Presidential Elections 2010: Cautious and Quiet

Though the final weeks of the presidential race are dawning, the election campaigns by the respective candidates as well as their media coverage remain rather quiet and restrained. Be it for the tragic circumstances that necessitated the early election, or for the general nature of contemporary politics, the aspirants for the presidential office seem to take after another and have avoided taking concrete positions.

Nevertheless, some general tendencies about the rivals’ similarities and differences can be identified. As the top runners in the competition, Bronisław Komorowski from the currently ruling PO party and Jarosław Kaczyński of the PiS party seem to be sparking the most public interest. Both of them have promised to promote unity within the country and beyond party affiliation if they are elected president. In an interview with Rzeczpospolita, Kaczyński stressed the need to tackle the “Gordian Knots”, such as economic inequality, rural backwardness and health care deficits, that inhibit Poland’s development. Similarly, Komorowski told Polska The Times to foster the country’s overall modernisation drive. The concrete measures to be taken, however, remained rather cloudy and left aside.

In an attempt to elicit some of the candidates’s positions, Gazeta Wyborcza initiated a survey about the most important perceived topics, such as the accession to the eurozone, the economy, taxes and the health care system. Unanimously, all of the questioned presidential aspirants acquiesced to join the Eurozone. The only differences remain in the time schedule. Surprisingly, leftist Grzegorz Napieralski of the SLD and independent Andrzej Olechowski even favour an accession within the next five years. Given the current financial turmoil in Europe, Bronisław Komorowski argues instead to keep Poland out of the eurozone until the financial mechanisms are strengthened.

Conflicting views seem to prevail over pension schemes, the taxing system, as well as health care reforms. While Komorowski is seeking to wipe out pension privileges as they exist for army and police officials, Olechowski put emphasis on reforming the pension schemes for Polish farmers. All three expressed their will to stimulate the economy and agreed on reducing corporate income taxes for attracting private entrepreneurship and investment. In addition to that, both Komorowski and Olechowski favour a flat-rate tax instead of the current progressive tax for reasons of economic efficiency. Napieralski, in turn, accuses the idea of being not feasible, unless the national budged deficit is reduced first. Further arguments affect the privatisation of state-owned corporations and reform plans to improve the health care system.

Both Waldemar Pawlak from PSL and Jarosław Kaczyński refused to answer Wyborcza‘s survey. Their candidate profiles thus remain more opaque than the already reserved nature of the aforementioned three.

Although the office of the president of the Polish Republic does not have as much power as the prime minister, his role can be highly influential. Apart from being the highest international representative, head of state and supreme commander of the armed forces, the president possesses considerable executive authority. With his veto power, the president is able to block reforms and block bills previously passed by the government. That is why the candidates’ political and socioeconomic views are still important.

The general presidential elections are scheduled for 20 June. However, the currently heavy flooding in Poland, which has provoked local municipalities to declare a momentary state of emergency, could endanger the election if a national state of emergency is declared. In case of such an unlikely scenario, the presidential elections could not be held earlier than a postponing period of 90 days, as the Polish constitution prescribes.

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