Opinion: It′s High Time for a New Start in Poland | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 10.09.2007
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Opinion: It's High Time for a New Start in Poland

Polish voters will head to the polls on Oct. 21 to choose a new parliament after the old one dissolved following the break-up of the governing coalition. DW's Hubert Wohlan says a new beginning is desperately needed.

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It was high time for the Polish parliament, the Sejm, to dissolve itself. The loss of reputation for lawmakers and the damage to democracy would have been even bigger than it already is if they had waited even longer.

Hubert Wohlan

Hubert Wohlan

The Sejm's self-dissolution brings to an end Poland's political crisis, which climaxed with the break-up of the governing coalition three weeks ago. Back in July, it had already been clear that the coalition had neared its end.

The last weeks of political agony were dominated by the arrests of the interior minister and the top police commander and the dismissal of several ministers. All of this happened in the name of the fight against corruption. By the end of his premiership, Jaroslav Kaczynski was so concerned with fighting corruption that he had forgotten to govern.

The Kaczynski party's two-year rule ended in an embarrassing way after starting out with a mission of renewal, ending corruption and creating a strong state. The moral renewal failed and the country's political culture has been damaged badly. The fact alone that the two Kaczynski brothers divvied up between themselves the two most important constitutional offices in the land and thereby battered the idea of separation of powers has damaged Poland's image.

The Polish constitutional court wasn't the only body that criticized the government's daily practice and laws that were sometimes passed in a speedy fashion. The European Parliament expressed its concern on several occasions, too.

The fatal legacy of this government can be most clearly seen in the badly damaged German-Polish relationship. The Kaczynski brothers have managed to largely destroy the trust and cooperation built between Polish and German governments since 1989.

The new elections will take place on Oct. 21. The outcome is more uncertain than ever. The Kaczynksi party, Law and Justice, is much stronger today than it was two years ago. The party apparatus is more professional and the number of followers has grown; the party program is simple and easy to understand and includes a lot of populist elements. Competition is weak. The free-market liberal slogans of the opposition civic platform attract, if anyone, educated circles in large cities. The Left, which still suffers from the stain of its communist legacy, desperately needs fresh ideas and faces.

The political parties that remain have been marginalized over the last two years and will probably not manage to make the 5-percent hurdle. Everything points to a success of the Kaczynski party. But it will not be able to govern alone: It needs a willing spouse. That's not good news when considering the experience of the past two years.

But there are still some 42 decisive days of election campaigning left that can change a lot.

Hubert Wohlan works for DW-RADIO's Polish service (win).

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