Ruling party defensive over public media, wants quick poll

The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) is continuing to press for the earliest possible date for the presidential election and is engaged in talks with the opposition to ensure smooth passage of the required legislation through parliament. At the same time it is having to defend itself from charges that public media are attempting to suppress artists critical of the government.

Poland’s political parties met on Tuesday to discuss how best to process the legislation which will enable the presidential election to take place by a mix of voting at polling stations and by post. The ruling party wants the presidential election to take place on June 28, whereas the main opposition party, Civic Platform (PO) wants it to be held in July. The legislation has already cleared the Lower House and must now be considered by the second chamber, the Senate, in which the opposition parties hold a majority of seats.

The Speaker of the Senate Tomasz Grodzki (PO) said that the opposition wants to amend the legislation to ensure there is enough time for the PO’s new presidential candidate Rafał Trzaskowski to collect the 100,000 signatures required to register. He also said that he wanted time to talk to the State Electoral Commission (PKW) about how much time it would need to organise the election and to the Supreme Court on how long it would take to validate the election after its completion.

The ruling party sees this as the PO again delaying the election for its own ends. Its campaign over the election not being held in May helped the party to be able to change its presidential candidate, when Ms Kidawa-Błońska withdrew from the race and the party nominated Warsaw mayor Rafał Trzaskowski as its standard bearer for the contest.

An opinion poll from the Social Changes agency carried out for website and published on Wednesday showed that Mr Trzaskowski has made a good start to his campaign and is now attracting 21 percent of support. This is still twenty percentage points below the ratings of the incumbent PiS candidate President Andrzej Duda. However, Mr Trzaskowski will hope to garner support from Szymon Hołownia, the independent centrist candidate, support for whom seems to have begun to fall. The PO feel that the more time they can give Mr Trzaskowski in the campaign the better his prospects should be.

Row over public media unhelpful for ruling block

On Tuesday the Warsaw mayor stood outside the public TVP building as a backdrop for launching an attack on the ruling party’s handling of the management of public media. Once again he cited the row about the way a protest song against the ruling party and its leader was removed from the top of a listeners chart as an example.

The ruling camp seems to be divided on the issue. In a radio interview for commercial radio RMF FM the Deputy PM and minister of culture Piotr Gliński admitted that “all governments since 1989 have used the public media. It is an instrument which is important in a democracy when, as in Poland we don’t have a balanced media market.” He added that “since 1989 the biggest propaganda has come from a large daily paper and a commercial TV station”. He was referring to Poland’s liberal opposition daily “Gazeta Wyborcza” and the commercial station TVN which has also been openly sympathetic to the main opposition PO since that party was founded in 2001.

The Deputy PM called the situation at the public radio station “Trojka”, which took the controversial decision to take down the protest song from the top of its charts, an “image crisis” which had been very poorly managed. He repeated his view expressed at the weekend that songs cannot be treated in that way just because their content might be disagreeable to some.

Krzysztof Czabański, the head of the National Media Council which oversees the work of the public media said on Tuesday that he supported the decision of the management of public radio over removing the song from the top of the chart. He also said that the way the chart was compiled was not robust and that the management had been right to ensure that listeners' preferences were respected.

Several journalists who worked for “Trojka” have resigned in protest over the decision taken by the management. No such protests took place back in 2014 when the station took a decision to stop playing all tracks by Paweł Kukiz, the rock musician who was standing for election. This was done allegedly so as not to cause problems over such music being considered election propaganda, but the decision coincided with the release of a song critical of Adam Michnik, the longstanding chief editor of Gazeta Wyborcza and fierce critic of PiS.