The second week of the election campaign in Poland (16-22 August 2023)

by | Aug 22, 2023 | Blog | 0 comments

Written by Filip Bialy

The second week of the campaign was going to belong to the Civic Coalition. And it did, but not necessarily in the way it was intended by Donald Tusk who surprisingly announced that Agrounia’s Maciej Kołodziejczak will run from the Coalition’s election list. But just two days later the main opposition party received a blow after several public figures withdrew from its campaign event in protest against perceived censorship.

The 16 October announcement of what effectively is Agorunia’s accession to Civic Coalition taken the public by surprise because for several weeks the media were reporting about Kołodziejczak’s negotiations with the leaders of the Third Way. The Agorunia’s leader will eventually run from the first place of the Coalition’s list in Konin, a medium-sized city in the heart of Poland. It was met with lukewarm reaction from the Polish People’s Party which perceives a more radical Agrounia as a threat to its position in the Polish countryside. But the move may be a blow not just to the Third Way which, with 9% in the polls, is currently balancing on the electoral threshold which is 8% for coalitions. It also sends a message to Law and Justice which electoral success might rely on the rural and small-town voters. Although farmers are not as large part of electorate as they used to be several decades ago, they are still a politically important segment of the population, especially with their ability to focus media attention with well-organised protests.

A day later yet another announcement from the opposition camp: a common list of candidates for the senate was presented. The so-called Senate Pact means that in 100 of electoral districts (wich is the same as the number of senators) Civic Coalition, the New Left, Poland 2050, Polish People’s Party and the Local Government Movement “Yes for Poland” will not be running against each other. A similar alliance in the previous election gave the opposition majority in the senate.

Symmetrists’ revolt

And yet the opposition struggles to gather momentum. The so-called Campus Poland of the Future – formally organised not by the party but rather by a foundation closely tied to Rafał Trzaskowski who was the party’s presidential candidate in 2020 election – was planned as a campaign event that would allow Civic Coalition to show its widespread appeal. The Campus took place several times in the recent years, with number of meetings and workshops with celebrities, authors, journalists, and academics.

During this year’s edition the Symmetrists Panel, was going to be a debate between journalists, academics, and media personalities who are critical both of Law and Justice and Civic Coalition (hence the name, which is used in a derogatory manner by the Civic Coalition supporters.. The moderator and participants, most of them ideologically on the left – at least in the economic sense – resigned in protest after the Campus organisers removed a journalist Grzegorz Sroczyński from the panel. The removal was a result of another protest – that of the Civic Coalition’s radical internal group which took issue with Sroczyński’s criticism. The resignation of the panel members allowed Law and Justice and the right-wing media to mock the opposition’s “censorship” and the Campus – which is going to happen only later this week – seems to be already doomed.

Kaczyński interprets referendum questions

Speaking of Law and Justice, after the referendum was officially approved by the parliament, the party is actively using referendum issues in the election campaign. During a harvest festival on 20 August, Jarosław Kaczyński offered his comments on the referendum question about the barrier between Poland and Belarus. In his interpretation, the question is, in its essence, about whether “Poland would be given up for occupation without a fight, or whether we will be fighting for every square centimetre of our land”.

Calling for the “4 x NO” vote in the referendum, Kaczyński said that “this is the only answer that ensures that development will continue in Poland, that Poland will be safe, that there will not be the various social experiments that we lived through, the older ones of us remember them very well – the 1990s, huge unemployment, hungry children, calls on television to help them but they still remained hungry, and people who had a sense of complete hopelessness, and misery passed from father to son, from generation to generation”.

Online activities

On the Internet front, political parties are closing their ranks. Generally speaking, Law and Justice politicians are efficient, if not very subtle, followers of the party’s “communications of the day”: the leadership sends out internal instructions on what should be said online and soon afterwards the party members’ social media profiles are full of suspiciously similar posts. The more liberal Civic Coalition usually leaves its members a bit more freedom. In the case of the referendum, the Coalition’s “communication of the day” was to mock the highly biased referendum questions. It resulted in party members proposing more and more outrageous questions on social media. For the time being, it seems to be the most the opposition is able to offer in response to the referendum.

The battle of hashtags is also ongoing, with Civic Coalition’s #PolskaWNaszychSercach (“Poland in our hearts”) frequently trending. The hashtag has its real-world counterpart as the Coalition’s politicians wear the heart-shaped stickers during campaign events. Law and Justice responds with the referendum-related hashtag #BezpecznaPrzyszłośćPolaków (“safe future of the Polish people”). Otherwise the social media are buzzing with heated discussions reflecting a quickly moving campaign and daily events.

In other news:

  • An announcement that Bogusław Wołoszański, a popular broadcaster and author of widely-popular history shows and books, will run as Civic Coalition’s candidate was met with angry reaction from the governing party. Public TV – which is state-owned and under the current regime became an extremely biased PR department of the government – reminded the public that Wołoszański acted as a spy of communist Poland during his stint as a TV correspondent in the UK in the 1980s.
  • Several minor dramas after parties announced their lists – which are not final yet as they need to be submitted to the National Electoral Commission, supported with the list of citizens’ signatures. Several candidates publicly expressed their disappointment after parties placed them on distant positions on the lists. In the case of Civic Coalition one such disgruntled candidate told the media that he was “screwed” by the party leadership after being offered the 7th place on the list in the major city of Łódź. A day later the leadership removed him from the list altogether.
  • But the title of the most brilliant and the fastest falling star of this campaign belongs to Jan Hartman, a controversial left-wing professor of philosophy and an irregular politician, who was going to be the Left’s candidate. On the same day as he was announced, Hartman offered (on Twitter) his views on pedophiles: “To the Law and Justice trolls, paid with public money: Yes! Pedophiles also have rights! As all criminals! No human should be denounced – even a pedophile!”. The Left swiftly ceased Hartman’s candidacy.