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.
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…)