Friday, February 11, 2011

Week in review…

Polish economists laid into each other with a fury rarely seen this past week over the government's controversial plan to "reform" the pension system by reversing reform. Methinks the next Meeting of Eminent Polish Economists will be witness to a brawl or two. But no matter the government's defence of its plan, the pendulum has clearly swung against the senior ruling Civic Platform (PO). The PO is staring into the abyss.

A good example of the PO's recent put-head-in-hands action came from one of our favourite party members, Joanna Mucha. Ms. "best legs in Polish politics" showed her saucy, sinister side when she told a PO publication that old people go to the doctor "for fun" and that there was little point operating on 85-year-olds since they are too old. Her excuse: she didn't mean it to be published. Her punishment: possible loss of the top spot on the electoral list. The PO's message: we're losing touch.

It got worse. PO MP Robert Wegrzyn dabbled in the type of homophobic, sexist humour I'm sure would have Father Tadeusz Rydzyk choking on a cheezie when he said "we can forget about gay men, but I'd be happy to watch some lesbians." Woot! Double ya pleasure! Though that is probably not the recommended discourse for a supposedly moderate liberal party. PO boss and Prime Minister Donald Tusk will be very happy to see the story got wide local and international play (here and here).

Both gaffes were a prelude of sorts to news Playboy Polska's editor in chief, Marcin Meller, a noted journalist and media celebrity, announced he would no longer support the PO. "I must unfortunately inform you my patience has run out and I won't vote for you in the upcoming election," he addressed the PO. "Even the threat Law and Justice will return doesn't work on me any longer." Two points: as noted by the WSJ's New Europe blog, the PO is no longer cool; if the PiS threat doesn't work, the PO is in deep doo-doo.

Meller's abandonment and ageist, sexist and homophobic jokes were further compounded. The conservative daily Rzeczpospolita notes that ex-Sports Minister Miroslaw Drzewiecki has again been seen shooting the sh|t with PO leaders despite the fact allegations of corruption continue to taint him. Drzewiecki was ensnared in a scandal in which he seemed to promise a gambling industry exec favourable changes to legislation.

The PO's support has duly sagged under the weight of such statements, the controversy swirling around the pension reform, missteps regarding the Smolensk plane crash, infighting and malaise. In a survey from TNS-OBOP, the PO's support dived 16 points in January and recovered only slightly in February. Its support has fallen in other polls as well.

The PO is not dead yet and still has a fair lead in many polls. But the party is looking into the abyss. Now it just has to make sure the abyss doesn't look back. If it can, it can probably walk tall into the October elections. If it can't, Polish politics are set to return to their previous stormy ways.

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