Why Kaczynski Isn't Smiling: Poland's Mixed Election Results

Why so glum?
Why so glum?
Marek Beylin

WARSAW — Poland's ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) won last weekend's parliamentary elections. So why was longtime party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski so obviously glum during his victory speech?

The first answer is in the performance of other Polish political parties: combined, the three main blocks of the democratic opposition received more votes in total than the conservative forces of PiS. This outcome is the clearest sign that Kaczynski's plans to cement total political control over the country will be harder to achieve than he hoped.

The PiS victory is there, but it is not a crushing one.

Since 2015, PiS has had a majority in both the lower house of parliament (Sejm) and the upper house (Senate). Since 2005, all of Poland's presidents have also come from PiS — including the current one, Andrzej Duda. But Sunday's parliamentary elections have changed the equation. True, PiS retained its majority in the Sejm. But While Kaczynski was dreaming of destroying The Polish People's Party, its primary opponent, even those parties who reached only 8% are talking about success ... The PiS victory is there, but it is not a crushing one.

Moreover, PiS failed to take the majority in the Senate, which means that essential staff changes will be impossible without the approval of the united opposition. The new Senate may also publicly criticize any unlawful activities of PiS, which will further weaken the party.

Opening ballot boxes in Lubin, Poland on Oct. 13 — Photo: Piotr Twardysko-Wierzbicki/ZUMA

But the real reason Jaroslaw Kaczynski may have been so gloomy the day after is that his party's drop in support came despite powerful propaganda in state media and support from the always influential Catholic Church hierarchy — and may mean PiS could lose the presidency when voters return to the polls to choose the head of state in May.

No doubt, PiS will spend the next six months doing everything it can to weaken the opposition. With the new campaign already up and running, PiS promised further benefits to citizens and tougher pressure on opponents. PiS will use the courts, free media, and local governments. It will intensify propaganda attacks on elites, minorities, and political opponents. It will convince the public that there are enemies of Poland in the foreign service.

The hope it that it will all backfire.

It will be a campaign of political violence, which is increasingly likely to spill over onto the streets, as PiS will intensify hateful attacks against its opponents. Kaczynski's party will count on the fact the European Union will probably be paying less attention to its acts of authoritarianism.

The hope is that it will all backfire — that PiS's radical actions will mobilize opponents rather than intimidate them into passivity.

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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