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Dec 9, 2023

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News Bytes From Poland – September

Most Polish voters favor “4 x Times No” referendum — survey
On election day (15 October), Poles will also be able to answer four key questions, with the government calling for a “4 × No” vote in a national referendum. To be binding, over 50% of eligible voters must take part, and as of now 55% of respondents said they intend to. They will be asked whether they support the sell-off of state companies to foreign investors, raising retirement age from 60 (for women) and 65 (for men) to a uniform 67, dismantling  the border barrier blocking the influx of illegal aliens and acceptance of African and Middle Eastern illegals. A recent survey showed that roughly two-thirds of respondents plan to vote “No” to all four questions. True to form, Poland’s “total” opposition is calling on Poles to boycott the referendum.

It’s now or never for Poland’s security concerns
— Digitalization Minister
Poland’s Digitalization Minister Janusz Cieszyński recently told Euronews that if the country’s armed forces are not beefed up as soon as possible, there may never be another such opportunity. “
If we don’t invest in our army right now, we might just end up paying for our enemy’s army stationed in Poland in the future,” he explained. “That is how our history has turned out in the past, and we don’t want to repeat it.” Recently the troop strength of Poland’s forces topped the 180,000 mark, twice that of the army the previous liberal administration had downsized.  Warsaw’s goal is to create Europe’s largest 300,000-strong  deterrent land force, equipped with the most advanced weaponry. Many Poles fear their country may be in for a rerun of cost-cutting priorities if the rival Civic Coalition (KO) wins the  election.

Congress approves sale of Apache choppers — Defense Minister
The US Congress has cleared the way for selling Poland a fleet of 96 Apache choppers, widely regarded as the world’s most advanced combat helicopters. US-Polish price negotiations are now under way. In view of the ongoing Russian aggression in neighboring Ukraine, the US Army will provide eight Apaches from its own stocks to tide Poland over until the purchased helicopters can be delivered. The announcement was made by Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak.

Rare mass beatification of Poland’s martyred Ulma family
In 1944, when Germany’s defeat was already a foregone conclusion, Hitler’s war crimes were far from over. Its victims included the nine-member Ulma family in the SE village of Markowa. A squad of German gendarmes raided the Ulma farm and shot dead the eight fugitive Jews the family had been hiding. They then summarily executed the entire Catholic family, Józef and his nine-month-pregnant wife Wiktoria as well as their six young children. Beatification, which confers the title of blessed, is the penultimate step to Catholic sainthood. Such mass beatifications are rare in the Church. In 1995, Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Institute honored the Ulmas with the title Righteous Among the Nations.

Polish opposition opposes stricter anti-espionage law
After reporting stepped-up foreign-intelligence penetration in Poland following Putin’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, the Polish government proposed stiffer penalties for such activities. But, as usual, the “total” opposition opposed the measure, and its main mouthpiece, Gazeta Wyborcza, claimed it could be used to restrict media freedom.  When put to the vote in parliament, nearly all the members of the liberal-left Civic Coalition abstained. Voting against it would be politically suicidal in an election year. Under the amended law, convicted spies could face up to 30 years behind bars, and acts of sabotage or terrorism carry a maximum life sentence. Agents of influence spreading disinformation or hostile propaganda face lesser penalties.

Poland’s central bank lowers interest rates for the first time in a year
The Monetary Policy Council of the National Bank of Poland has lowered its key interest rates by 75 basis points amid signs of subsiding inflation. The reference rate will be lowered from  6.75% to 6%, making bank credit cheaper for consumers and lowering the cost of back taxes that need to be repaid. Initial forecasts had expected Poland to end double-digit inflation  round the end of 2023, but that goal was achieved earlier than planned. The opposition, which had blamed NBP president Adam Glapiński rather than Putin for the run-away inflation, called the move a vote-getting ploy ahead of October’s parliamentary election.

Former “fascist” joins  Tusk’s election team
Evidence of the Polish opposition’s pre-election desperation was provided by its leader Donald Tusk when he invited his former antagonist, far-right attorney Roman Giertych, to join his Civic Coalition (KO). As a youthful activist, Giertych resurrected the fascistic All-Poland Youth association which in pre-war Poland used to beat up Jewish students and boycott Jewish-owned businesses. In 2005, he joined a Law & Justice (L&J)-led coalition and served as its education minister. Since then, Giertych has won a number of high-profile court cases including those involving Tusk and his son Michał. A rather unsavory, power-hungry character, Giertych, who is under indictment on suspicion of money laundering, has been hiding in Italy.

