19/09/2005 - D-7
The General Elections
The liberal parties, the Citizens' Platform (PO) and Law and Justice (PiS), are still running neck and neck in the polls for the general elections on 25th September next. Both liberal parties are ahead of the populist movements, Autodefence of the Republic (Sambroona, S) and the Families' League (LPR). The Democratic Left Alliance (SLD), the main party in the government coalition is at its lowest ebb, five years after its landslide victory in the general elections on 23rd September 2001 when it won 41% of the vote and achieved the highest score ever reached by a Polish party since 1989.
On 5th September the representative of the country's main political parties met in the TV studios for a debate organised by TVN 24 and the newspaper Rzeczpospolita. Marek Borowski (Social Democrat Party-SDPL) called for an end to "tax experiments that produced no results." The SDPL said that it wanted to reduce the social contributions of all of those who were launching an economic activity. The Left Democratic Alliance has suggested fiscal reductions which it believes will enable an increase in salaries without raising employers' contributions. Jan Rokita (Citizens' Platform-PO) maintained that the single tax system put forward by his party would enable the creation of new work places without increasing fiscal overheads. The PO would also like to simplify income tax forms in order to reduce the number of civil servants working in taxation. Jan Rokita said that he was in favour of creating private employment agencies to compete with the State establishments. The Law and Justice Party-PiS said that it was in favour of tax reductions and fiscal rebates to facilitate the creation of new jobs. It suggests the reduction of the number of tax bands to two (18% and 32%). The party plans in particular to simplify administrative procedures to make it possible to create a company in three days instead of the twenty-two days necessary at present. Finally the leader of the Families' League-LPR, Roman Giertych pointed out his desire to reduce State overheads thanks to a reduction in the number of civil servants.
Both liberal movements have different points of view, mainly on taxation and the date of Poland's entry into the Euro Zone, but they both share the same opinion on the need to boost the country's economy, to reduce State intervention and to fight against corruption. The Citizens' Platform and Law and Justice are due to rule together if they win on 25th September.
On 13th September the Law and Justice candidate running in the presidential election, Lech Kaczynski, said that his party would not however join the Citizens' Platform if Law and Justice did not obtain one of the three key posts in government. Lech Kaczynski stressed that if the future Prime Minister and the Finance Minister came from the Citizens' Platform the Foreign Affairs Minister should be from the PiS. "If the liberal parties win the elections they will undertake a conservative policy but their economic policy will be social democrat in that they will call on the State and they will be in favour of a more centralised State," says Jacek Rostowski, professor of economy at the University of Central Europe. "The Liberals have almost won the general elections but the presidential election is a more open question," Rostowski added.
Poland's relations with its Belarus neighbour have worsened since the Belarus authorities arrested several leaders of the new management of the Association of Belarus Poles on 28th July – an organisation which 25,000 of the 100,000 Poles living in the country (representing 4% of the population) belong to. The authorities in Minsk refused to acknowledge Angelika Borys, who was elected as the new president in March last accusing the association of being at the heel of the USA and of fomenting revolution in the country.
On 27th August another team was elected to manage the Association of Belarus Poles during a congress convened by the authorities in Minsk. "We believe that this congress is not democratic and that the management that was elected does not represent all of Belarus Poles," declared Polish Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister, Jan Truszczynski.
Sixty-eight year-old Jozef Lucznik, former headmaster and one of the founders of the organisation was elected president by 149 votes out of 174. "I want to work for the Belarus authorities and with Poland," he said adding, "I accept the presidency only to save the organisation that would otherwise be banned." During the congress the supporters of the management that had been ejected by the Belarus authorities were denied access to the building and five of its leaders were arrested.
Angelika Borys is under threat of prosecution and at present has simply been called as a witness in an affair of the embezzlement of two thousand dollars. On the invitation of MP's, members of the European Popular Party (PPE) from the European Parliament, she travelled to Strasbourg on 8th September where she also spoke with the secretary general of the Council of Europe, Terry Davis. Prime Minister Marek Belka (Democratic Party) suggested that the former president of the Association of Belarus Poles be appointed as honorary counsel of Poland in Belarus. "What she is doing at present requires a great amount of courage and she can count on both our financial and legal support," he declared. Angelika Borys thanked the Prime Minister for his suggestion without saying whether she intended to accept or refuse it – she did say however that she was very concerned by the Polish population's present situation in Belarus.
According to the latest poll undertaken by PBS for the daily Gazeta Wyborcza published on 13th September last Citizens' Platform (PO) is due to win the general elections on 25th September next taking 35% of the vote. It would be followed by Law and Justice-PiS, credited with 22% of the vote. Together the two parties would have 316 MP's out of the 460 that sit in the Diet, i.e. the absolute majority but also a majority of two thirds that would allow them to modify the Constitution. The Democratic Left Alliance is due to win 10% just as the Families' League; Autodefence of the Republic would win 9%. No other party is due to rise beyond 5% of the votes cast, the necessary threshold to be represented in the Diet: the Popular Party (PSL) is due to win 4%, the Social Democrats allied to the Greens, 3% and the Prime Minister Marek Belka's Democratic Party, 2%.
