Poland's conservatives celebrate majority in Parliament but many Poles remain sceptical

Andrzej Lepper

More than seven months after winning the parliamentary elections in Poland, the conservatives at long last command a majority in Parliament. This is a result of a coalition deal struck with the nationalist League of Polish Families and the anti-liberal, populist Self-Defense. But most Poles wonder whether a government with Self-defense leader Andrzej Lepper as deputy prime minister will be able to introduce a reform programme - Mr Lepper's record includes two suspended prison sentences.

The leader of the nationalist League of Polish Families, Roman Giertych, is another key member of the new government - a deputy prime minister and education minister. According to a public opinion survey, around 65 percent of Poles are highly critical of both Giertych and Lepper in the government. Young people, in particular, seem to be disappointed with the latest political developments...

"The new coalition will not improve the situation in Poland. I'm not an optimist because of the people in the new government and the fight for government positions."

"I am against this coalition. I don't think it will be good for Poland. I think it will end soon."

"The situation is detrimental for our social life. We have a government with the populists who are not interested in changing out social and political life but are interested in their own careers. We should concentrate on the changes that take place in Europe, mainly on agriculture because this is the most important problem for Poland. What we need is a liberal government."

According to most observers of the Polish scene, what the conservatives wanted to achieve by forming the coalition was a 'nicely working voting machine'. For the two smaller parties, entering the government seemed to be a chance to improve their image and present their leaders as serious politicians.

Not long ago Self-Defense pressed for greater government control over the central bank and for higher unemployment benefits, while the League of Polish Families spoke against Poland adopting the euro. Marcin Sobczyk of the Warsaw Independent news service hopes that the new government will not do much harm because all parties will have to make some concessions:

"I would not expect any bizarre legislative proposals or something that would earn Poland the name of a banana republic in the economy or politics. The populists and the far-right will be blocked by the conservatives - the Kaczynski brothers, and vice versa. There's going to be a lot of intricate games going on."

Some of Poland's foreign partners have expressed concern that the two fringe newcomers to the government could drive Poland away from the European mainstream. As foreign policy analyst Roman Kuzniar of Warsaw University says continuity is therefore the key objective:

"The question is how the new foreign minister will ensure consistency and continuity of Poland's foreign Policy. We have no choice but to continue because Poland has made many commitments vis-a-vis such countries as Germany, Russia, the United States, as well as the European Union and NATO; so there is not much room for manoeuvre."

The ruling conservatives have stressed that the present direction of Poland's foreign policy will not be changed. And while most observers here predict that the populists and nationalists will indeed be kept away from this area, they are far more sceptical as far as their impact on the economy is concerned.