Elections always bring out the wackiest individuals. In our last presidential elections, Ireland has had Eurovision singers, former terrorists, double-dealing businessmen, poets, all and sundry vie for the title. I’m not sure whether to be relieved or worried that Poland is also quite similar in its varied selection of characters who are fighting tooth and nail to be deemed worthy for power.
I guess in Ireland it’s not so bad since our president is largely a figurehead, there to be an ambassador for the country, to be present at ceremonial events in a similar fashion to the Queen of England. Usually there’s a sense of benign ignorance towards our head of state, one of mild neglect but relaxed good will.
And our current incumbent in fairness to him seems like a fairly normal sort of individual. He’s a human being which is a lot more than can be said about a lot of our politicians.
Queuing for the ATM. Makes me proud to be Irish.
There is also rumours that he is an exiled prince from Tír na nÓg or the fabled Hy-Brasil. Seeing him at public events makes me wonder if our grandparents were right about the Tuath Dé Danann and the Fir Bolg, the pishogues.
“You have done well Lord Vader”
But I digress. What interests me about the Polish election is that their diaspora will be allowed to participate in their presidential elections unlike in Ireland which seems to twist the slogan of the Thirteen Colonies to “No representation without taxation!”
With a population nearing 40 million and current tensions in eastern Europe as they are, along with its long and complicated history, Poland’s election is a bit more of a big deal than our little song and dance in Ireland. Especially since the President of Poland has quite a bit of power. Along with being the Supreme Head of the Armed Forces, the President can also dissolve the Parliament if he or she wishes as well as various other legislative and executive powers that all comes under the tenure of the office.
Poland is like Ireland in some ways and in others, completely different. Both countries are traditionally seen as bastions of Catholicism with conservative values, both flanked by larger, more aggressive neighbours. Whereas we’ve had the best part of a century to run ourselves into the ground, Poland endured the austerity of communism. The large working class and powerful trade unions are tempered by a strong sense of patriotism and Catholic conservative values. It’s quite a different animal from Ireland where our political parties are all pretty much the same and there’s no real left or right, just centre.
Issues like women’s suffrage were far more advanced in Poland but on the other hand something like the marriage referendum that’s happening in Ireland now probably won’t happen here for another decade or so at least. Political struggle here in recent memory was centred on the union members (the world famous Solidarity Movement) with widespread civil disobedience and strikes unlike our distinctly Irish tendency towards mortar attacks, car bombs and molotov cocktails.
So let’s check out some of the more interesting candidates.
First up we might as well see the current president who is seeking re-election, Bronislaw Komorowski.
I’ve heard nothing too spectacular about him. He’s reasonably popular, became acting president after the death of Lech Kaczynski in 2010. Interned under communism, has served as Defense Minister. He’s not too much a fan of Russia. A lot of political experience which counts in a country where traditionally politicians spend years working their way up the party hierarchy. Not going to comment too much on him as he’s the current favourite.
I couldn’t leave out Janusz Palikot.
Jan…well he honestly doesn’t give a shit about anything. The bad boy of Polish politics. He loves publicity stunts. He’s smoked weed in public, publicly stated the president is an oaf (a risky move with Poland’s anti-defamation laws), brandished a gun and a dildo at a press conference over police rape allegations and perhaps most infamously produced the severed head of a pig during a TV debate with officials of the Polish Football Association (PZPN) as his way of declaring war on what he stated was corruption within their ranks.
He’s also been investigated for financial irregularities with claims that he’s illegally financed his election campaigns. He’s got a mixed reception, some love him, others hate him with many I’ve talked to seeing him just as a showman.
Then there’s Pawel Kukiz.
He’s a singer. He’s compared himself to Gandhi and recently said something along the lines of
“If you have your own anti-system candidates then you really need to go to the ballots and vote for them. The more votes we get, the more we weaken this enlightened communism, the better for Poland“.
His view is that political parties are there for their own gain, that citizens lose out thanks to the current system. He’s getting quite popular recently, he’s got nearly 10% in the opinion polls, mostly amongst younger Poles who are probably a bit pissed off with the system.
Then we have Marian Kowalski.
Marian does not do photographs well. He varies from looking like a Bond villain to a retired punk rocker who’s having a mid-life crisis. He’s from the Schwarzenegger school of politics, he’s a former bodybuilder and no doubt quite good at lifting heavy objects. Marian is heavily involved with Ruch Narodowy (National Movement) which began as an alliance between several far right and nationalist parties in Poland. As such he’s probably doomed to be eternally in opposition.
He recently visited Ireland to canvass for votes where his reaction to protesters about his presence was to call them
the agents of Putin in Ireland
He’s not a fan of immigration which I find mildly hilarious considering how Poles, like the Irish, tend to emigrate. He also has the same name as my mother, so I can’t see his name without chuckling.
Quite a bit easier on the eye is Magdalena Ogórek.
With a doctorate in history, Magda is from a heavily academic background with quite a bit of lecturing experience under her belt. She’s better known for her looks though, having cameos in quite a few films and tv shows. Much sharper than she’s given credit for, alot of Poles I’ve talked to seem quick to dismiss her on account of her looks, unaware of her academic work. She refused to be interviewed during her campaign which I hardly think is going to improve her chances. A local girl, she’s from Rydultowy, a small mining town near enough to where I work.
Has stated that she intends to thaw out Moscow-Warsaw relations which is in contrast to some of the other candidates. Here she is acting.
I’ll finish with Janusz Korwin-Mikke.
He’s….controversial to say the least. A veteran politician, he protested higher taxes by eating his tax return. He’s also stated that democracy is the
stupidest form of government ever conceived.
(Churchill would have been proud, “The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter”).
Last of the Mohicans, Korwin is a contradiction. He’s not a fan of women’s suffrage and believes men are more intelligent but then stated Margaret Thatcher was his political authority and attended her funeral. He also said that disabled people shouldn’t be seen on television but prior to this he had set up a foundation to help them develop their skills in chess. He’s conservative, he’s liberal, he’s Janusz Korwin-Mikke. He puts me in mind of an aging Cossack, an old warhorse who won’t be put out to pasture. Basically he does whatever he wants.
I’ll just leave you with some quotes of his, give his blog a look, putting it mildly, it’s some read.
A jump from the sixth floor is definitely more harmful than taking heroin, yet we don’t forbid building sixth floors.
He’s made it clear he doesn’t like democracy…
Democracy means that if this man, you Miss, and I will be trapped on an island, we having a majority of votes will decide that you have to sleep with us. That’s the Democracy. And with 2/3 votes we can even put that in the constitution.
Paleontologists do not have to search for famous “missing link” from which humans supposedly came, and current great apes. This link is simply the socialist – because he has both monkey genes.
He’s quite direct.
I support the protection of life from conception to natural death. But a natural death for a murderer is a death on the gallows.
In his seventies, though he doesn’t look it. I sincerely believe he’d prefer to settle arguments on the field of honour as opposed to parliamentary debate in the Sejm.
There’s a few other candidates but none quite so as entertaining as the one’s I’ve mentioned above. Hopefully my outsiders view on the presidential election won’t ruffle too many feathers, I’m a novice at Polish at best and I’ve only been living here eight months. I’m curious to see what the result will be come next week. It’s been relatively muted in my town, most people seemed more excited about the local elections! Maybe it’s a Silesian thing.
The above opinions are my own with some paraphrasing from people I’ve chatted to or some articles I’ve read. It’s not intended as a definitive take on any of them. If you’ve any comments or observations, feel free to leave them in the comments section below and I’ll get back to you when I can.
Slán go foill agus go raibh maith agaibh.