Opposition politicians to boycott President taking oath of office

President Andrzej Duda will take the oath of office for his second term in office on Thursday. He will do so at a special session of both houses of the Polish Parliament. Many politicians from the main opposition party, the Civic Platform (PO) have announced that they will not attend in protest at the way the presidential election was held.

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The ceremony will take place just as the pandemic has reached parliament with at least three senators and one MP having been confirmed as being infected. But that is not the reason why many, maybe most, of the opposition’s MPs and Senators will not be present.

They have been open about the fact that they are in fact boycotting the ceremony. One MP told the Polish Press Agency (PAP) that “we have no doubt that this post-election celebration of Duda must be contested”.

Both the former ministers of defence and foreign affairs in the last PO government agree. Radosław Sikorski MEP, the former MFA took to social media to declare that the President “won using post-soviet methods, with the use of the state’s funds and administration, lies, anti-semitism in the whore-like state TV and electoral fraud in care homes. I will not validate this and this is why I will not attend.”

Former defence minister Tomasz Siemoniak MP from the PO declared that he will not attend as the election campaign was ‘dishonest’. He said that it will be “a sad day for Polish democracy”.

The former leader of the PO Grzegorz Schetyna will also be boycotting the ceremony. He said that the President broke his last oath of office by allegedly breaching the constitution.

The official line to be taken by the PO is still not clear. It is to decide on Wednesday if it will send “a delegation” to the ceremony and who will be in it. It is not clear whether the party leader Borys Budka will be attending.

Senate Speaker Tomasz Grodzki (PO) and the deputy speaker of the Lower House Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska have confirmed that they will do their duty as parliamentary officials and will attend. The mayor of Warsaw and PO’s presidential candidate has already confirmed that he will not be attending as he is away from Warsaw on that day.

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Former heads of state and government also absent themselves

Former Presidents Lech Wałęsa and Bronisław Komorowski have refused invitations to the event. So have former PMs Ewa Kopacz (PO) and from the left Leszek Miller and Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz.

However President Aleksander Kwaśniewski has confirmed that he will attend. He said he was doing so out of respect to both the Polish state and the millions of voters who participated en masse in the election.

It is not clear whether the former PM and President of the European Council and the current head of the European People’s Party Donald Tusk will be attending. His social media post suggests that he will not. He mocked the event saying that “those who wish to take part in the ceremony and President Duda should keep a straight face after the words “I swear that I will be faithful to the constitution”.

In a separate development “Iustitia” an association of judges and lawyers critical of the government’s judicial reforms has published a statement in which it questions the legality of the Supreme Court ruling on the validity of the presidential election. In the statement they argue that the judges who sit in the Audit Chamber were nominated “illegally” as they were recommended to the President by the National Judicial Council which they argue is not an independent judicial body any longer, now that it is elected by Parliament. They therefore regard the decision to validate the election as null and void and argue that the President taking the oath of office on the basis of that decision is also null and void.

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It looks as if the PO will maintain its radical stance in the post-presidential election world of Polish politics. It has stopped short of not recognising the result but wants to continue to argue that the process was in some way unfair and therefore lacking in credibility and legitimacy.

Not all opposition parties are taking such a radical course on the matter. The radical right “Confederation”, the Left and the Polish People’s Party (PSL) all have had their reservations about the election but none are contesting the legitimacy and validity of it in the way PO politicians continue to do so.

The attacks seem to be a case of extreme sour grapes. The PO benefitted from the May election being voided by being able to change its candidate from a non-performing one (Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska) to one (Rafał Trzaskowski) whose campaign went much better.

It is true that the incumbent benefited from government and public media support. But the main opposition challenger benefited from support that came from a major commercial TV network, two of the biggest daily newspapers and all the major commercial news portals as well as support from mayors of very many cities. Mr Trzaskowski was also backed to the hilt by most celebrities, though it is debatable whether that actually helped him.

Since the election many opposition politicians and the celebrities who backed them have been in mourning. But certainly no ‘quiet’ mourning. Some celebrities have announced they are emigrating as they can’t live with the outcome of the election. Others have attacked voters who voted for the ruling party candidate Andrzej Duda accusing them of ignorance and of having been ‘bribed’ by the social transfers policies of the current government.

As for irregularities in the election the OSCE found very few and the number of protests themselves were of an individual nature that could not impact the overall result. There is no evidence of any systematic fraud or any notion that the election was badly organised, despite the fact that it was taking place during a pandemic.

In the era of polarisation de-recognition of election or referendum results is becoming routine. Not terribly surprising that it should happen in Poland too. If opposition politicians are prepared to appeal to international institutions to sanction and isolate their own country, complaining about an election result is small beer in comparison.


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