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Tusk's Return to Polish Premiership: Filibuster, Full Cinemas and an Iron Fist

In one of my previous articles, I covered the October 15th Polish election and its consequences for Poland and the wider European political landscape. The ruling Law & Justice Party (PiS) remained the largest party with 194 mandates.

However, unlike the 2019 election, when PiS met the threshold for a Majority Government of 231 Mandates, the Opposition Parties, of which the largest is Donald Tusk’s Civic Coalition (157), alongside the Third Way (PSL/Poland 2050) and the New Left won 248 mandates, clearly meeting the threshold for a majority. 

On the 10th of November, the leaders of these parties officially signed their coalition agreement and subsequently put it before President Andrzej Duda. The agreement laid out that, collectively, they were the Parliamentary force that had clearly garnered the mandate to govern from the Polish electorate, with a magnificent 74% turnout. 

However, despite the basic mathematical fact that 248 is a larger number than 231, and certainly bigger than 194, the Polish President accepted the proposal for an unfounded PiS Government on the 27th of November. Thus, the President and the Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, both belonging to the Law & Justice Party, announced a Government that would last for two weeks. 

The next two weeks were a complete waste of precious time, as well as a display of the last gasps of the PiS Government as the President, PM, and other PiS politicians tried to bash and smear Donald Tusk and his coalition partners in an attempt to ensure that their verbal assaults would magically let them govern forever. My personal favourite was the argument of the Minister of Education, Przemyslaw Czarnek, who, smiling through gritted teeth, demanded that the Opposition “learn democracy and read the constitution”. Hopefully, Czarnek gets a book for Christmas, at least on the mysterious laws of addition and subtraction, if not on the Polish constitution.

The New Speaker of the Sejm, the leader of Poland2050, Szymon Hołownia, made this pathetic drama of obstruction and disintegration more interesting. Similar to the style of John Bercow, the Speaker has brought new energy to his position and has not shied away from sarcastic verbal exchanges, making a mockery of PiS as they clung on to power. A positive effect of the speakership of Mr Hołownia is growth in viewership and subscribers to the Sejm channel on Youtube and, funnily enough, packed cinemas full of young people watching proceedings. 

Well, on the 12th of December, nearly two months on from the election, the mathematical reality caught up with the dismayed Law & Justice Party, as Mateusz Morawiecki lost the vote of confidence to Donald Tusk. The elected Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, exclaimed, “this is really a great day” in his short speech following the vote of confidence. In response, Jarosław Kaczynski, the leader of Law & Justice, kept it very simple, saying, “you are a German agent”, repeating the same slogan and rhetoric of TVP and proving quite simply that being articulate or humble in defeat is not his strong suits. 

Furthermore, despite being clearly defeated and removed from power, PiS in Parliament has marshalled its ranks to obstruct proceedings to the extremes, violating the regulations of Sejm in myriad ways. For instance, giving speeches over the time limit and then refusing to step away from the podium; disturbing and insulting the Speaker of the House, even when other members are speaking; and, best of all, booing and howling whilst elected members of the Sejm – especially Government ministers – take the podium to try and kickstart Government following two months of deliberate delays by the President and the Law & Justice Party. 

And yet, in spite of the agonising scenes in Polish politics, the worst was yet to come. On the 19th of December, the Government put forward their motion to restore the “impartiality” of Polish media. The motion passed. The next day, all hell broke loose. 

On the 20th of December, the headquarters of TVP were raided by police, and the media outlet was taken off the air. Obviously, PiS snatched at this with wagging tails. “This is an attack on free speech,” they cried.

I do not wish to force any opinion on you, but it is important for you to understand that for the last few years, TVP has become a state-media broadcaster working for Law & Justice. 

The man who was put in charge of it was party loyalist Jacek Kurski. 

The argument that TVP was an impartial network is one built on lies. And yet, like the BBC, it is a public media broadcaster. So, the actions taken by the new Tusk Government are to end the relationship between state and media and create an impartial network. 

The vicious media reaction that has precipitated from this from remaining right-wing media outlets like “Republic” are the desperate cries of authoritarians that had abused their power and created a media establishment comparable to that of Russia.

This is certainly not what Poles wanted for Christmas: more division and anger with no signs of dying down. 

Image: AP

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