“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” The words of US poet Ralph Waldo Emerson and, with or without the conspiracy of the universe, Poland’s governing Law and Justice party (PiS) is certainly making things happen, even those which some thought impossible. This, at least, is the view of the party leader.
Summing up the first two years of the PiS government – Monday marked two years since President Andrzej Duda designated Beata Szydło as prime minister – Jarosław Kaczyński said, “We have demonstrated that Poland can be changed.” “What seemed impossible for years – and many people truly believed that such was the case, that things simply had to be left to follow their course, that the strong always had to win, and that the weak had to be left with nothing – has now been changed.” Speaking to public broadcaster TVP on Monday evening, Kaczyński also said that “there is no doubt that the Polish state can accomplish things when it is in good hands”.
Turning to the expected cabinet reshuffle, Kaczyński also that specific decisions an impending government reshuffle “will be made shortly.” And, in what must be the most disingenuous statement of the year so far, he said “We will learn about them in December.” We, probably; he most likely already knows, given that it seems most unlikely that any decisions were made without his involvement.
But what of the second half of the current term? Kaczyński said that there would be more effort to advance the Home Plus low-cost housing programme and measures to improve the lives of pensioners and single mothers, in addition to other economic measures. The Home Plus programme, designed to provide people with affordable apartments, is of particular importance, Kaczyński said. He described it as “a real breakthrough in the lives of the Polish people.” “This is also a major offer for all those who might want to come back from the West and work here,” he added. We shall see.
The prime minister, Beata Szydło adopted a soccer analogy to describe the government’s two years in office. In an interview with the Financial Times published on Monday she said: “I’d like to compare my government to our national [football] team… and I’d say that we have been successful in the first half… We are winning.” As the Financial Times noted, the fast economic growth and improving living standards in Poland have been set against a background of clashes with Brussels. According to the paper, Law and Justice’s election triumph two years ago “paved the way to power for a party bent on representing Polish interests more assertively abroad and heralded a broader rebellion against the EU goal of ‘ever closer union’ that has had echoes in elections from the UK to the Czech Republic.”
Szydło was cited as saying in an interview: “People in Europe feel more and more that the elites in Brussels are… no longer in touch with the problems that they should be concerned about — such as the safety of the citizens of the EU, the labour situation, and increasing employment and improving wages.” She certainly has a point about the de haut en bas attitude emanating from Brussels, but nor does the attitude of her government to things which bother Brussels help.
At a joint press conference with Szydło on Tuesday, during which he thanked the prime minister for the achievements of her government thus far, Kaczyński told reporters: “There is money available and despite all sorts of announcements that there would be some great collapse, we are able to conduct policies which serve a great many Polish families, those which previously did not benefit from the changes in Poland, from economic development.” He singled out the government’s 500+ program of state payouts designed to support families, and to moves to increase OAP pensions and to reduce unemployment. “Poles are better off,” he said.
While the opposition said the government had caused bitter divisions in Poland, PiS retains a commanding lead in the opinion polls, at 45 per cent, ahead of PO on 17 per cent according to the latest survey by CBOS. The Kukiz’15 grouping is third on 8%, and the Nowoczesna party is fourth on 5%, according to CBOS. With Poland’s central bank revising upwards to 4.2 per cent its GDP growth forecast, it seems that PiS is set fair for the further term in office which Kaczyński said is required for further change since “The state needs to be reconstructed.” Thank goodness any such reconstruction will be in “good” hands.