Poland: Presidential Election Goes to Second Round. Why Pawel Kukiz Angers Adam Michnik?

Poland: Presidential Election Goes to Second Round. Why Pawel Kukiz Angers Adam Michnik?

A second round of Polish presidential election is scheduled on May 24. An IBRiS poll  on May 14 showed Andrzej Duda ahead with the backing of 48% and his challenger incumbent Bronislaw Komorowski supported by 43,2% with 6,9% undecided. The gap is growing as Andrzej Duda got 34, 76% of the vote in the first round of election while Komorowski won 33, 77%. One of the key stories from the first round vote was the success of Paweł Kukiz, 52, a former rock singer and political novice, who finished a surprising third with more than 20, 8%. Looks like his electorate will decide who wins the run-off election. 

According to Polish media, just two months before the first vote there were only two men working on his staff to organize the election campaign. They worked in a three-room apartment 3 square meter room in the provincial town of Lubin. There was nothing there but a telephone. The candidate joined the race penniless. A week passed and he could count on the help of thousands of volunteers. In two and a half months Kukiz gathered over  half a million zloty of donations in his bank account.

. Rzeczpospolita quotes one of team members «Before the race started they had thought we were nothing more than freaks fighting the established system».

The circles making up Polish establishment were annoyed. Adam Michnik, a former dissident, public intellectual and the editor-in-chief of Poland's largest newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, said «the results of the first round show Poland may get into the hands of irresponsible and incompetent people…The support for Kukiz means many of us want to substitute democracy with a crowd watching a rock concert. Pawel Kukiz has as much in common with President of Poland as me with Elvis Presley. A Duda-Kukiz coalition would result in absurdity and lead to witch hunt. This is a gloomy scenario for the country».

Adam Michnik has a good reason to be concerned. Some things Pawel Kukiz says sound appealing to people. For instance, his opposition to «the plans to make Poland an exporter of cheap labor and the right place for giving a boost to agritourism». He calls himself an «anti-system candidate» ready to team up with anyone willing to «rip up the political system» that he calls a criminal one. It all finds a positive response among Poles. The fact that Kukiz was supported by 42, 2% of young voters (18-29 year old) tells a lot.

The Night Wolves, who had planned a victory ride from Moscow to Berlin in honor of the 70th Anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War, were denied entry to Poland. An «alternative» Victory Day was organized in Gdansk. The attempts were undertaken to dismantle the monument to Soviet Army General Ivan Chernyakhovsky in Penezhno. In 1945 the commander of the 3d Belorussian Front liberating Poland was lethally wounded there. All told, these events led to a reaction quite different from what Polish authorities expected. The outcome of the first round proved the fact than Poles won’t buy the hackneyed anti-Russian rhetoric. 

The head of a Polish bikers' group, Wiktor Wegrzyn, stated that the scandal surrounding the Russian bikers had been blown up beyond proportions to distort the truth. Speaking during a memorial action in Warsaw, he commented on the ban for Night Wolves to enter the country. According to Wegrzyn, it was a shame and a great pity. He said the Polish bikers group he led wanted all TV viewers and all Russians to know that this decision had nothing to do with Polish people. It was the government who did it. To express their opinion Poles posted comments in internet. Some of them criticized the government even more harshly than Grzegorz Jaszczak who wrote that Polish people were not to blame. The responsibility lied with «the rabble in power acting as US-controlled string puppets». He added «We, Poles, think differently than idiot Komorowski».

The events organized in Gdansk as «an alternative» to the Victory Day celebrations in Moscow failed to add points to incumbent President during the race but rather put him into an awkward position. Warsaw wanted to be an event of global importance while in reality it all boiled down to bickering between the East European countries that were German vassals during the Second World War. The internet posts saying «the festivities turned into a holiday to commemorate Hitler. It was a national treason». Indignant bloggers emphasized that «The United States, the privileged strategic partner, did not even condescend to send anybody as a representative, not even a clerk». 

It’s not known who came up first with an idea to make Pawel Kukiz run for president. It is known that his father was born in the period between the two world wars in the Ternopil oblast (region) of Ukraine. Poles call this territory Eastern Borderlands or Kressy (Kressy Wschodnie). Pawel Kukiz assures that he «knows Russians» well. During the recent ten years he has been an active supporter of the Polish society of «Friends of Lviv».

«Restitution Kressy», a newly established organization, is created to deal with the return of Polish property in what’s now the Western Ukraine. It brings together heirs of former owners of property nationalized in 1939-40 when that region became part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. It is surmised that such plans spurred the idea to bring into the race two candidates who were more «Ukrainophils» than the incumbent President. The founders of this pressure group refer to the Association Agreement signed by Kiev with the EU which envisions finding ways to resolve this kind of issues. The Polish heirs of former owners of property are adamant in their desire to go the whole hog till they get what they want. Konrad Rękas, the head of «Restitution Kressy», is sure that as a civilized state Ukraine will follow through and pay 5 billion dollars. According to the leader of the organization, «…the European Union invests into Ukraine billions of euros. It means the regime can pay off its old debts instead of spending it all for buying weapons to kill its own citizens».

It is estimated that there are about 100 thousand people in Poland who have a chance to prove that they are heirs or successors to owned property within the so-called Eastern Borderlands now controlled by ideological successors of those who were responsible for Volyn massacre and fought in the OUN-UPA (the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists – the Ukrainian Insurgent Army) ranks. According to the Mateusz Piskorski, the head of the party «Smena» (Zmiana), the heirs of former real estate owners in Ukraine are getting together. With a corresponding database at their disposal, they are organizing a group of lawyers to prepare legal actions. 

Pawel Kukiz belongs to a family that has an interest in restitution. His father, Tadeusz Kukiz, was sent to Kazakhstan for resettlement after West Ukraine became part of the Soviet Union in 1939. In 1946 he moved to Polish Silesia to become an active member of «Friends of Lviv». His son follows his father. If «Restitution Kressy» succeeds and Ukraine starts to return property to the successors of former owners, then Germans would think seriously about «restituting» the territories that had once belonged to their country. And these chunks of land make up a large part of contemporary Poland.