Conservative Law and Justice Back In Power
Post-communists, other leftists ousted from parliament
WARSAW–The conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party in alliance with two small right-wing groupings has become the first poltical formation since the demise of communist rule in 1989 to be able to rule independently. It achieved the basic majority needed to form a government without coalition partners by winning 235 mandates in the 460-seat Sejm (lower house). Its less decisive victory in 2005 had forced Jarosław Kaczyński’s party to team up with two none-too-compatible smaller parties and ultimately fall from power in snap elections two years later. (PiS is the abbreviation of “Prawo i Sprawiedliwość” – Polish for Law and Justice.)
Official election results showed PiS winning 37.58% of the vote ahead of its chief rival, the Civic Platform (PO) with 24.09 support. Two small new groupings, the anti-system Kukiz-15 party of rock musician Paweł Kukiz (8.81%) and Nowoczesna (Modern) of hard-nosed pro-market economist Ryszard Petru (7.6%) have made their parliamentary début. And the Peasant Party (Stronnictwo Ludowe – 5.13%), which just barely cleared the 5% threshold, also made it into parliament.
The better-to-do, better-educated urban classes, which had been the mainstay of the middle-of-the-road PO, became fed up with eight years of their party’s rule marked by scandals, unkept promises and the same old, tired faces on the TV news. For the first time ever, PiS has not only attracted a higher percentage of young people, city-dwellers and voters with higher education than PO but has actually reversed the results of the Partitions! So far the poorer eastern and southern regions roughly coinciding with the former the Russian and Austrian partitions had been PiS’ main base of support. This time only two voivodships (provinces) in northwestern Poland, part of the former German lands ceded to Poland by the Big Three Allies, supported PO, while PiS won the remaining 14. Also for the first time since 1989 the Sejm is free of post-communist hangovers from the long defunct communist regime and other leftists. That means, among other things, that parliament will not be hearing perennial leftist calls for same-sex marriage, abortion on demand or banning religious instruction from schools any time soon.
Law and Justice is opposed to such social experimentation and believes in traditonal family values, Polish patriotism and Christian ideals. That includes more welfare spending on the disadvantaged. PiS has pledged to restore the previous retirement age of 65 for men and 60 for women which the PO-led government had raised to 67. To encourage child-bearing, the PiS benefit package will include a 500-złoty (about $130) monthly family allowance for the second and every subsequent child. To help finance its welfare spending, PiS wants heretofore privileged foreign banks and chain stores to start paying their fair share of taxes in Poland.
On the international front, the victorious ruling camp opposes excessive interference in Poland’s internal affairs by European Union bureaucrats and longs for a voluntary union of sovereign nations, not a “United States of Europe”, ruled from the EU’s Brussels headquarters. But PiS advocates a strong NATO alliance in dealings with Moscow and a special relationship between Warsaw and Washington in the realm of security. Since Poland’s energy grid is mainly fueled by coal-fired powerplants, Warsaw opposes the EU’s tougher climate-change legislation. It also opposes a large-scale Muslim refugee invasion which could lead to the terrorist infiltration of Poland.
Although overall European public opinion is now shifting in a more right-leaning, conservative direction, Western Europe’s mainstream media, as in America, are still controlled by liberal-leftist elites. It’s no wonder then that the PiS victory was none-too-enthusiastically received by many mainline newspapers and broadcasters. Law and Justice has been described with terms regarded in those circles as pejorative such as “nationalist”, “xenophobic”, “pro-Catholic”, “homophobic” and “Euro-skeptical”.
Ultimately, Poland’s democratically elected parliament is not primarily there to appeal or cater to the political preferences of foreign leaders, journalists or pundits but to serve the Polish people. It is solely up to Polish voters to assess how well their lawmakers did the next time they visit a polling station.
By Robert Strybel, Warsaw Correspondent