Wednesday, February 09, 2011

SLD's dry spell set to end

The Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) last took power in 2001-05. The ex-communist party was mandated in 2001 not to reform, but to quiet things down after a stormy right-wing rule. They did. They just tried to fleece Poland while doing so. A quiet rule thus became deafeningly loud as prosecutors and parliamentary commissions probed the many cases of pilfering. Its support still has not fully recovered.

For its sins, the SLD was punished with years of low polling levels, missteps and one false start after another. But the general elections set for October do look likely to bring an end to its ruling dry spell even if the SLD has not actually done much -- other than survive -- to bring this about.

The SLD's ex-communist past and the plethora of old guard leading lights who refuse to go gently into that good night alienates many young voters, even earnest leftists from the cities and universities. The old guard also tends to be very opportunist, further offending. The embodiment of both strains is Leszek Miller, a one-time member of the communist-era politburo and former prime minister who eventually also supported a flat rate income tax. Some leftist.

The SLD likewise suffers from the fact the leftist economic agenda is basically the Polish political economic agenda with very few exceptions and even fewer now that the senior ruling Civic Platform (PO) has embraced populism. Though outsiders see the SLD and the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) as polar opposites, the two parties in fact can happily get along on economic policy. In fact, they get along so well on so many issues talk is increasingly turning to whether they can form a coalition after the elections. Talk about a coalition of doom.

The SLD is being helped by time as well. Fewer and fewer voters remember its purse-nabbing ways. The party is also run by the enthusiastic Grzegorz Napieralski, who considering he is one of the youngest big party leaders would surely be nicknamed "Nappy" were he active in the West.

But the number one reason the SLD's prospects are a bit better is the fact the PO looks increasingly shaky and has been alienating voters left, right and centre. The centre-left vote thus has few options other than the SLD.

The election is too far away for firm predictions, but it is likely to be the SLD's best since 2001. Since I believe the PO will win but with support closer to 30% than 40%, this means it will likely have to look for bigger coalition allies. The SLD's days of atonement might finally be behind it.

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