It looks like my native country of Poland is just as politically divided right now as my adopted home country of the United States. In last week’s EU parliamentary elections, the two main rival parties received the exact same number of seats–19.
The party which is the “winner” of the election–with only 32.8% of the popular vote–is Platforma Obywatelska (PO) or Civic Platform, a center right party. And this may be the one time that I will be excited about the right winning an election. Because PO is–there is no other way to put it–the sane party. They are right wing in a very moderate sense–perhaps this is what the Republicans in America used to be like, or wish they could be like again. They are interested in free markets, open to Poland being a part of the European community and the economic benefits that can bring to the country. They have previously come out in favor of privatization and deregulation, but have been in charge for the last few years and privatization has only happened on a small scale. They don’t seem to be interested in dismantling society.
On the other hand, there is the opposition. Prawo i Sprawiedliwosc (PiS)–the Law and Justice party. It’s a bit unclear to me if they would be considered left or right by American standards. What they are, more than anything else, is religious. PiS followers are fervent Catholics. They are nostalgic people of the sort which wants to wind the clock back to a better time in the past, in this case possibly back to the Middle Ages, when the Church was safely in charge and the priest was the ultimate authority figure. Hence their opposition to Poland’s involvement in the EU–they don’t want Polish culture to be influenced by all that Western moral decadence, with its pesky feminism and pride parades. This would also be why some Catholic right talking heads have actually expressed support for Putin’s expanding influence. Sure, Russia may endanger Polish sovereignty, but at least it doesn’t have gay rights. The spiritual scene in Poland has become a lot more diverse since the fall of the Iron Curtain, with Buddhists and pagans popping up, and PiS followers are not big fans of that. While we’re at it, they would also prefer it if women would step back into the kitchen where they belong, thank you very much. This would mean no rights to abortion or contraceptives, and a proposed tax rebate for each successive child, to encourage Poles to continue following the Catholic big family model. There is definitely a populist streak to the PiS platform–they are in favor of welfare programs and at one point made promises of a large-scale guaranteed housing project for Polish families. This is where your average American observer might get confused. PiS essentially combines social conservative values with some progressive safety net ideas.
Funny thing is, the Civic Platform party isn’t that terribly liberal about social issues either. But they are closer to the middle, which has caused them to be accused by Law and Justice of being depraved and sinful heathens, ready to take Poland over the brink into heresy, which is enough to recommend PO to me. And I guess there’s the similarity–whether in Poland or America, elections aren’t about voting for the party you love, they’re about picking the less crazy option of the two.