Until a few months ago, there was talk of Poland as an economic miracle. It is the only European country that has not entered into recession since the 2008 financial crisis hit and instead grew to 4.5% in 2011.
Since winning the 2007 elections, the liberal candidate Donald Tusk, 56, had made the country a benchmark of stability among its neighbors in Central and Eastern Europe and had Germany as its largest trading partner.
Prime Minister Tusk is the longest-ruling leader in Poland. No one had been re-elected since the fall of communism. But now, in the middle of his second term, his star seems to be fading.
Late last year the economy started to slow down, unemployment has now risen to 13.2% and discontent has spread among many Polish people, who criticize the lack of action, lack of “clear communication by the Government about its vision for the country,” says Krzysztof Blusz, an analyst for a think tank known as DemosEuropa.
Despite this situation, Poland still looks better than Spain, for example, but issues such as raising the retirement age and the recent proposal to reform the private pension funds have undermined the Government’s image.
“There is a higher dose of opposition to these issues. People were told to go into private funds to save for retirement, and now the plan seems to be a mere trick to transfer back all that money to a national agency to help fiscal consolidation. Many believe it is an unfair way of appropriating the money,” says Blusz.
But Tusk’s problems are not just economic. The mistrust people have now allowed progress in the polls for the conservative party of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the main opposition group. Back in May, for the first time in six years, Law and Justice edged Tusk’s Civic Platform with 26% compared with 23% of voters, according to CBOS, one of the largest pollsters in the country. Other polling houses have shown similar results.
The fatigue of the citizens towards the ruling party was also shown in a local election in July, where the Prime Minister’s Party lost the northern city of Elbag to a candidate of Law and Justice. Tusk had traveled several times to campaign for his candidate there, but his trips did not render any political fruit.
Those who support the Law and Justice Party are very disciplined voters, who see in the party a monolithic group that is ideologically united, away from the amalgamation of liberals and conservatives that make Tusk’s Civic Platform, more plural and pro-European, but still divided regarding social issues.
The other battle facing the Prime Minister is internal. For example, earlier this year he was unable to get his own party’s members to agree to vote in favor of a draft to recognize gay unions, and has faced several of his ministers on that issue. He will face off with former Justice Minister Jaroslaw Gowin in late August to decide who controls the the party that put him in power.
Tusk’s internal challenges and Poland’s economic issues are a precedent for yet another election in 2015.
Luis R. Miranda is the Founder and Editor of The Real Agenda. His 16 years of experience in Journalism include television, radio, print and Internet news. Luis obtained his Journalism degree from Universidad Latina de Costa Rica, where he graduated in Mass Media Communication in 1998. He also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Broadcasting from Montclair State University in New Jersey. Among his most distinguished interviews are: Costa Rican President Jose Maria Figueres and James Hansen from NASA Space Goddard Institute. Read more about Luis.