Elections in Poland: a walkover for the PiS?
Parliamentary elections will take place in Poland at the weekend. All indications are that the governing PiS will once again emerge as the strongest party. The European press discusses why the national conservatives are so popular and whether the opposition might have a chance after all.
Social benefits have cemented voter support
Hvg explains how the PiS has secured its position in Poland:
“The continuing support for the PiS government is due to the social welfare measures it has taken. These are popular with the social classes, which felt that the coalition of the Civic Platform (PO) that was voted out in 2015 had become elitist. ... The lowering of the retirement age, subsidies for farmers and above all a monthly family allowance of 500 złoty for the second child have cemented support for PiS, especially in rural areas. So much so that even last year's local elections, in which Warsaw and almost all the other major cities came under the control of the opposition, haven't been able to undermine its grip on power.”
The government is leaving citizens in the lurch
Polityka, on the other hand, criticises the PiS for failing to build a sustainable social system:
“It seems the government doesn't understand the challenges faced by Polish society. Children will soon have to look after their parents and grandparents. One of them will have Parkinson's, the other Alzheimer's. Such illnesses demand around-the-clock care over periods of a decade or longer. The government should start preparing a support system for the elderly and the sick today. But that's not happening. By spending millions on the 500 Plus child benefit and wreaking havoc at schools with its so-called reform, it is neglecting its real responsibilities.”
Poland following in Hungary's footsteps
Poland's democracy is at stake in the elections, warns the Neue Zürcher Zeitung:
“The governing PiS has already warned that it wants to 'complete' the judicial reform and 'nationalise' foreign-owned media. ... Gloomy prospects indeed. Political scientists in Hungary are now talking of a hybrid regime somewhere between democracy and dictatorship. Because while political competition and free elections still exist, after ten years of Orbán government the institutional system will hardly allow a change of government. Now Poland is threatened by the same fate. There, civil society is still lively and the media landscape varied, but the example of Hungary shows how fragile these democratic pillars really are. Much is riding on these elections.”
PiS lures with social benefits
The PiS's clear lead in the polls has much to do with its social benefit policy, Právo notes:
“Above all this concerns the 500 plus benefit for newborn children. And then there are the increased allowances for the poor and a 13th and 14th month of pensions for the retired. While the opposition accuses Kaczyński of buying votes, he says he has merely begun to equitably redistribute the state's profits to those who have been forgotten for decades. Since the government's propaganda machine is claiming 24/7 that the opposition would put an end to the 500 plus programme if it came to power, everything seems clear. Here we see the full extent of the magic power of money.”
The opposition wants to "put its opponents to sleep"
The opposition wants to improve its chances with a change of strategy, writes Gazeta Wyborcza:
“The heated campaigning before the European elections was due to a deep rift between supporters and opponents of the PiS. As the results showed, this polarisation mobilised the PiS's supporters more than its opponents, as it made them feel as if they were in a beleaguered fortress. No doubt that is also why the opposition's campaign is now far more conciliatory in the run-up to the parliamentary elections: everywhere we see posters showing Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska, who is running for prime minister, hugging an elderly woman beside the slogan 'Cooperation Instead of Conflict'. In football this tactic is known as 'putting your opponent to sleep', and involves remaining motionless until the other side loses its concentration out of sheer boredom.”
Paris and Berlin see Warsaw as an obstacle
Poland's Western EU partners have rarely had a more negative image of the country, the business paper Les Echos notes:
“The government in Warsaw isn't playing fairly, and is always ready to resort to conspiracy theories. The ECJ's rule of law proceedings are seen in Warsaw as political attacks orchestrated by the socialist [EU Justice Commissioner] Timmermans against Poland's conservative government. Poland's intransigence vis-à-vis migrants and refugees, its refusal to accelerate the ecological transition and its narrow-minded vision of a Europe of nations have consigned it to the category of nationalists with whom it's difficult if not futile to cooperate. Seen from Berlin and above all from Paris, Poland remains an obstacle to Europe's further development.”