Politicians' faces beam out from billboards plastered across Polish cities. Radio and TV waves overflow with ads touting this or that difference among the political parties. The parliamentary election must be right around the corner…
Actually, it won't be held till the beginning of October, at earliest. The election date hasn't even been set yet. President Bronislaw Komorowski can't even legally announce the official date until early August.
So what is going on? Politicians are simply trying to thwart bad legislation. The ruling Civic Platform (PO)-Polish People's Party (PSL) coalition decided in January (our take) to ban billboards and TV advertising. Though the Constitutional Tribunal is looking at whether the change is legal, the actual official election campaign will not see ads as the law stands now.
Parties have thus decided to launch "information" campaigns. This of course creates the likely scenario where parties run these quasi-campaigns all the way until the "official" election campaign starts a few weeks before the elections.
The Polish Electoral Commission said on Tuesday that it looked like a lot of what was going on was actual campaigning in the sense of trying to convince voters to support a certain political option. What perspicacity.
The commission could refuse to accept a party's yearly financial accounts, as it must, leading to fines. But every party knows that campaigning is crucial and the best way to get to people is via billboards and broadcast media. The internet and social networking are playing ever larger roles in elections. But traditional media still trump the new kids on the block in terms of impact.
Unless the Tribunal strikes down the ad ban, expect parties to "campaign" with billboards and ads anywhere and everywhere until the official campaign starts, lending support to all those equating politics with farce.