The last weekend before the European elections the Polish campaign is gaining speed. The paedophilia covered in the Catholic Church dominates the debate. With the 18 May march in Warsaw and reinforcement in the person of Donald Tusk, the European Coalition motivates its supporters and hopes to outplay Law and Justice.
18 May, morning, Warsaw: a major storm in the city. Climate change in action, as normally storms like these come in July. This follows a drought earlier this spring, highly unusual, too, to be dry in February and March.
18 May, afternoon, Warsaw: the storm is over. The sun comes out. A major march is planned by the European Coalition and the weather was a major worry for the organisers. Warsaw Mayor is relieved. Rafał Trzaskowski jokes that he fixed the weather so the march can begin. On a serious note: mobilization is the key message of the day.
Some 45 thousand people walk the streets of Warsaw to hear a renewed Donald Tusk speech at the end of their walk. Donald Tusk is in Poland almost daily now. Almost campaigning. His speeches are watched and commented. Remembered. His major speech at the Warsaw University on 3 May is still echoed in the public debate otherwise dominated by the Church paedophilia scandals.
On the day, Mr Tusk goes political. He echoes the European Coalition hashtag, #GreatChoice, or #WielkiWybór with those words: “If 80 percent of Poles want Poland to be in the EU, why would we, all Poles, risk a vote for someone who does not guarantee this position in the EU?”. And continues: “And I say it very openly: is it really worth taking the risk of voting for those who present themselves today as Europeans with extraordinary enthusiasm, but this enthusiasm is only two weeks old? I know well that they will be Europeans for as long as the election demands it. They also know what the Poles want, and therefore, for these two weeks with difficulty, because it is difficult, but somehow the word ‘Europe‘ is declinated. But if they treat our presence in the EU the way they treat the Constitution, which they never said openly, that they want to break it. Shouting ‘Law!’, they violated the Constitution. Shouting ‘Justice!’, they were destroying the Polish courts. Talking about modesty, they shouted loudly: ‘This money simply belongs to us!‘.” He openly points at the ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS).
This is not a vote for a lesser evil, it is a vote for a greater good.Donald Tusk, 19 May, Warsaw
Tusk launches an attack on PiS leader: “in Europe I see many candidates for local chiefs, in the world they call them differently, one is called the chairman, the other is Ayatollah, but the difference is relatively small”. Jarosław Kaczyński is PiS chairman and speaks (17 May) that if someone does not want sharia law introduced in Poland, they should vote Law and Justice.
There are many more of us!Donald Tusk, 19 May, Warsaw
And the last quote from the President of the European Council who warns about those local chiefs, “for whom the idea, and we know it well from history, of one nation, one state, one religion, one leader, that this is their melody and they also participate in this European election. Europe is diversity, Europe is a union in diversity, kind of like the European Coalition”.
The government-run TVP is not shy of anti-Tusk sentiment. On the day they are correct to say, “Tusk threatens with PiS”. Gazeta Wyborcza, the liberal daily, concludes on the day Donald Tusk became the spiritual leader of the European Coalition. Paweł Wroński, a leading GW journalist concludes: “The President of the European Council Donald Tusk gave a deeper ideological sense of the existence of the European Coalition and its role in the elections to the European Parliament”.
18 May, Busko-Zdrój, Świętokrzyskie region, some 80 km NE of Kraków. Two men attack two policeman, who are injured before the attackers are arrested. One of the attackers is a local town councillor, who in the past was supported by Jadwiga Emilewicz, minister for entrepreneurship and technology.
Questions about the relationship between the attacker and the PiS politicians are raised not only by the opposition in the context of the January murder of the Gdańsk mayor Paweł Adamowicz. Beata Szydło, former PM and PiS leading candidate in the region, raises the same questions via Twitter, demanding clarifications from MP Michał Cieślak and Jarosław Gowin, deputy PM. Both belong to a small party Porozumienie (Alliance) that is in a nominal coalition with Law and Justice.
