Poland, Warsaw – The revolt of the elites against the people in Poland, by Olivier Bault.
On Saturday, May 7, the great demonstration of “democracy’s Defence Committee” (KOD) was held in Warsaw against the Conservative government (PiS) led by Beata Szydło. According to the AFP, quoted by by the major French newspapers, but also by the opposition leaders attending the event, this demonstration was the largest one in Poland since the fall of communism, with 240,000 participants, and this could be the beginning of a new Maidan. Yet the AFP used the figures of the Town Hall of Warsaw led by Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, Mayor of Warsaw and Vice President of the Liberal Party PO (the party of Donald Tusk), which was herself among the leading personalities of the demonstration. Suffice to say that the figures of the Town Hall were the organizers’ number since the PO party claims to have been the main organizer of this event and it was the PO who obviously brought most of demonstrators by chartering buses throughout the country. The police estimated that there were 45,000 demonstrators and this figure was confirmed by several media. While police counted the participants on Pilsudski Square, the end point of the march, where took place the speeches of opposition leaders and a free concert, journalists from the public television accounted protesters during walking, using images recorded by two cameras located on their path. And they found an almost identical number to that of the police. Even very anti-PiS and media close to the PO as Fakt newspaper and television TVN accounted, despite their good intentions, “only” 100 thousand protesters.
Besides the PO, also attended the Nowoczesna.pl parties (another liberal party created before the 2015 elections to retrieve disappointed PO), the “peasant” party PSL (minority partner in the government coalition PO-PSL in power 2007-2015) and the social-democratic SLD (post-communist). All major opposition leaders were there, including Mateusz Kijowski, leader of KOD behind the creation of this organization in November 2015 with a call on Facebook. Mateusz Kijowski, father of four children, three from a previous marriage, and for which the great defender of the rule of law in Poland was not paying child support he owed before the media start talking about it in December.
The slogans of the Saturday’s march based on the will of the Poles to remain in the EU despite the PiS, were part of an answer to the call of Grzegorz Schetyna, the PO’s leader, in favor of a referendum to stay in the EU. This is to make believe that the currently ruling PiS would seek to make Poland leave the EU, which is absolutely not the case.
Meanwhile, there was on Saturday in Warsaw a demonstration made by the nationalist milieu (PiS is not part of it) who gathered at most a few thousands people protesting against the betrayal of the opposition when it asks for Brussels’ help against the Polish government chosen at the October elections.
KOD’s events are held since early December in Poland. The number of participants is systematically inflated by media hostile to PiS and by foreign news agencies. This Saturday, even with 45,000 participants, was by far the largest to date. The presence of numerous members of the political and media elite who shared power until now however allowed conservative commentators to speak about a revolt of the elites against the people rather than the opposite.
Initially, the movement of “defense of democracy” started due to the supposed violations of the rule of law and freedoms by the PiS, that is concretely because of the conflict around the Constitutional Court and the takeover of public media with the early January law on the media. Calls to overthrow the majority chosen at the elections of October 25 launched by some opposition leaders, however, seem to be a very particular conception of democracy and of the rule of law. In addition to Kijowski, the leader of KOD, other important members of this movement do singularly lack of credibility on this field. For example Ryszard Petru, chief of Nowoczesna.pl who had been weakened by revelations about the financing of his election campaign (revelations that confirm the support of banks and the business world to the new party: is it because of new taxes on banks and supermarkets introduced by the PiS, in accordance with its campaign promises?). And also especially the leaders of the PO whom had not only when they were in power, fired from the radio and public television almost all journalists with conservative views or too critical sensitivity, but did not hesitate to exert strong pressure on the private media opposition in order to silence them. As for the PSL and SLD, they have marginal support in the population (the SLD is not even represented in parliament since the last election).
Moreover, all the polls continue to give the PiS widely winner in case of new elections, and the competition is actually about which party would be the main opposition party, because even if the PO is the largest opposition party in parliament it is regularly beaten in the polls by Nowoczesna.pl. As a result, tensions between the leaders of both parties have clearly merged during and after the Warsaw’s demonstration of May 7.
As for the KOD protests and calls for an answer from Brussels to defend democracy and the rule of law, the PiS can also count on the support of the opposition party Kukiz’15 (8% at the legislative elections of last October). Paweł Kukiz, the rocker who surprised many at the presidential elections in May 2015 by getting 20% of votes in the first round, denounced already in December the financing of KOD by the foundation of George Soros, the American financier of Hungarian origin who had already promised to overthrow Viktor Orbán in Hungary.
Indeed, the demonstrations of KOD generally gather people with rather liberal-libertarian or leftist-libertarians, progressives views, in favor of a strong European integration, which stand against a conservative parliamentary majority that focuses on Christian values and the defense of national interests without jeopardizing membership of the European Union. For supporters of PiS, the mere fact that these demonstrations can take place freely and without incident (which was not always the case at the time of the PO-PSL government) is proof that democracy is respected today in Poland, although this reflects the difficulty of some to accept the verdict of the polls.
Translated from French by the Visegrád Post.