October 26, 2012
Something is finally happening in Polish politics. After many comfortable months in power, the ruling Civic Platform (PO) party and its leader Donald Tusk are finally feeling the opposition breathe down their necks. For the first time in years, a poll has found that the Law and Justice (PiS) party has overtaken the PO. And for the first time PiS has crossed the 30 percent approval mark.
In the poll, 39 percent of those surveyed said they would vote for PiS, while the PO was supported by only 33 percent of respondents. The survey came as a shock to many PO voters.
But Tusk and the PO responded quickly—and successfully, as it has turned out. Although a major policy speech by Tusk in parliament did not arouse much enthusiasm, it did contain many promises welcomed by the public. After the speech, Tusk asked for a vote of confidence in his government. Voting discipline was extraordinary high, with 452 deputies in the 460-seat house taking part in the ballot. The government was supported by 233 deputies while 219 voted against. The ruling coalition of the PO and the Polish People’s Party (PSL) has a majority of only three votes in parliament, but they won the vote with a significantly higher margin.
A day after the vote, another survey by the same polling company showed the PO again ahead of PiS, though by a mere 1 percentage point.
What will be the next move by the opposition? It seems that one possible scenario is the government facing another vote in parliament, this time referred to as a “constructive” vote of no confidence. PiS hopes this strange tactic will lead to the formation of a transition government, without the need for the parliament to dissolve itself and hold new elections.
The problem is that at the beginning of October, even people familiar with Polish politics spread their arms helplessly when asked if they had heard of Prof. Piotr Gliński. The latter is a sociologist from the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN) whom PiS has proposed as the prime minister of a new, “nonpartisan” government. Gliński, who until recently had nothing to do with politics, received PiS’s idea with enthusiasm and started to deliver speeches full of phrases such as “my government,” “As prime minister, I...,” and so on. He called a number of press conferences in places traditionally reserved for the president and prime minister, like the parliament buildings. Standing against the background of the Polish national flag, Gliński spoke about his meetings with experts, of preparing a policy program for his government, and his planned meetings with the leaders of parliamentary parties and other prominent figures. But no important talks have been held as yet. Meanwhile, many politicians and observers have been using the words “circus,” “farce” and “parody” when referring to Gliński’s activities.
Considering that the government won a vote of confidence with a comfortable majority, PiS’s chances of toppling the government through a vote of no confidence are virtually zero. But the political offensive led, at least formally, by Gliński continues. What is the purpose of all this? PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński is probably the only person who knows the answer.