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Unstable Platform? Poland’s ruling party struggles on

By Blog Admin, on 30 January 2014

A series of on-going political crises in 2013 saw support for Poland’s centrist ruling party, Civic Platform, slump. Despite a number of initiatives to revive its fortunes, public hostility may have passed a tipping point argues Aleks Szczerbiak.

 2013 was a year of on-going political crisis for Civic Platform (PO) party, he main governing party in Poland,. The approval ratings of both the Civic Platform-led government and prime minister and PO leader Donald Tus, slumped to their lowest levels since they came to office in 2007. A December 2013 poll by CBOS found that the number who declared themselves to be government supporters and were satisfied with Tusk as prime minister fell to 21% and 26% respectively – compared to 33% and 35% a year earlier.

 Another December 2013 CBOS poll found that only 31% trusted Mr Tusk, a slump of 10% over the past year and just 1% higher than the number trusting Jarosław Kaczyński, leader of the right-wing Law and Justice party (PiS), the main opposition grouping. Civic Platform also suffered a series of local by-election defeats and has, since May, trailed Law and Justice by around 5-10% in the polls.

 With the economy sluggish and unemployment remaining high, Poles have become increasingly gloomy about their future prospects. There has also been a growing sense of government drift with ministers appearing to spend too much of time on crisis management and failing to undertake long-term structural reforms. The Tusk government appeared to revert to the cautious policy of ‘small step’ reform that characterised its first term in office. This approach worked fairly well while the economy was strong but began to come unstuck when the tempo of growth slowed and unemployment increased.

 Divisions and tensions within the ruling party both contributed to and were exacerbated by the sense of crisis. This reached its peak during the summer when Mr Tusk was challenged for his party leadership by Jarosław Gowin. (more…)

Politics and social media: why Eastern Europe’s politicians are all atwitter

By Blog Admin, on 13 February 2013

Politicians in Central and Eastern Europe are taking to Twitter in increasing numbers –  but with mixed results, finds Philipp Köker.

Twitter Town Hall audience

Photo: P.Souza via Wikimedia Commons

 Since Barack Obama’s use of twitter and other social media in his successful 2008 presidential campaign, more and more politicians (or their PR advisers) have discovered the power of delivering short, 140-character messages to supporters. This digital revolution has also not left politicians in Central and Eastern Europe unaffected and many leaders in the region are now on twitter. However, not all of them are using it effectively and some have even given up on it already.

It would, of course, be hard to match Obama’s 26 million followers but recently Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves @IlvesToomas and former Russian president and current prime minister Dimitrii Medvedev @MedvedevRussia and @MedvedevRussiaE have both advanced to moderate twitter stardom. Both tweet in English as well as in Estonian or Russian, respectively (Medvedev even has separate accounts for each language); yet more importantly, they both tweet themselves.

While Ilves’ ten thousand followers do not yet measure up to Medvedev’s 1.9 million followers (for his Russian account –  the English account has close to half a million followers), the Estonian president has earned his followership by providing interesting posts and concise policy statements, as well as by interacting with his followers on a regular basis –  his twitter feud with Princeton economist Paul Krugman last summer might be an additional motivation to follow him) Medvedev on the other hand predominantly tweets pictures from state visits including a photo of a Finnish sauna and the view from his hotel window in Rio de Janeiro and, in contrast to Ilves, prefers to congratulate Arnold Schwarzenegger on his birthday rather than engage with followers.

(more…)

Poland: Law and Justice struggles to find a winning formula

By Blog Admin, on 28 January 2013

Opposition parties across East Central Europe have made gains against economically beleagured governments,  but Poland’s Law and Justice party is struggling. Guest contributor Aleks Szczerbiak explains why.

Jarosław Kaczyński – Photo: M. A. Cholewicz (Gdansk/Poland) Via Wikimedia Commons

 For much of 2012, many Polish voters were clearly disappointed and frustrated with the ruling party, the centrist Civic Platform (PO), fearing that the Polish economy was entering a period of crisis.  Many incumbent parties in Central and East European facing similar problems have taken a political beating, losing out heavily to opposition groupings in recent elections. However, Civic Platform has benefited from the continued weakness of the main opposition grouping, the right-wing conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party.

Polls suggested that voters were reluctant to support Law and Justice because they did not see the party as a credible alternative to Donald Tusk’s Civic Platform-led administration. They particularly disliked the apparently more aggressive and divisive style of politics they associated with its leader Jarosław Kaczyński, Tusk’s controversial predecessor who has figured in polls among Poland’s least trusted politicians.

 Part of the reason why Law and Justice was unable to take advantage of the government’s problems was that during the first part of 2012 it was embroiled in a bitter political struggle to retain the loyalty of its core right-wing electorate against the new Solidaristic Poland (SP) party. This is a breakaway grouping comprising expelled Law and Justice members led by former party deputy chairman Zbigniew Ziobro who fell out with Jarosław Kaczyński after the autumn 2011 parliamentary election. The danger of Solidaristic Poland chipping away at Law and Justice’s core support stemm from the fact that Ziobro was, after Kaczyński himself, probably the best-known and most popular politician among right-wing voters. (more…)