Thursday, November 03, 2011

Should I stay or should I go

The Law and Justice (PiS) tussle between leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski and the upstart Zbigniew Ziobro continues with neither of the hard-right big wigs yet saying wujek. Ziobro, or "Zizou" as he is apparently called by friends, thus remains inside PiS with the big question stated in the title up there.

Zizou, who is only 41, is politically ambitious. The former justice minister and current Euro-MP was once seen as the heir apparent to Kaczynski. A future stint as PM or even as president beckoned. But his position as the PiS crown prince is no more. Kaczynski said recently that Janusz Kurtyka, the former head of the national remembrance institute who died in the Smolensk plane crash in April 2010, would have taken over PiS, not Ziobro.

This is probably one main reason why Ziobro launched his recent rebellion and seems intent on carrying it through this time. Ziobro did launch previous revolts but always kow-towed to Kaczynski. It was almost as if Ziobro was testing Kaczynski's weaknesses.

Launching his own party would put Ziobro firmly in the centre. He is said to be supported by a platoon of current PiS members numbering 30 or 40. This would leave him in better situation than other previous PiS rebels that clashed with Kaczynski, launched their own parties amid much fanfare and proceeded to get hammered during elections before effective political banishment. Strong backing at the start could be key.

But the Palikot Movement (RP) shows that you can do very well at the ballot box as long as you come up with ideas that gain resonance. Ex-Civic Platform (PO) deputy leader Janusz Palikot's movement stressed its anti-clericalism and presented itself as an attractive cocktail of leftist social policy and liberal economics, catering to urbanites across Poland.

Ziobro and allies do not have any such idea. The rebellion is a power play par excellence sparked by electoral dismay and political ambition. As such, its future could very well be cast in doubt. Hard right supporters will look to see who has the best chance of doing well and then will likely vote for them.

Unless Ziobro can overtake Kaczynski, this would appear to be PiS. Father Rydzyk, the radical Catholic media mogul who plays a big role on the right, could provide a much needed boost for a potential Ziobro-led party. But despite Rydzyk and Ziobro being far closer than Rydzyk and Kaczynski, Rydzyk will want results, not intentions.

Ziobro can go. It looks increasingly like he will go. But there are big questions whether he should go. Another way of looking at it is that for PiS haters, a Ziobro splinter party is good news indeed.

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