Tuesday, April 13, 2004

After Spain, Poland? 

It’s safe to say that in the aftermath of M11 in Madrid, most if not all pro-American governments in Europe – the “New Europe” – are scared, very scared. Particularly those with elections coming up soon. Poland, which has been the US’s staunchest ally in Central Europe, both in the war on terror and the war in Iraq, is heading to the polls (no pun intended) by the end of the year. “Is terrorist attack possible?” asks Bartlomiej Sienkiewicz, an analyst associated with the main opposition party PO, “It depends on pre-election opinion polls.” (unfortunately his opinion piece is not available electronically).

This is the current political situation in Poland: the government is in the hands of the Alliance of Democratic Left (SLD or Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej), social democratic Blair clones, except not anywhere as charismatic and successful as Tony himself. SLD are ex-communists who have switched their allegiance 180 degrees, from the old Soviet Union to the United States. However due more to their domestic mismanagement rather than foreign policy, their standing in the opinion polls is now the unbelievably dismal 10% and barring a miracle they will be soon kicked out of office.

The major opposition party, Citizens’ Platform (PO or Platforma Obywatelska), is rating around 29%. It’s a right wing formation, pro market, and moderately pro-American.

The second in the opinion polls – with 24% - is Self-Defence (Samoobrona), a mostly rural and small town based populist movement inspired by le Pen and Buchanan (for Australian readers: a lot more extreme version of One Nation). Self-Defence is anti-free trade, anti-globalisation, anti-EU, and most importantly in this context, anti-war. Its leader, Andrzej Lepper, has been consistently opposed to the presence of Polish troops in Iraq, and prior to the war breaking was preparing to go to Baghdad in a show of solidarity with Saddam Hussein.

The military commitment to Iraq is increasingly unpopular – 60% of those polled recently want to see the Polish troops withdrawn.

With the public support all over the place, no one party will be able to form government on its own; possible configurations are numerous, but none of them guarantees that the current pro-US and pro-war policy will be maintained. What the commentators are starting to get worried about is the possibility that a well-timed terrorist attack could provide a huge boost to Samoobrona and thus propel this unlikeliest of serious political parties to power.

The impact on involvement in Iraq aside, this would be a disaster that Poland simply cannot afford.


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