Tuesday, October 23, 2007

How Kaczynski blew it

Two weeks before polling day Jaroslaw Kaczynski was ahead in most opinion polls and looked like pulling off a miracle victory. And then it all went horribly wrong. What’s worse, it’s all his own fault.

I bet when Jaroslaw went home election night he gave the cat a good kicking. Not that the cat had anything to do with the conservative’s thumping by Polish voters. Kaczynski has nobody to blame but himself.

The crucial moment of the campaign came in the head-to-head debate with the eventual winner, Donald Tusk. Immediately after the broadcast many on this blog saw it as a significant gaff by the prime minister, and a good performance by his challenger. Mike Farris said it was the ‘political performance of Tusk’s life,’ and the first time he looked like he had the balls for a fight.

Maybe. But though Tusk looked better, he got lucky: throughout the debate Kaczynski looked like he couldn’t care less.

On Polish Radio this morning he admitted that it was a crucial turning point and he maybe he should have avoided the whole thing altogether. British prime ministers would have warned him – debates are there for sitting PMs to lose – challengers usually get the upper hand as they have no record to defend and so cannot look to be on the defensive. Kaczynski spent the whole debate on the back foot.

But it finally gave Tusk some momentum and he took advantage of the gift Kaczynski had given him.

While liberals think that Kaczynski’s arch-conservative politics was the ultimate reason for the government’s downfall, many conservatives are claiming that he failed because he was not conservative enough!

For instance, columnist Pawel Milcarek told Polish Radio:

'The problem was that [Law and Justice] broke a kind of an agreement with conservative opinion. The so-called Fourth Republic was supposed to be built upon the values of ‘Civilization of Life’.

However, it turned out that when it came to the protection of life, pornography laws or coherent pro-family policy, Law and Justice contradicted its pre-election promises.

The second thing was that they tried to replace a real reform of the state with just the appearance of it. Conservative voters just have had enough.'
In other words, Law and Justice lost the election because they were too liberal.

But that argument just doesn’t work. More people voted Law and Justice in this election than in the ballot two years ago, which they subsequently won. So they mobilized more supporters this time around – problem for them was that Civic Platform mobilized even more of theirs.

Kaczynski also said this morning that he blames public television for his defeat. TVP ran a perfectly legitimate campaign to get young people out to the polling stations. In the last election only 40 percent bothered to vote at all, and the under 25 year olds were the most underrepresented back then.

The TVP ads said: ‘Get out to vote – go change Poland.’

Kaczynski said this morning on the radio: “The ‘go out to vote’ part was fine – but the ‘go change Poland’ thing was a clear suggestion that they should vote against the government.’

Try as he might, the blame for his defeat must lay with Jaroslaw himself and the boorish way he has spent two years in office. Blaming public media will not change that.