Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

The Poles voted for changes

The Day’s experts on surprises at presidential elections and how Ukrainian-Polish relations will change
26 May, 2015 - 12:05
May 24, 2015. Andrzej Duda (center), presidential candidate of the Law and Justice Party (PiS), celebrates with wife Agata (right) and their daughter Kinga after the announcement of the first exit poll results on the second round of presidential elections in Warsaw, Poland / REUTERS photo

Last Sunday quite unexpectedly 43-year-old Andrzej Duda from the opposition party Law and Justice won in the presidential elections. At first he sensationally won in the first round, gaining one percent of votes more than the incumbent president Bronislaw Komorowski, who was going to win in these elections according to the forecasts. It will be reminded that according to the results of the exit polls late on Sunday Duda won the support of 53 percent of voters, and Komorowski – 47 percent.

62-year-old Komorowski acknow­ledged the victory of his rival practically several minutes before the results of the exit-polls were announced. At the same time, he said that he respects the decision of the voters and wished “successful pre­sidential term” to his opponent.

According to Polish mass media, his loss could have been caused by his mistake, when he answered to the question of a voter, “How can I afford to buy an apartment if I earn 500 euros a month,” that “he should find another job, take a loan. You know the level of unemployment in Poland is decreasing, whereas it is growing in England.”

Meanwhile Duda stated before his adherents: “Those who voted for me want changes and I am thankful to them for this.” According to the observers, the victory of a dark horse has drastically changed more than eight-year-long do­mi­nance of the centrist Civic Platform, which supported Komorowski.

In fact Duda’s victory is the first election success for the opposition party Law and Justice, which is close to the Catholic Church, in almost 10 years. It should be noted that hardly anyone knew him before the elections, but he caught up with the help of an active election campaign.

Andrzej Duda was a legal counselor of President Lech Kaczynski and at the age of 43 he considers himself Kaczynski’s spiritual and political successor. But observers note that during the presidential campaign Jaroslaw Kaczynski was never seen standing closely to him. And Duda did that to attract the centrists.

The Day asked experts to comment on the results of the presidential elections and Poland and give a forecast, what will the foreign policy of the new president concerning Ukraine be.

Myron SYCZ, Deputy of the Sejm of the Polish Republic, deputy head of the Polish-Ukrainian Parliamentary group, deputy head of the committee for national and ethnic minorities, Warsaw:

“These elections have showed a great interest of Poles in certain changes. Poland didn’t have any financial problems, but the level of unemployment is rising in the country, and first and foremost it had effect on young population. There is also a disproportion, when some people earn huge money, and others receive minimum wages.

“On the other hand, not all Poles understand the role of a president, because we have no presidential system, but a parliamentary-presidential one. The first round of elections showed that the youth actively voted for people who are not involved in politics.

“To sum up, I can say that a younger and less experienced politician has won, but parliamentary elections await us in the fall this year. And before this moment we need to work on electing new Sejm and Senate. And then the new coalition will create its government which will draft the budget and prepare the basics of development of Poland. But you should keep in mind that the decentralization reform has been successfully carried out in Poland.

“The president is the chief comman­der of the armed forces, he cannot veto laws, and the government is responsible for the development of the economy. Therefore we should pay attention to whether there will be cooperation between the prime minister and president needed to normally approve the laws.”

What changes is the Polish society expecting? What changes are needed, according to Duda’s statements?

“On the one hand, 70 percent of Poles assess well Komorowski’s work, on the other hand, almost the same part of Poles wants a change of the president. Many young people want to have a job. This is the main change expected by society in Poland. Experts note that people forget about historical things. Every year 400,000 people dies in Poland, and over the eight months this number has reached over three million, and at the same time a new generation of Poles has emerged, who have turned 18, and for them the changes that took place 25 years ago are not important. For them it is important what is here and now, and what they have to deal with every day. Although Poland is successfully riding out the economic crisis, young people expect more. And namely youth had a crucial effect on the result of these presidential elections. Duda’s promises to decrease the retirement age and increase the allowances for families with many children have also played their role. Every voter is buying this. But to realize this 150 billion zloty are needed. And Poland cannot provide this.

“As for the changes in the foreign poli­cy of Poland concerning the EU, Ukraine, and Russia, I don’t think that the foreign policy will change considerably. We should rather expect a change in its relations with Western countries and Brussels. The reason is that Polish policy will become more right-wing, there will be more EU skeptics. But I will underline, Poles want to live better and go a European path. The policy of Warsaw concerning Ukraine won’t change, like its policy regarding Russia mustn’t charge.

“As using delicate Ukrainian-Polish problems in the election campaign, yes, there were politicians who wanted to use this moment to get into the second tour of voting. But I believe that with time we will cope with all the problems in our relations.”

Andrii DESHCHYTSIA, Ambassador of Ukraine to Poland, Warsaw:

“Andrzej Duda’s victory testifies to the wide support for the idea that changes are needed in the Polish society, especially in the socio-economic sphere. Over the past 25 years, Poland has seen a new generation grow up, which demands new and better living standards and expects them to be implemented by the President and Cabinet. Accordingly, they see this new face on the political scene of Poland as a personification of and hope for such changes. At the same time, President Bronislaw Komorowski is associated with the older generation of Solidarity and the Civic Platform ruling party, which has held power for seven years.

“Replacement of the head of the Polish state, which will officially take place on August 6, should not bring any significant changes to that nation’s relationship with Ukraine. During his election campaign, Duda has repeatedly talked about the importance of Ukraine to regional security and European integration, and offered his support for Ukraine’s membership in the EU as well. At the same time, Duda supports the idea that Poland needs to take account of national interests first in the course of conducting foreign policy.”

By Mykola SIRUK, The Day