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lördag, november 11, 2023

Poland’s nice democratic second is nice information for all of Europe

To be in Warsaw on Sunday evening was to expertise a uncommon second of political pleasure. Younger voters queued till the early hours to see off the xenophobic nationalist populists who’ve been dragging their nation backwards, show that even an unfair election might be gained towards the chances, and switch Poland in the direction of a contemporary European future. Neighbours introduced scorching drinks to maintain them within the chilly. Interviewed at round 1am on Monday morning, one younger man in Wrocław mentioned they needed to grasp in there as a result of this was an important election since 1989. 

I walked to a Warsaw polling station on election day with the identical outdated associates whom I had accompanied to that historic vote on 4 June 1989. With delight, they every selected one title from the lengthy listing of parliamentary candidates. With equal delight, they refused even to take the poll paper for the simultaneous referendum which – with its ludicrously biassed questions on issues like an alleged ”compelled relocation mechanism” for unlawful immigrants supposedly ”imposed by the European forms” – was successfully election propaganda for the ruling Legislation and Justice get together (PiS). However my associates and I have been filled with nervous anticipation. 

Anna instructed me that whereas in 1989 her dominant emotion had been hope, now it was worry. Her daughter, who was simply seven in 1989, anxious what extra the ruling get together might do to poison younger minds and spoil her personal seven-year-old daughter’s schooling. However then, beginning with the primary exit polls at 9 pm, our foreboding turned to aid after which pleasure. 

Regardless of being solely semi-free, that 1989 election opened the door to democracy in Poland. Regardless of being unfair in a number of methods, not least within the crude, mendacious propaganda pumped out by all state-controlled media, this one ought to reverse Poland’s slide in the direction of the type of electoral authoritarianism practised by Viktor Orbán in Hungary

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Turnout, at a file practically 74 p.c on the present rely, was totally 10 p.c increased than in 1989. Reversing a continent-wide pattern, first estimates counsel that voters beneath 29 turned out in bigger numbers than these over 60. It appears younger Poles lastly understood that their future was at stake. No matter occurs subsequent, this was an ideal democratic second. The individuals spoke and mentioned they needed a unique authorities. 

Except present projections are badly improper, the democratic opposition events may have a transparent parliamentary majority over PiS and its potential accomplice, the wild Konfederacja get together, which had threatened to select up a major youth vote.

Why did the opposition win? We’ll want extra time to know this totally, and there all the time stays a fog of wonderful thriller round how and why thousands and thousands of particular person individuals finally resolve to vote a method slightly than one other. Nonetheless, we are able to see that many citizens merely acquired fed up with the crude, mendacious, corrupt, petty, backward-looking, obscurantist rule of the get together led by the 74-year outdated Jarosław Kaczyński, who’s a type of one-man strolling anthology of resentment. 

Some have been alarmed by opposition warnings that the anti-Brussels course of PiS would possibly ultimately result in Polexit. (The extra instant hazard was that it could be a part of forces with Orbán, Italy’s Giorgia Meloni and the Slovak populist Robert Fico to pull the whole EU additional to the appropriate.)

Subsequent to the younger, will probably be attention-grabbing to see how girls voted, confronted with a reactionary, patriarchal get together imposing one of many strictest anti-abortion legal guidelines in Europe. Round 600,000 Poles overseas registered to vote, though their affect on the precise outcome shall be (unfairly) marginal.

Enormous credit score should go to Donald Tusk, the chief of the most important opposition listing, the Civic Coalition, which has at its core the Civic Platform get together he co-founded within the early 2000s. I need to confess I used to be sceptical in regards to the return to the entrance line of Polish politics of the 66-year-old former president of the European Council. It felt a bit like Tony Blair resuming the management of the British Labour Celebration – and Tusk, like Blair, does have lots of people who cannot stand him. However he fought his means by means of a barrage of toxic abuse, ludicrously accusing him of being the German candidate, and this victory is in important measure his.

I got here to Warsaw instantly from Istanbul, the place my liberal democratic associates are in deep despair after a united opposition didn’t defeat president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in an election earlier this 12 months. Final spring, I watched a united opposition in Hungary go down badly towards Orbán. In Poland, my associates and I have been additionally urging the opposition to unite – which it didn’t do. But it might end up that the very fact there have been three totally different opposition lists to select from – Tusk’s Civic Coalition, the Third Means (combining two events broadly acceptable to liberal Catholic voters) and the New Left –truly ended up maximising the opposition vote.

I simply realized a brand new Polish phrase: depisyzacja, that’s, “dePiSisation”, by analogy with decommunisation. However taking the PiS out of the Polish state shall be a troublesome job

It is nonetheless early days. Resentment-tsar Kaczyński could but have a number of soiled tips up his sleeve. President Andrzej Duda will give him the primary probability of forming a authorities, so it might take months earlier than energy lastly adjustments arms. Such a various opposition coalition could also be fractious in authorities (assume Germany). 

Then there’ll be the large problem of reversing PiS’s creeping state seize. I simply realized a brand new Polish phrase: depisyzacja, that’s, “dePiSisation”, by analogy with decommunisation. However taking the PiS out of the Polish state shall be a troublesome job. It means restoring the independence of the courts, turning state media into correct public service media, undoing deep political penetration of the civil service and state-owned enterprises, re-drawing constituency boundaries so that they mirror inhabitants adjustments – and extra. Restored EU funding will assist, however nobody is aware of the true situation of Poland’s public funds and there is a struggle grinding on subsequent door in Ukraine.

PiS stays the get together which gained the only largest share of the vote. In huge cities, practically half the votes went to opposition events and fewer than 1 / 4 to PiS, however within the countryside it was the opposite means spherical. Civic Platform should present it has realized from its errors within the 2000s and respect the issues of a poorer, extra conservative, Catholic, rural and small city Poland. And the opposition must keep away from the temptation merely to take revenge – a sure Polish speciality splendidly depicted in Andrzej Wajda’s movie of the basic Polish comedy Revenge.

However adequate unto the day are the evils thereof. I discover this morning that the presenters on the unbiased, opposition-supporting TV channel TVN can hardly cease smiling – and, frankly, nor can I. Poland’s populist nightmare is nearly over and all Europe will profit in consequence. 

Timothy Garton Ash’s most up-to-date e book is Homelands: A Private Historical past of Europe
👉 Learn the unique article on the Guardian

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