Is it over yet?
The presidential campaign in Poland is mercifully coming to a close with the elections scheduled for Sunday. It is doubtful that repercussions will be as dramatic as those witnessed in Belgrade, since most Poles seem to simply be anxious to end the whole dirty campaign.
Polish Renewal Movement (ROP) leader and former premier, Jan Olszewski, resigned from the running on Monday, throwing his support behind the Solidarity Electoral Action (AWS) candidate Marian Krzaklewski. Olszewski had foreshadowed this move the preceding day when he addressed supporters in Lublin, stressing the necessity of having only one candidate from the independent-patriotic camp, who could effectively compete with incumbent President Aleksander Kwaśniewski. Meanwhile, Krzaklewski also prophetically announced that right-wing parties would unite before the first round. He stated, "It will be good news that even during difficult times we are able to unite."
Senior Solidarity deputy Stefan Niesiołowski added, "Kwaśniewski's support is falling. If a simpleton pretends to be a statesman, it has to end up that way." He did not mention what failing to advance in the standings at all (remaining under 20 per cent) indicated.
Kwaśniewski's re-election bid did take a hit as support shrivelled from the amazing 70 per cent he enjoyed at the beginning of the campaign down to 51.6 per cent. The ten point drop over the last two weeks resulted from a (to this reviewer's mind) cheap and distasteful television spot, produced by Krzaklewski's campaign, which showed presidential security adviser Marek Siwiec apparently mimicking/mocking Pope John Paul II during a 1997 presidential trip, seemingly with Kwaśniewski's enthusiastic encouragement.
A morally outraged Krzaklewski, demanded that Kwaśniewski quit the presidential race. Kwaśniewski has repeated apologies for the incident "It has never been the intention... of Siwiec, nor anyone from his circle, to offend the Pope or the Catholic Church in Poland," Kwaśniewski told public radio Trojka.
A PBS poll indicated that Kwaśniewski's main rivals'—the holier-than-thou Krzaklewski, and independent centrist Andrzej Olechowski—support for Olechowski increased to more than 14 per cent, while Krzaklewski's support showed little change at around 12 per cent. (NB: OBW polling agency numbers showed: 49.5 per cent for Kwaśniewski, 16.5 per cent for Krzaklewski, 16 per cent Olechowski, and Peasant Party (PPL) leader Jarosław Kalinowski with eight per cent).
In any case, while he may no longer be able to win outright, but be forced into a run-off, Lena Kolarska-Bobinska of the Public Affairs Institute think-tank, commented: "Part of the religious electorate, especially in the rural areas, is leaving Kwaśniewski. "But he is still the unquestionable favourite, even if he has to go through to the second round to win."
It wasn't just the electorate who is turning its collective nose up at Kwaśniewski. Kraków City Council declared Kwaśniewski persona non grata last week, and the Roman Catholic primate, Cardinal Józef Glemp, walked out on Kwaśniewski's speech during celebrations for the 600th anniversary of the Jagiellonian University. Glemp later commented that his departure was not a deliberate snub but that he was hurrying to catch a train.
Meanwhile, the Catholic Action organisation released a statement, saying that "A declared atheist does not deserve the support of believers... because he does not take into account man's spiritual needs and will back legislation irreconcilable with Christian values... By voting for someone representing values contrary to Christianity, a believer would come into conflict with his own conscience and religious identity." Though the statement didn't explicitly name Kwaśniewski, he is the only declared atheist among the 13 presidential candidates. The Action's appeal was read out in churches nation-wide during Sunday masses last week.
There are other matters...
Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek accepted the resignation of Deputy Treasury Minister Jan Buczkowski, who had been responsible for privatisation of the power sector. Buczkowski has been offering to step down since August when (his boss) Emil Wasacz resigned. The power exchange and balancing the market are considered key factors in the process of liberalising the sector. There are however concerns about the slow pace of this process. The liberalisation of the power sector has been set as one of the entry conditions for the European Union.
And in other news...
The Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) won the municipal elections in Warsaw last weekend, winning 39 of the 80 seats on the Warsaw City Council, an increase from the 34 it won in 1998. The SLD's gain was the Solidarity bloc's loss, which won only 27 seats; losing ten seats from the last time around. The Freedom Union's (UW) Wojciech Kozak, a deputy president of Warsaw, commented, "the results confirm a nation-wide trend, showing the SLD coming back to power." The city elections were called after the local government was dissolved in May.
On 29 September, Polish Foreign Minister Władysław Bartoszewski congratulated Yugoslav opposition candidate Vojislav Koštunica on his victory in the disputed (24 September) presidential elections. In a statement, Bartoszewski said that he "expressed hope that the election results would be respected by all participants of the Yugoslav political scene."
Joanna Rohozińska, 6 October 2000
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