Poland’s PiS offers generous spending ahead of elections

Poland’s PiS offers generous spending ahead of elections

Poland’s GDP grew by 5.1 per cent last year, faster than any other country in the EU except for far smaller Malta and Ireland.

The ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) has chosen to redistribute some of the wealth with its “Family 500+” programme, under which parents are given 500 zlotys (US$132) per month for each child after their first. Now the first child will also be eligible, where before it was only available to the poorest families.

A 1,100 zloty bonus is being offered to state pensioners alongside tax cuts as the populist PiS prepares for the European elections in May and a general election later in the year.

The new child payments will go into effect in July, around three months before the expected date of the general election.

Polls suggest Poles remain on average less liberal and more devout than other nationalities in Europe.

The Pew Research Centre said two-thirds of Poles thought religion was an important component of the national identity, compared with only a third of the French and 15 per cent of the Swedish population.

And the 500+ plan has proved so popular that the main opposition Civic Platform (PO) has no plans to ditch it.

PO made progress in the 2018 municipal elections in urban areas while failing to challenge PiS in its rural heartlands.

European elections in Poland see low turnouts with only 24 per cent voting last time. Civic Platform and four smaller parties have formed the European Coalition, a pro-EU electoral alliance. The coalition is level with PiS in polling.

Complicating the electoral map is Robert Biedron, 42, and his new progressive party, Spring, which campaigns for ties between the government and the Catholic church to be loosened. He said the religious links were “pathological”.

Spring, which is popular among young voters, has polled at 14 per cent since its launch this month.

Some analysts said Spring might be able to build a coalition with the opposition to oust the PiS.

Biedron (pictured), who became Poland’s first openly gay MPs in 2011, accuses Polish governments since the fall of Communism in 1989 of forging close ties with the Catholic church.

He has compared Poland to Ireland, a mainly Catholic EU nation that has relaxed restrictive abortion rules and legalised same-sex marriage. On-demand abortion and gay partnerships are outlawed in Poland.

“People in Poland see that Europe is in another place. This is a natural consequence of our integration with Europe,” Biedron told the media.

“Polish people … see that the special treatment of the church should not mean anymore that we tolerate things like paedophilia, like public transfers of money to the church, like the blessing of public toilets or McDonald’s by the church and public officials,” he said.

“Booming” Warsaw. Picture credit: Wikimedia

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