Economics and Exhumations
September 28, 2012
Prof. Andrzej Rychard, a sociologist and director of the Polish Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Philosophy and Sociology in Warsaw, is optimistic— up to a point. He says Polish politics this fall will be dominated by a debate about the economy and ways of coping with the global crisis, the latest wave of which is drawing closer to Poland. Rychard says the opposition will try to take on the government in this particular area right now and not, as it tried previously, by accusing the coalition of a lack of patriotism, subjugation to foreign powers, financial scandals and—last but not least—failing to explain the alleged mystery behind the plane crash near Smolensk, Russia, on April 10, 2010, in which 96 passengers and crew of the Polish government plane were killed, including then-President Lech Kaczyński and his wife Maria.
Rychard’s observations and forecasts are to an extent the result of events of recent weeks. The opposition Law and Justice (PiS) party has proposed a major debate during which economic experts linked to political groups as well as independent experts would discuss the government’s economic policy. So far at least two leading experts on the subject—ex-deputy prime minister Leszek Balcerowicz, the architect of the “shock therapy” reforms of the 1990s, and former leftist finance minister Grzegorz Kołodko—have declined the invitation. However, there is still a chance that the discussion initiated by PiS will take place and contribute something constructive to Polish public life, becoming more than just another political boxing ring for supporters and opponents of the Civic Platform (PO) government.
Are Polish politicians shifting their focus, guided by Clinton’s “It’s the economy, stupid!” dictum?
There is some hope, but at the same time there’s no doubt that PiS’s old modus operandi is still very much in place. In mid-September, PiS parliamentarians staged political demonstrations at two cemeteries, in Gdańsk and in Warsaw, during the exhumation of the bodies of two of the Smolensk crash victims. The PiS parliamentarians got into a scuffle with the police, trying to enter the cemeteries in the deep of the night, accompanied by a group of supporters singing patriotic songs. These distasteful scenes were shown by all television stations in Poland.
The exhumations took place amid fears that some of the bodies might have been switched by mistake, and there were also doubts regarding the casualties’ medical documentation received from Russian investigators.
PiS deputy Anna Fotyga, foreign minister in Jarosław Kaczyński’s government (2006-2007), one of those involved in the row in Gdańsk, said she and the other demonstrators wanted to act as a “guard of honor” during the exhumation. She repeated many earlier accusations against Donald Tusk’s government, which, according to a special PiS parliamentary group, is responsible for glaring negligence in the investigation after the crash. Antoni Macierewicz, head of this group, appeared at the exhumation in Warsaw and said much the same thing.
Economics and the economy are all very well, but some Polish politicians still thrive on scandal.