Adam Michnik, the Chief-in-editor of “Gazeta Wyborcza” in an interview with his own paper says Presidential election is a plebiscite on the current ruling party and accuses those in the government of greater arrogance and contempt for law and custom than that displayed by the communists during their 45 years reign in post-war Poland.
In an interview with “Gazeta Wyborcza” (not the first time he has been interviewed by the paper he edits), Mr Michnik says that the election of President in May will effectively be a plebiscite on the current government and President and compared it to the semi-free elections in 1989 in which Solidarity won a landslide in the seats it was able to contest against the then ruling communists. He added that like in 1989 it was not important who the candidate against the government was, people were voting against the incumbent who represented “dictatorship”.
The prominent former anti-communist activist and writer called the ruling party “Lawlessness and Injustice”, arguing that it has become more arrogant and contemptuous of law and custom then were the communists under Gomułka, Gierek and Jaruzelski. He added that he understood that verdicts in cases involving him during communist times were taken by the communist party and that if the ruling party manages to take over the courts they will be taken by them in the future. But he justified his claim that today it was worse because “illicitly recorded “ conversations with him will be broadcast on TV and via the internet”. This to him represented an Orwellian state which “breached elementary principles governing relations between citizen and his state”.
In his interview, Mr Michnik also says that every Pole will know that “voting for Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska (Civic Platform candidate-ed.) he or she is supporting an honest, competent, independent candidate who can count on the support of outstanding people. As an example of such outstanding individuals, Adam Michnik cites Donald Tusk. He concludes saying that he thinks the current President’s (Andrzej Duda) campaign is being run badly and is leading the incumbent to defeat, “a defeat which I wholeheartedly wish upon him”.
Mr Michnik can always be counted on to make a striking statement. Recently he told his readers that Brexit was an event akin to events that led to the rise of Hitler and Stalin. Now it’s the turn of saying that the present ruling party is actually worse than the communists who ruled Poland on behalf of the USSR for 45 years.
Leaving aside the curious practice of granting interviews to the paper he is the chief editor of, his assertion that the present ruling party are worse than the communists were, with regard to the breach of law style of government, will by many be seen as way over the top. It seems to be a classic case of hyperbole gone mad.
In a recent interview with Poland IN Lord Daniel Finkelstein, whose family were saved thanks to the forged Paraguayan passports organized by Polish diplomats in Switzerland, told us that his parents who lived through the Holocaust learned a sense of proportion as a result. He adds that whereas some people see Stalin and Hitler in everything, they saw Hitler and Stalin in nothing. Mr Michnik would do well to reflect on their stance.
The Polish communist party presided over censorship, political prisoners and a pliant judiciary. In 1981 the communist ruler General Wojciech Jaruzelski effectively ripped the existing constitution to shreds by declaring martial law - martial law that led to many deaths and detention of hundreds of Solidarity activists. Today we have no censorship, there are free elections and no political prisoners, or even police violence against demonstrators. Is that really worse than communist times?
It is difficult to understand what Mr Michnik is referring to when talking about illicit recordings undermining the confidence between citizens and their state. If he is talking about him being recorded then this has only happened twice in the very distant past. The first instance was in 2002 when Mr Michnik himself recorded his conversation with Lew Rywin during which Mr Rywin tried to solicit a bribe. The second was in 2006 when the security guards of a Polish oligarch, Aleksander Gudzowaty, recorded a conversation with him. Neither case has anything to do with the present ruling party. If he is talking about the practice of publishing illicit recordings in general, he is criticizing the media rather than the state.
Actually, during the period of martial law in the 1980s, the communist authorities were very fond of publishing recordings of Solidarity activists being interrogated. They also broadcast a recorded private conversation between Lech Wałęsa and his brother. So much for illicit recordings not being around in communist times.
There is, of course, nothing unusual in a paper supporting a particular candidate in the presidential elections. But Mr Michnik should be careful about taking too much solace in claiming support of “outstanding people”. Hillary Clinton surrounded herself with famous celebrities and lost. Back in 1956, Democrat Adlai Stevenson ran against the incumbent Dwight Eisenhower. One of his supporters told him “Mr Stevenson, all thinking people are for you.” Stevenson thanked him for his support but observed: “that’s not enough, I need a majority”. Elections are not won in exclusive circles and amongst the rich and famous.
It is also important not to confuse plebiscites such as referenda with elections. There are several opposition candidates standing in the election, not just one. There is no God-given right for either the Civic Platform or even the ruling Law and Justice to see their representatives in the final run-off. It is the voters who will decide who they want to be their President.
Mr Michnik is very fond of defending the constitution. Perhaps he should read the parts of it which spell out the powers of the President in Poland. They are not the powers of an executive head of state. In May, Poland will not be voting on who will govern the country, but only on whom will be head of state. Politically the result will, of course, have much wider significance, but in constitutional terms, it will not.