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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » September 30, 2015
Politics & Society
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Season of Shock Transfers
September 30, 2015   
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Polish politics saw several surprising high-level defections in late summer that seem highly unusual, to put it politely, in developed parliamentary democracies. The ruling Civic Platform (PO) party, which has been in power for eight years, has opened its ranks to several prominent politicians who hail from groups that are openly hostile to the centrist PO. This puts a question mark over whether Poland’s political class as a whole has any sense of decency. Hopefully, voters in this fall’s parliamentary elections will show higher moral standards and none of the defectors will make it into parliament. After all, politics is not soccer, where players can be transferred between competing clubs at will. Poland, however, seems to play by different rules.

One of those enlisted by the PO is 41-year-old Grzegorz Napieralski, a left-wing deputy since 2004, who from 2008 to 2013 was leader of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD). It was with this party that he achieved his greatest political success, finishing third in the 2010 presidential election after garnering almost 14 percent of the vote. Then the SLD began to lose support; a year later, it scored its worst ever result in parliamentary elections. Napieralski quickly vacated the leader’s chair and ever since he has been trying, with little success, to return to the political premier league.

Sixty-one-year-old Ludwik Dorn, a generation older than Napieralski, was for many years dubbed “the third twin,” a nickname that reflected his seemingly unending loyalty to the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) and to Jarosław and Lech Kaczyński, the twin brothers who founded that party. When PiS was in power, Dorn held positions that included Speaker of the lower house of parliament and deputy prime minister and interior minister. After falling out with Jarosław Kaczyński, Dorn was expelled from the party in 2008 and has since then wandered around the peripheries of the parliamentary and non-parliamentary right, alternately attempting to establish new parties and trying to get himself back into PiS.

Roman Giertych, 44, had his heyday in 2006 and 2007 as deputy prime minister and education minister in a PiS-led government that also included the populist Samoobrona (Self-Defense) group and the radical right-wing League of Polish Families (LPR), a party that Giertych founded and led. As with Dorn, he had a run-in with Jarosław Kaczyński that spelled the end of his political career. In subsequent years Giertych prospered as a lawyer, but did not shy away from voicing strong political opinions and lambasting PiS and its leader.

What do the longtime left-wing bigwig and the two prominent right-wingers have in common? All three are running for parliament backed by the Civic Platform. At a PO election convention, Dorn said he has decided to throw his lot in with “those who have both feet firmly on the ground rather than walking around with their heads up in the clouds.” Napieralski, in turn, said that he has decided to run on the PO ticket for his young daughters, who should be given a chance to “live in a normal and prosperous country.” PO politicians, even those who were once critical if not downright hostile to both Dorn and Napieralski, said in front of the cameras that the party needed to “extend to the right and to the left” and that enlisting such politicians would benefit the party in the long run.

The Oct. 25 parliamentary elections will show whether Polish voters are ready to stomach all of this and whether they are willing to see these three familiar faces in parliament again—but this time playing for a different team.

Witold Żygulski
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