Saturday, 30 October 2010
Wake up, President Komorowski!
I have been waiting over the last month or so for President Bronislaw Komorowski to seize the initiative and occupy the neutral ground of public opinion left void between the warring factions from PO (Civic Platform) and PiS (Kaczynski's Law and Justice Party).
Initially, because of Kaczynski's personal animosity towards him and the high emotional tension around the temporary cross erected outside the presidential palace after his predecessor's death in Smolensk, I felt it right that the President avoided a high profile. He has appointed some admirable advisers, although almost exclusively from the liberal and social democratic wing of Solidarity (Tadeusz Mazowiecki, Henryk Wujec, Jan Litynski, the former finance minister Osiatynski, as well as the liberal ex-Marxist historian Tomasz Nalecz). They had obviously urged caution. True, as a former PO politician he could have been considered bi-partisan by PiS. But in the long term caution will not be enough.
Once the cross and then the barriers to the presidential palace had been removed I thought this to be a good moment for a calming presidential address to the people of Poland over and above the politicians' heads. He could have finally made his presence felt and offered himself as a concilatory figure to mediate between the two former Solidarity tribes. However to the public at large he remains a shadowy figure and in the background, partly obscured by Donald Tusk and his government. He even found himself acting as an apologist for the government's economic and education policy during a recent public meeting with Warsaw students. That is NOT his job.
We have just had the tragic shooting of office worker Marek Rosiak in the local PiS HQ in Lodz by a schizophrenic taxi driver. He had been anxious to kill a politician, any politician, but in particular Jaroslaw Kaczynski or ex-Communist Leszek Miller.
This tragedy could have given the President the best opportunity. Sure he made some good gestures. He called in the party leaders in parliament to urge a cooling down in political temperature (Kaczynski still boycotted this meeting), he made an unscheduled visit to the PiS office in Lodz to lay a wreath (but still accompanied by Tusk), he attended and spoke at the funeral ceremony 2 days ago in Lodz Cathedral. All this is good. (However his attempt to appease Kaczynski by apologising for earlier criticism of his dead brother was probably not the right action for a President to take).
However President Komorowski has not yet, as far as I am aware, made any speech direct to the nation as a whole about this tragic incident through television or any other media channel. At this moment a nervous public want to be assured that they are not entering a period of civil war. Comparisons have been made with the assassination of President Narutowicz by a right-wing fsnatic in 1922 and the near civil war that followed. Kaczynski has already made fiery speeches accusing the government's "social manipulation" - "socjotechnika" - as being responsible for tension and hatred against patriotic Poles and holds PO morally responsible for the death of Rosiak "who died so that I can still serve Poland". It is difficult for Tusk to respond to such language and such emotional accusations.
But President Komorowski should have taken the initiative in the last week and spoken out.
Come on Mr President, it is not too late yet. Speak. Poland needs to hear your voice of moral authority.