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POLAND: Schetyna's "Six Points"

A week after the first general election convention of the ruling PiS party, the Civic Coalition held its programme forum this weekend. The Civic Platform’s (PO) leader Grzegorz Schetyna presented a six-point programme which has already been dubbed as Schetyna’s Six – in response to Kaczyński’s New Five. Throughout the EP election campaign, PiS has accused the PO of not presenting an in-depth programme proposal. Indeed, in the lead-up to the European race, the opposition sought to focus on advancing a general pro-European narrative and was hesitant to focus on specific policy proposals.

1. The first point foresees a package of bills under the slogan “Freedom and Democracy”. This is mainly understood as a proposal to revert the most controversial reforms of the PiS government, such as changes of the judiciary system. Schetyna also vouched that the referendum system will be reinforced, making it obligatory to hold a general vote if a proposal has gathered a million signatures. He also promised the introduction of internet voting as well as the legalization of civil partnerships.

2.  Wages – Schetyna announced that every Pole earning less than PLN 4500 gross per month will receive a special financial bonus.

3.  Healthcare – the PO’s main promise concerns the shortening of wait times for medical specialists to a maximum 21 days as well as 60 minutes for emergency centres. Some experts say that this would be the hardest promise to realise. Currently, wait times for some specialists in different areas of Poland are counted in years, rather than weeks or months.

4. Retirees – Schetyna proposed an assistance programme for the elderly which would include tailored services (such as home repairs or a taxi to a hospital). He also vouched to build rehabilitation centres.

5. Education – more substantial raises for teachers and increased teacher autonomy. It is unclear, however, whether the opposition is proposing to revert PiS’ reform which closed middle schools.

6. Environment – the elimination of coal from household heating until 2030 and in the energy mix until 2040.

In general, commentators argue that the six points are a step in the right direction by the Civic Platform and Coalition. Still, with any programme proposals the PO is going to be at a disadvantage, as PiS is simultaneously proposing and implementing their programme. While Grzegorz Schetyna has mentioned in recent weeks that he will seek to reinforce both the left and right wings of the Civic Coalition, commentators are noting that the presented programme was skewed to the left. The inclusion of ambitious climate goals and the introduction of civil partnerships for same-sex couples were especially important in this context. While Schetyna has presented the programme, voters still do not know the exact shape of the grouping that his party will use this election.

It still remains uncertain whether the long-term alliance between the Civic Platform and Polish Agrarian Party PSL will prevail. Schetyna reiterated his invitation for PSL to join a wider opposition bloc – including left-wing parties. The Agrarian party’s leadership, on the other hand, argues that the Civic Platform’s turn to the left results in a lack of policy coherence. The PSL firmly opposes a unified bloc with SLD and other left-wing parties. It argues that this would put off the voter base. Though, the Civic Platform sees the benefit of continuing its political partnership with the PSL, it does not appreciate being strong-armed by its junior coalition partner.

The most viable option for the opposition in the upcoming general election would be a two-bloc start. This would account for a left-wing bloc of the SLD and potentially Robert Biedroń’s Spring, as well as that of the Christian Democrats, including the PO and PSL. The primary objective for the SLD is to return to the Sejm. It is therefore likely to urge its left-wing colleagues to form an alliance. Though Spring has previously been adamant that it would run solely, the party has now authorised Robert Biedroń to negotiate a potential alliance – albeit, with the Civic Platform. The final shape of the opposition’s coalitions is likely the matter of days rather than weeks at this point.