All parties scrambling for balance
With an impending election and a new party snapping at their heels, both the ruling Solidarity
Electoral Action (AWS) and their former coalition partner, the Freedom Union (UW), have started their swing into action to try and woo voters over to their sides.
The AWS National Council wrote in a January declaration, "We will push away dishonest and incompetent people. Solidarity must change." Leader of the AWS bloc Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek was optimistic regarding the AWS' political prospects, "The AWS is regaining balance. It is getting back in form. It wants again to play and to win. It wants to propose its program for Poland. All our radar screens, all our social and political receivers should be tuned to receive from Poland, to receive from the citizens. Let us remember: the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) has not won yet; the AWS has not lost yet."
Reforms within the AWS began after the conclusion of a 23 December agreement on internal reforms, whereby coalition decisions will be made by an eight-member board. Four of the seats went to the AWS Social Movement (RS AWS) and the Solidarity trade union, while the others were divided between the Conservative Peasant Party (SKL), the Christian National Union (ZChN) and the Polish Party of Christian Democrats (PPChD).
The board consists of: Prime Minister Buzek (RS AWS)—chairman, Stanisław Zając (ZChN)—deputy chairman Marian Krzaklewski and Marcin Tyrna (both from Solidarity) and Jacek Rybicki (RS AWS), Jan Maria Rokita (SKL), Paweł Laczkowski (PPChD) and Wiesław Chrzanowski (ZChN). A congress is planned for 10 March to adopt a new program, and 16 regional congresses are to take place within the next six months.
For its part, the UW was hit particularly hard by the formation of Andrzej Olechowski's, Maciej Plazyński's and Donald Tusk's Citizens' Platform. UW Chairman Bronisław Geremek stated that he believed the general public perceived the party as a collection of over-opinionated people distanced from the concerns of ordinary people—elitist snobs, in other words. "That is why we have proposed action in three areas—unemployment, health, and education—which directly concern every individual," Geremek stated during his recent visit to Poznań. The party will also change the language it currently uses.
Geremek's visit to Poznań also signalled the party's new orientation to act more at the local level. "We have decided that every now and again the party board should meet in the regions. We have already held a meeting like that in Katowice, and we are planning to hold the next one in Western Pomerania." Way to reach out.
Three public opinion research centres—PBS, OBOP and CBOS—recently conducted independent opinion polls that indicated that the Citizens' Platform would get up to 17 per cent if elections were held now. The SLD still enjoys the clear lead with 46 per cent, 38 and 39 per cent support respectively. The UW plunged to a bare five per cent (PBS, OBOP) or six per cent (CBOS), the AWS stand at from 9 to 14 per cent and the Polish Peasant Party (PSL) from 9 to 11 per cent.
Who else is backing Poland's EU bid?
Maybe there's an even higher power at work? It would take a miracle to meet Poland's EU accession target date. Prime Minister Buzek met with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican this week. The Pontiff apparently assured the PM that he is sure membership in the EU was the right way for Poland.
Gummie Bears—worse than you thought
Ever really considered what your candy is made of? Since Poland's ban on all beef by-products, customs officers have been slapped in the face by reality. Customs officers working on the Czech border say they have no legal grounds to confiscate jelly bears and other gelatine-based candy brought into Poland. The Czech Republic has also banned beef imports but has not extended their ban to beef products and by-products. Border guards haven't commented whether they intend to train special sniffer dogs to seek out the contraband.
But, just in case anyone is adversely affected—beyond the requisite stomachache—an insurance company has began offering policies against variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) last week. According to Warta Vita products director Iwona Dąbrowska, "We are trying to respond to the demands of our clients who want protection for themselves and their loved ones against the disease."
She added, "People are very interested in this insurance. We've received many dozens of calls in the past few days." Surely the company isn't taking advantage of the media frenzy and public panic. Poland has no reported cases of BSE or vCJD.
The thorny path to love
According to an OBOP poll, some 55 per cent of Poles believe in love at first sight, and 51 per cent believe true love happens only once in a lifetime. About 35 per cent did not agree while ten per cent were just not sure. A fairly refreshing statistic was that only 19 per cent thought that looks were most important in a partner; 71 per cent said it was personality that mattered most. Gives hope at least.
Stay inside and lock the doors
Marilyn Manson is currently on a European tour and dropped in on Warsaw earlier this week. Warsaw Mayor Antoni Piętkiewicz urged parents to keep their children away from the Tuesday night concert, in fear of the effects of "bad ideas" on Polish young people. Piętkiewicz said Manson's "religion-bashing lyrics... promote bad ideas, bad values. It promotes violence."
During a radio interview, he told parents to "protect our children, our young people," by keeping them away from the concert. He also criticized a Warsaw district governor for allowing the concert to be held at all. Somehow the city and its youth survived. No killing sprees took place in the days that followed ... but only time can tell.