Kaczyński’s blooper could cost Poland nearly $1.9 billion
During a campaign speech ahead of October’s general election, the leader of Poland’s governing Law and Justice (L&J) party Jarosław Kaczyński mistakenly said old-age pensioners would receive a “net” (cash in hand) 14
th pension of 2,200 złotys (about $515),  when he should have said “gross.” 2,200 net comes to 1,780 zł ($417). L&J officials tried to correct the blunder, but the opposition pounced on the opportunity to bash their arch-rivals. Retirees will rejoice if the erroneous amount carries the day, but Kaczyński’s slip of the tongue will have cost the state budget an additional 8 billion zł ($1.9 billion).

Two-thirds of basic food from local sources – latest campaign pledge
With Poland’s parliamentary election (15 October) just round the corner, the incumbent side is busy multiplying  its promises to voters. One of the latest is the Local Shelf initiative, whereby two-thirds of basic foods sold in supermarkets and groceries should be of local origin. This applies mainly to fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, eggs, dairy products and breadstuff. The move will also enable farmers and producers to sell directly to consumers, eliminating middlemen. According to L&J officials, that will ensure cheaper fresh food of higher quality thereby benefiting farmers and consumers alike.

Film director Holland may sue prosecutor general over Nazi remark
Film director Agnieszka Holland, who is of Jewish ancestry, has threatened to take Poland’s Prosecutor-General Zbigniew Ziobro to court unless he apologizes for equating her works with Nazi propaganda. “In the Third Reich the Germans produced propaganda films depicting Poles as bandits and murderers. now they’ve got Holland to do that,” Ziobro wrote on X (formerly Twitter). Holland’s latest movie is “Green border” focusing on the stand-off between Third World illegals attempting to storm Poland’s border from Belarus and Polish border guards defending it. The movie has yet to go on release, but government-bashers like Holland have routinely sympathized with “the poor migrants stuck in a cold, swampy forest” and demonized Polish border guards doing their duty.

Incumbent L&J in lead but may not govern independent
 — Opinon polls
Ahead of the 15 October general election, opinions polls have shown that the ruling Law&Justice party remains in the lead. One poll shows that conservative L&J can count on 37% of the vote and their chief rival, the liberal-left Civic Coalition (KO) — 31%. The nationalist/anti-welfare  Confederation enjoys the backing of 9%, the centrist Third Road — 8% and the post-communist/pro-LGBT New Left — 6%. For the incumbents, the most advantageous would be another survey in which they would also get 37% support, the Civic Coalition — 21% and the Confederation — 6%. The New Left would not make the 5% threshold and the Third Road would not achieve the 8% required of coalitions. That line-up would ensure L&J of a parliamentary majority

Majority of Poles believe L&J will win the 5 October election
One survey did not ask which party respondents supported but who they think will win. 53.6% of those polled said the winner would be Law&Justice, and 42.4% felt it would govern either independently as a parliamentary majority or in coalition with other parties. 21.7% of respondents think the Civic Coalition (KO) will win and Poland will be ruled by a KO-led government formed with opposition parties: the Third Road and the New Left.

Government-bashing judges accuse paper of killing 80-year old
The president of Poland’s largest court of law and five of its vice-presidents have accused the right-wing daily Gazeta Polska of killing an 80-year-old man with one of its stories. In an article titled “A judge with (security) ministry roots”, journalist Maciej Marosz had exposed the communist-era secret-police links of judge Andrzej Serkowicz. It so shocked his 80-year-old father Czesław that he suffered a fatal heart attack after reading it. The case was written up by the leftist daily Gazeta Wyborcza which believes communist-era misdeeds should best be swept under the rug and forgotten. That is not surprising, since Gazeta Wyborcza editor Adam Michnik himself comes from a family of Soviet agents in the service of Stalin.

Polish NBA cager Sochan cheered by thousands in Warsaw
Jeremy Sochan, who plays for the San Antonio Spurs, received a hero’s welcome when he visited Warsaw recently. The meet-up brought thousands of basketball fans wearing black and white Spurs jerseys to Warsaw’s Torwar arena. The fans were given posters and were able to dye their hair to match their favorite player’s hairdo. Sochan, 20, was born in Oklahoma to a Polish mother and Afro-American father, both of whom had played college basketball. Raised in the US, Poland and England, he played school basketball in both Poland and the UK.