The presidential Election
The political event of the week in Poland was the withdrawal on 14th September of Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz, the Democratic Left Alliance candidate, from the Presidential race, the first round of which will take place on 9th October next. The former Prime Minister (from 15th February 1996 to 17th October 1997), and present president of the Diet, has recently been accused of having speculated with shares of the Polish Oil Company PKN Orlen in favour of his children and without declaring the fact in his tax returns of 2001. He has also been accused, on the strength of a statement made by his former assistant, of having tried to change his wealth tax declaration; he has denied this and has accused his assistant of giving false evidence. "I am giving up in protest of a defamation campaign that I along with my family have been the victim of," declared Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz during a press conference. "The electoral campaign has been marked by unprecedented slander and lies with lying witnesses and false documents published against me," he maintained. "My family, my children have also been targets of horrible attacks which I cannot remain indifferent to. In protest of the depravation of the political trends in Poland which are due to the activities of some politicians and journalists I am giving up my part in the presidential election," concluded the leftwing candidate. He refused to advise how the electorate should vote simply saying, "with respect to my electorate I shall not instruct them how to vote. Personally I can see no candidate worthy of being President of the Republic."
SLD President Wojcieh Olejniczak regrets the former Prime Minister's decision, "Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz has been the victim of false charges. I am sorry that the best candidate running for President has given up. In a situation like this the Left Democratic Alliance has to assume responsibility." Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz's withdrawal has provided the Social Democrat candidate Marek Borowski with new hope. Credited with barely 3% of the vote in the polls the latter has called on leftwing voters to vote for him. "All is not lost! I am calling on all of those who support honesty, equal opportunities, citizens' solidarity and who are against the pathologies of public life, to vote for me," declared Marek Borowski. But according to sociologist Stanislaw Mocek, "Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz's votes will not benefit just one candidate. His supporters' votes will go in part to Marek Borowski and to Donald Tusk, and also to the populist candidate Andrzej Lepper and paradoxically to Lech Kaczynski, the Catholic rightwing candidate whose social programme is close to that of the left."
Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz, as well as Donald Tusk, vice-president of the Diet (Lower Chamber of Parliament) and the leader of Citizens' Platform in the presidential election met on 8th September for a televised debate in Co z ta Polska, a programme hosted by Tomasz Lis. The debate focussed mainly on fiscal policy and the role of the secret services in Poland. Donald Tusk pointed out that his party wants to establish a single tax rate of 15% on VAT, on income tax, and company tax. The simplicity of this suggestion in a country where the fiscal system is particularly complex is supported by a majority of public opinion. Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz is against this project arguing that this reform would impoverish the State and in fine would damage the poorest, who are greatly dependent on State aid. Opinion polls undertaken after the programme showed that Donald Tusk was more convincing than his adversary: 63% of viewers saw in him a credible candidate, versus 37% for Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz.
On 1st September the former President of the Republic (1990-1995) Lech Walesa officially gave his support to Donald Tusk in the presidential election on 9th October next. "I must say to voters that Donald Tusk is the best of all the candidates," declared the former leader of Solidarity. However on 14th September Solidarnosc called on its members to vote for the Law and Justice candidate, Lech Kaczynski in the presidential election. "We are calling on members and supporters of Solidarnosc to support Lech Kaczynski. Whilst we respect the individual decisions of its members, the National Commission of Solidarity can see that the programme and opinions of the Presidency candidate, Lech Kaczynski, are those closest to the union's objectives," declared the union's management in a press release. Solidarnosc has around 800,000 members.
In addition to this a poll undertaken by the same institute (and undertaken before Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz's decision to withdraw from the presidential race) places Donald Tusk in the lead in this election with 43% of the vote. The Citizens' Platform candidate is followed by the present mayor of Warsaw, Lech Kaczynski, and Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz who are due to win 20% and 18% respectively. The leader Autodefence of the Republic, Andrzej Lepper, is due to win 8% of the vote and the senator of the Centre Party (PC) and independent candidate, Zbigniew Religa, 5%. This poll shows that Donald Tusk would in all events be victorious in the second round planned for 23rd October with 63% of the vote versus 37% for Lech Kaczynski, and 65% versus 35 % for Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz. The latter would also be beaten in the second round by Lech Kaczynski (67% versus 33%).
After Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz's withdrawal the poll undertaken on 14th September by PBS for Gazeta Wyborcza credits Donald Tusk with 49% of the vote in the first round of the presidential election i.e. a six point gain in comparison with the previous poll. Lech Kaczynski is due to win 22% of the vote (+ two points), Andrzej Lepper would win 9% (an identical result with the previous opinion poll) and Marek Borowski, 8% i.e. a gain of six points.