#EP2019—Insights from Poland: the PiS vs the Coalition Europe (IV)

Gulay Icoz |

As Poland is heading for a General Elections in the Autumn this year, both the governing and opposition political parties are treating the European Parliament election, that is only weeks away, as secondary to the General Elections.

Yes, both sides are running a campaign to mobilise their activists and supporters to increase their share of the seat in the EP.

However, as far as I can observe, the primary concern for both sides is whether the EP election results can tell them anything about how well they will do in the autumn elections and if the EP election could be used to galvanise their support bases to attract more votes.

Plus while the governing political party the Law and Justice Party (PiS) escapes from offering any concrete policy proposals to the real issues of Poland in the EU during this election campaign. The opposition political parties are not any better; generally, they miss their focus by paying unnecessary attention to PiS and its shortcomings and somewhat exaggerating their criticisms, instead of putting forward their agenda.

The PiS, which has been in power since 2015, is in constant search of bogeyman in shaping its campaign narrative. Rather than concentrating on the real issues the EU and the Polish government is clashing over.

For instance on the top of the list is the effective application of EU law, from the protection of investments to the mutual recognition of decisions in areas as diverse as child custody disputes or the execution of European Arrest Warrants. The Polish government does also clash with Brussels over environmental protection and migration.

Only in April this year, the European Commission has launched an infringement procedure against Poland regarding the new disciplinary regime for judges. While the government has two months to respond, so far the PiS turned a blind on this.

Instead, Jarosław Kaczyński gave an alarming speech about Euro. He said Poland is not going to join the Euro before its economy is as big as of Germany and demanded that the opposition political parties take a similar stance of his.

As far as his past Eurosceptic policy positions are concerned, this was not a surprise; having made this speech during the EP elections campaign period, however, was not a coincidence.

Since he is not able to campaign on the real issues concerning the future of Poland in the EU, he worked out a way out of this predicament by creating an issue that was not part of the public debate.

At the EU level, it is well known to everyone that there is not an appetite in the EU for the expansion of the Eurozone, but for someone in Poland who is not following daily EU related news might think that joining the Euro can be severe and potentially could jeopardise his or her living standards. Hence Kaczyński would win their vote.

One other issue, which the PiS has lately been vehemently campaigning on, do concern the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities in Poland. Kaczyński’s response to a question about a movie called Kler (The Clergy), a 2018 film, which depicts fictional clerics as drunken child abusers, sparked a debate about the PiS’s position on the LGBT in Poland and how in line it is with the EU’s expected standards.

He said:

“We are dealing with a direct attack on the family and children – the sexualisation of children, that entire LBGT movement, gender. This is imported, but they today threaten our identity, our nation, its continuation and therefore the Polish state.”

Additionally, Rafal Trzaskowski’s, Mayor of Warsaw, approval of the declaration in favour of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights raised the tension.

While politicians are expected to bring people of different backgrounds, sexual orientations, races and religions together, Kaczyński chose to appeal to the religious and conservative sentiments of the Polish voters. In contrast, Kaczyński not only disregarded the real issue, which is the rights of the LGBT communities in Poland but also has thrown the blame on to another agent, in this case, it is the Western countries.

Moving on to the opposition political parties; five of the most prominent opposition political parties including the Civic Platform (PO) as well as the Modern party (Nowoczesna), Polish People’s Party (PSL), Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), and Greens have joined forces in order to challenge the PiS at the EP election, which is called European Coalition.

Either the campaigning tactics used by the opposition alliance group or due to the lack of vision on the opposition’ side, the only campaign slogan that is coming through is “Polexit”, which is ironic because I live on Brexitland, which makes me and my sources of information more susceptible to any talks of having another member states living the EU.

Broadside at the PiS leadership was launched as quick as at the European Coalition’s election campaign takeoff, claiming that the PiS’s policy choices are making Poland close to exit the EU.

For instance, Grzegorz Schetyna, the leader of the PO, said: “there is a great choice ahead: either strong, rich, democratic Poland in a strong Europe or what we see today — party state, on its way to leave the EU”.

I believe that the opposition political parties do usually give a good kick to the governing political parties when they utilise their campaign time in explaining to the electorate what they are proposing to do if and when they are elected, instead of attacking the opposition political party head-on.

One reason for this is that the governing political parties are in a better place in being familiar to the electorate since they are in power and they are the decision makers.

Thus either for good or bad, the electorate knows the policy choices of the governing political parties while being vaguely informed of what the opposition political parties are standing for.

Consequently, it would have been in the interest of the Coalition Europe, had they explained to the electorate what they see as the real issues facing Poland, what they propose to do about these problems and how they plan to deliver on these proposals.

Of course, it does not make me an EU legal expert, but in the past few months, I have been researching about the evolution of the EU’s the Rule of Law framework and the new and the existing rule of law governing mechanisms, used by the EU.

So as far as I can understand that there is not a single mechanism that connects the membership of the EU to Rule of Law practice in a member state, which makes the Coalition Europe’s argument about Polexit baseless, ingenious and careless, to say least.

Politics at this level and of this seriousness should be well rehearsed and addressing the real issues, instead of creating one of their own. Only then elections can be won.