Tuesday, October 25, 2005

History Strikes Back in Poland

Election 2005

The map showing the result of this Sunday's election for President of Poland is rather remarkable.

It shows how support for the winning Lech Kaczynski was concentrated in those parts of Poland that once upon a time was part of either the Russian or the Habsburg empire. These are still the least developed parts of the country.

In contrast, support for the more liberal but less succesful Donald Tusk was concentrated in areas that once was more part of Germany and which to this day are the more developed ones. After 1945 however there was an almost complete change of population in these areas.

The result was not too inspiring.

It was the victory of the deep past over the more present future. It was the old and the rural asserting itself against the young and the urban. It was deep Catholicism against a more modern and liberal state. It was - as they said - Polska B versus Polska A.

And the campaign itself had its distinct low points. There was an attempt to smear Donald Tusk as not being sufficiently Polish and, the one way or the other, somewhat too German. Lech Kaczynski campaign openly against the concept of a liberal Poland.

We'll see which consequences this will have. The powers of the President are fairly limited, but with the two twin brothers controlling both the biggest force in parliament and the presidency it is of course another situation.

The President does set the tone on foreign affairs. He has already accepted a mid-January invitation to Washington, made it clear that Brussels is third priority after both Washington and the Vatican and said that he will not go to Moscow until Putin has been to Warzaw. And with Germany relations are not ideal after the impresssions created by his campaign behaviour.

But it is of course the economy that is the most important issue.

Now Poland will have to get serious about forming a new government based on the somewhat earlier election to the Sejm. The Law and Justice party PiS of the Kaczynski brothers wants to get into a coalition with the liberal and reform-determined Platform PO.

One would hope that PO will now see the risks for the reputation of Poland in this election result and drive a bargain with PiS that guarantees a continued reform course. After the period of stagnation under the different decaying Socialist administrations it's certainly high time for that.

Poland must not stumble from one decaying idea to another.