Mr Gowin, the P’s leader, responds saying that none of the perpetrators of the policemen attacks ever was a member of his party.
Róża Thun, the European Coalition leader in the same electoral region as Ms Szydło, is quick to raise the speculation of association of the attacker by twitting a photo of one of the accused individuals with… Beata Szydło on her campaign bus:
By evening, Ms Thun has another violent incident to report. Three of her volunteers are attacked in Kielce, the second biggest city in her electoral region, with a smelly liquid poured on them, while distributing leaflets.
In a written statement she writes that “the escalation of violence is at its best” while “the perpetrators remain unpunished” of the cases against her in recent years. She says: “I thought that hate, hate speech, and punishment affect me personally, but unfortunately the volunteers who help me in the campaign have been affected”. One of the three volunteers, teenagers has been threatened by the very same councillor who attacked the policemen earlier on the day in Busko-Zdrój.
The latest opinion polls are confusing. According to one, Law and Justice enjoys a comfortable +10% lead. According to another, Law and Justice is trailing the European Coalition by about the same +10%. In every poll, the Spring of Robert Biedroń comes third with about 8-9%. It seems the ultra-right wingers of the Confederation can break the 5% threshold and Kukiz’15 is balancing in the same area, potentially falling short of the threshold.
Effectively, Law and Justice and the European Coalition are going neck-to-neck with an estimate of about 18-25 mandates each (43 total for the two) going either way. The other 8 MEP seats could go to Spring (5) and Confederation (3).
The situation is volatile. The emotions are high due to Church paedophilia debate. The parties focus on mobilisation of their electorates. I believe that the ruling party enjoys about 40% support, but I also think that the ruling party may have difficulty mobilising their voters due to the Church paedophilia scandals. By now the Sekielski brothers film has been watched 20 million times on Youtube and it was aired on the private TVN (the most popular station among 16-49 year olds) on Friday.
PiS political problem is the disconnect with the many voices from within the Catholic Church in Poland, who are critical about the covering up of the paedophiles inside the institution. In fact, the top bishops are not speaking with one voice. Archbishop Polak is apologetic and promises to cooperate, counting on the support of Pope Francis. Archbishop Polak is the country primate, and says: “The Church is not under attack in Poland”. On the other hand, other bishops are unmoved with their political agenda. Archbishop Jędraszewski says “There is a war on Christianity and the Church”. There was a small protest against of archbishop Jędraszewski in front of a church in Poznań. Archbishop Jędraszewski is one of the more conservative bishops in the country.
PiS is unsure how to argue on the Church paedophilia since the Church is not united behind archbishop Polak. Hence PiS walks in the dark. The issue is to have an apolitical commission to be established to look into the Church paedophilia scandals. PiS says “yes” but only if the investigations include other “professions”, like artists, lawyers, or bricklayers. As if being a member of the clergy was a “job”. As if a member of the clergy paid taxes. As if any of the members of the clergy committing the paedophilia crimes or covering them up, ever was arrested 6 AM in their bed, like artists are arrested sometimes.
This is why PiS has a problem; it is sleepwalking on the most important political issue of the year. It is still popular due to its policies attractive to wider public. Yet, will they be as motived to turn out to vote? And what if they don’t?
The marching of the European Coalition and the Tusk speech are a good illustration that the motivation on the other side remains high. The EC probably has about 35% of the general support today. Maybe Tusk is right when he says “There is more of us”. By being much more motived, I expect them to come on top next Sunday. Subject to the last week of campaign, naturally.
The big question is the Spring. I and many others expected Spring to benefit most from the paedophilia scandal. Yet this has not been reflected yet in the polls. The party is stagnating at 8-9%, but with PiS not showing up in numbers, this bring them up to teens figures, before the anticipated boost.
In the relative weakness of PiS the biggest winners could be the Confederacy, that becomes increasingly openly anti-Semitic. The lower the turnout the greater the chance of the ultra-far-right.
All subject to the rest of the campaign. Jarosław Kaczyński just promised (19 May afternoon) new support of the people with disabilities.