Friday, February 01, 2008

Poland’s winter of discontent -Beatroot

Civic Platform are clueless.” That’s what many are saying of Poland’s still fledgling government. It must be the shortest political honeymoon in history.

Usually, governments get elected, the majority are relieved to see the back of the old government, and a period of optimism and popularity ensues for the new leaders.

In the UK, Tony Blair and New Labour had, post-1997, a honeymoon that seemed to go on for years. In fact, it went on until after the next election, which they won, too. And then the honeymoon just kept on going. Until, that is, Tony went and spoiled it all by doing something stupid: he invaded Iraq, alongside his buddy, George.

Oops! Honeymoon ends in tears.

After Civic Platform won the October 21 election, the honeymoon seemed to be going to plan. Opinion polls put their approval rating over 50 percent; people were genuinely relieved not to have to wake up in the morning and read the headlines full of Roman Giertych, Andrzej Lepper or Jarolsaw Kaczynski making a fool of themselves, or Poland, or both.

But the approval ratings for Civic Platform are already on the decline. Some members of Platform’s coalition partners – the ever opportunistic Polish Peasant’s Party (PSL) - are muttering, off the record, their discontent.

When Tusk wakes up in the morning he will not be hearing the birds in the trees singing their welcoming morning chorus; all he will be hearing are people on the march demanding more of…well, pretty much everything, actually.

Organized, and not so organized, labour, are having a go and trying to get as much out of the government before they have time to settle. Miners, hospital workers, teachers, customs officials…the list is endless.

Not all of this is Civic Platform’s fault. They have a budget, and deficit, that was drawn up by the previous government.

They have chaos on the eastern border, with HGVs queuing for miles and miles, and days and days, on the Ukrainian and Belarusian side after Poland joined the Schengen fortress. Jaroslaw Kaczynski was claiming that Poland was ‘ready’ to enter Schengen as early as last summer. Well, plainly Poland was not ready. The new restrictions on Ukrainians, Belarusians, Russians entering the country - through already tough and inefficient borders - has created the increased delays and customs officials can’t cope with the extra bureaucracy. Naturally, they want more money for the work, and they want more staff to help them.

Though not their fault, the government, characteristically, seems ill prepared for what would happen after the election.

They created an expectation that here would be a government that would be competent – not like that Kaczynski farce – they would be decisive, resolute, purposeful, determined, strong, unifying.

Well, I just don’t see any of those qualities. None at all. All I see is dither, dither, dither. How long before the Polish Peasant’s Party start to distance themselves from the mess piling up before Tusk’s incredulous eyes?

Honeymoon? It wasn't even a day trip.