possible, separating real problems from the noise and people’s irritation with minor issues.”

Tusk added that, contrary to earlier projections, all indicators show that the Polish economy has performed well amid the crisis. “Production is on the rise as are wages. We are still considered to be a relatively stable economy, with a chance of high growth,” he said.

On the other hand, Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of the opposition Law and Justice (PiS) party, said, “This 100 days, or 1,600 days to be exact [including the coalition government’s first term in office in 2007-2011] was an exceptional failure. Kaczyński’s party, the second strongest in parliament, argues that Poland is heading for an early election because the crisis will deepen so much that the government coalition will lose control of the situation. But few politicians outside PiS consider this scenario to be realistic.

A plan to increase the retirement age from 60 to 67 for women and from 65 to 67 for men is one of the key reforms Tusk promised in his November policy speech. On Feb. 14 Tusk presented a draft law increasing the retirement age and announced the beginning of consultations on the matter with social partners. This, however, will be the most difficult hurdle for the ruling coalition to get over.

“The government’s plan to increase the retirement age seems to be one of its most controversial decisions today,” said Kaczyński, who was Poland’s prime minister in 2006-2007. “So far the government has not presented any reliable analyses or calculations that would indicate clearly that it would really be beneficial for the Polish people to be required to work for so long.”

Trade unions also oppose the proposal that the retirement age should be increased. Protest campaigns led by the Solidarity trade union are scheduled to begin in early spring. “If the parliament and government reject the proposal for a referendum supported by the union and most opposition parties, Solidarity members will take to the streets to fight against the disastrous ideas of those in power, ideas that are harmful to workers,” said Solidarity leader Piotr Duda.

On the international front, in the first 100 days of his second term the prime minister has mainly focused on ensuring that Poland adopts the EU fiscal pact—on condition, however, that its meetings would not be closed to countries outside the eurozone and that the pact would not pose a threat to the community decision-making process. This policy also met with sharp criticism from the opposition, with Kaczyński commenting that “Poland has become Germany’s client state in European politics.”

Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski’s address in Berlin last year, when he appealed to Germany to defend the eurozone, added fuel to the fire. PiS politicians described Sikorski’s appeal for strengthening Germany’s role in the European Union as a “betrayal of Poland’s national interests” and demanded that he be brought before the State Tribunal.

Summing up the first 100 days of his government’s second term, Tusk admitted that mistakes had been made, calling some of them significant and others “attention-grabbing but unimportant.” The biggest problem, he said, was the commotion over a law changing the rules on state-subsidized medical drugs. Tusk called this a major mistake of the government and his personal responsibility. “We failed to prepare patients, physicians and pharmacists for the consequences of the law,” he said.

Another mistake of the Tusk government was the controversial Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). Poland signed the agreement but after a wave of unprecedented protests by internet users, the agreement stands no chance of being ratified. “We failed when it comes to being able to imagine how far the consequences of this regulation may reach,” Tusk said. “I think we will overcome this trouble, but some will probably continue to blame us for a long time.”

Despite the mistakes, Tusk said he was optimistic. Strong attacks from opposition leaders and some commentators suggest that “we had a disaster after disaster during those 100 days, an Armageddon every day,” he said. In reality, “We, Poles, are all coping somehow in this difficult period,” he added.

Asked whether any changes in the composition of the government can be expected in the near future, Tusk said there were no such plans and added that any sudden dismissals were reserved for extraordinary situations, for example a scandal involving a minister. Since the government was formed, opposition deputies have demanded the dismissal of two ministers, Sikorski and Health Minister Bartosz Arłukowicz, but no-confidence motions were rejected by coalition parliamentarians supported by the leftist Palikot Movement.
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