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article imageOp-Ed: Hypocrisy, sensationalization after political killing in Poland

By Kamil Zawadzki     Oct 19, 2010 in World
The killing of an opposition party worker in Poland is a symptom of polarization, but also should herald some self-reflection and re-evaluation of Polish politics, on both sides of the aisle.
An assistant at the office of Polish opposition party Law and Justice (PiS) in Lodz was killed this morning, sparking outrage amongst PiS leadership, including party president Jaroslaw Kaczynski. Kaczynski accused the government of not providing enough security and safety for PiS offices and of indirectly causing the murder through its "great campaign of hate" against PiS and its allies. Some even called it a sign that Polish democracy is in grave danger, also indirectly blaming the government of the Civic Platform (PO) for what has been called by both sides a clearly politically-motivated attack.
There are two major points to make here.
Firstly, Kaczynski and his cohorts should be called on their hypocrisy in blaming the assault on hate-mongering by Prime Minister Donald Tusk's government. Read any news on Polish politics, any analysis or commentary, or tune in to any political discussion between members of PiS and PO, and you will surely see that there was more than enough verocity on both sides.
Kaczynski seemed to particularly take offense to "mohair berets" comments made by Tusk and his colleagues, referring to the style of headwear worn by many of PiS's elderly female supporters, calling it just the beginning of state-sponsored attacks on the opposition. However, these pale in comparison to comments made by PiS supporters and allies such as the notoriously right-wing Radio Maryja, which had no love for the socially-liberal PO and accused it not only of being apart of some age-old Jewish conspiracy to take over Poland.
Conspiracy theorists on the fringe supporting PiS claimed Tusk was complicit in the April 10 plane crash that killed Kaczynski's twin and former president, along with his wife and almost 100 other government and cultural leaders. More recently, many a PiS politician, Kaczynski included, claimed that had the Prime Minister and his staff not decided to make a separate trip to Russia to commemorate the victims of the Katyn massacres, the plane would never have crashed. (Maybe, maybe not - but if the government and the president were on the same plane together when it crashed, it would have completely paralyzed Polish government at the very top and it would have truly been decapitated by the unfortunate accident.)
While some elements of PO have been just as venomous in their public appearances and debates as their opposition rivals in PiS, Kaczynski should take responsibility for his own hate-mongering, which he resumed without hesitation after conceding defeat in summer's snap presidential election. He tempered his image during the campaign and was quite the competition for victorious PO candidate Bronislaw Komorowski, forcing a second-round run-off.
Whereas in March PiS saw its most dismal support ratings in the polls at 23 percent, Kaczynski managed an impressive 36 percent of the vote in the first round, and 47 percent in the second. He presented himself as a humbled, changed man after his brother's untimely demise, but that mantra proved to be little more than a clever ploy to win back centrist and wavering voters in crunch-time. Now, support for PiS has again slid to 23 percent in the polls, and that may be a sign that the Polish public is growing tired of Kaczynski return to confrontational politics that seem to sound more and more like the paranoid ramblings of a deranged man, rather than legitimate platforms of a serious politician.
Upcoming elections to local governments nationwide are bound to be the true litmus test for the success or failure of Kaczynski and his party's renewed aggression towards his opponents.
That being said, the other major point to make is that the shooting in Lodz is being sensationalized as a warning sign of an insecure democracy. That is a gross exaggeration of the situation.
The alleged attacker did, according to police statements, say he had hoped to kill Kaczynski himself, and thus the killing was most definitely politically-motivated. However, this by no means is an indication that Poland's democracy is in trouble. It is merely a sign that Poland's politics have become dramatically polarized, and that there are firebrands and radicals on both sides, some hateful and others desperate to fix what they see is a broken situation. A political crisis or coup, that does not make.
It is also hardly a sign of any government-sponsored crackdown on the opposition. If that was the case or goal of Tusk's government, Kaczynski would have been silenced long ago because he is the epicenter and definition of PiS; without his unifying force the party would have likely already split between its more moderate centrist and more fringe and rightist factions. There is no concerted government crackdown against PiS or other parties. It simply would not make any sense politically or realistically.
Let's not forget that Poland is a part of the European Union, which promotes, upholds and demands strict adherence to democratic government amongst its members. Tusk and his PO have been among the strongest supporters of Poland's participation in, and integration into, the EU, and continue to see it as an opportunity to modernize Poland and bring its economy to Western levels of prosperity. Why would they jeopardize this with a cheap and poor "assassination attempt?"
Overall, we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves when looking at the implications of this tragic event. It most definitely is a symptom of political polarization across the nation, but it is hardly a sign of an endangered democracy. That political polarization was brought about not just by PO, as Kaczynski suggests, but also by his own fiery rhetoric. Both sides might want to take responsibility and reconsider their approaches, especially if they want to triumph in upcoming elections; after the local government votes are in, parliamentary elections are just around the corner next year.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about Kaczynski, Poland, Jaroslaw kaczynski, Donald tusk, Political polarization
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