The politics behind Poland’s border crisis – POLITICO

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WARSAW — By no means let a great crisis go to waste.

There’s little doubt Poland faces a legit emergency. Hundreds of migrants aiming to come back throughout the border with Belarus have arrange camp within the damp birch forests that mark the frontier between the 2 international locations. A reported 9 folks have died to date attempting to make their manner into the nation, and Polish border guards say there have been greater than 30,000 unlawful makes an attempt to cross the border since August.

Poland has boosted its safety forces alongside the border, and in a single latest video, dozens of Polish officers may be seen forming a defend barrier to stop migrants who’ve torn down a barbed-wire fence from dashing into the nation. It’s a results of the insurance policies of Belarusian chief Alexander Lukashenko, who’s attempting to weaponize 1000’s of determined folks hungering to get into the EU as a manner of punishing the bloc for the sanctions imposed on him and his allies for the brutal crackdown in opposition to pro-democracy protests that adopted final 12 months’s contested presidential election outcomes.

However that doesn’t imply the crisis isn’t coming at an opportune time for Poland’s ruling nationalist Regulation and Justice (PiS) celebration.

PiS has been sagging in opinion polls after its toughening of abortion legal guidelines was blamed for the demise of a younger girl who died from septic shock after docs delayed aborting her fetus. Hundreds of individuals marched in cities throughout the nation protesting the ruling celebration, and the insurance policies that stem from its shut alliance with the Roman Catholic Church.

A brand new survey discovered PiS at 32.5 p.c assist — nonetheless the most well-liked celebration within the nation, however behind the mixed weight of the 2 main centrist opposition events.

However the border emergency is serving to divert consideration away from the abortion subject, whereas strengthening the celebration’s attraction with its core voters, who’re leery of any improve in immigration. It additionally offers the federal government a useful cudgel with which to bash the opposition.

Warsaw’s efforts to defend its border have additionally obtained the robust backing of nations and establishments usually in battle with the Polish authorities over perceptions the nation is backsliding on democracy and rule of legislation — starting from the Netherlands to Germany and the European Fee. Fee President Ursula von der Leyen talked to Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Monday to precise her solidarity.

Poland’s state-controlled media — which has primarily develop into a mouthpiece of PiS — took the lead in hammering the opposition. State TV’s information channel, TVP Information, broadcast materials on Sunday night time titled: “The opposition is supporting migrants and Lukashenko.”

On Monday, it added: “This hybrid conflict in opposition to Poland is being backed by some politicians from the Polish opposition and their media supporters.”

PiS politicians and their allies additionally launched assaults in opposition to their political rivals.

“ON YOUR KNEES!!!” tweeted Krystyna Pawłowicz, a justice with the Constitutional Tribunal, one of many nation’s prime courts, demanding the opposition apologize for its previous skepticism of presidency insurance policies. “APOLOGIZE TO POLES for a UNIFIED ATTACK along with [Russia’s President Vladimir] Putin and Lukashenko on the EASTERN BORDERS OF THE POLISH REPUBLIC … in your knees TRAITORS.”

Though Pawłowicz is among the many authorities’s extra colourful and voluble supporters, she’s a part of a broader entrance that’s seizing on the border state of affairs to lambaste the opposition.

A difficult place

The drawback for opposition events is that they haven’t discovered a manner of addressing the state of affairs on the border. Some left-wing politicians have been calling for migrants to be admitted into Poland and granted asylum standing, whereas others have been extra cautious however nonetheless leery of supporting PiS’s powerful border coverage.

A number of opposition MPs, moved by the humanitarian plight of individuals trapped within the border zone and disadvantaged of shelter, meals and heat in more and more chilly situations, have known as for a extra beneficiant coverage. Some even went to the closed border space — a 3-kilometer-wide zone working alongside the Polish-Belarusian frontier — to attempt to assist migrants.

Donald Tusk, chief of the opposition Civic Platform celebration, has been extra cautious in his strategy. He’s blasted the federal government for the best way it’s performed its border insurance policies, however has insisted it’s right in attempting to halt the entry of 1000’s of undocumented migrants.

“Poland’s borders should be sealed and nicely protected,” he said in August when the crisis started. However in the identical month, Tusk additionally stated: “These are poor people who find themselves searching for their place on Earth,” which has been made into a web-based video at the moment being promoted on state media.

On Monday, Tusk straight addressed Morawiecki, admonishing him by saying: “Migrants aren’t political gold.”

Deputy Inside Minister Paweł Szefernaker had a one-word response to Tusk: “Scoundrel.”

“We’ve to thank the opposition for the mass storming of the border by immigrants, after they demanded the reception of migrants and spat on the Border Guards in addition to the Polish Military,” tweeted Adam Andruszkiewicz, a PiS MP.

That leaves the opposition in a really troublesome place. Both it has to drop its criticism of the ruling celebration and again the federal government’s reward of the army and its efforts to guard the border, or it dangers being accused of treason and of shedding traction with voters anxious about uncontrolled inflows of migrants.

The authorities isn’t letting up.

Parliament is because of maintain a particular session on Tuesday to debate the crisis.

“Tomorrow we’ll see how the women and gents from the overall opposition behave,” Protection Minister Mariusz Błaszczak said Monday night, including: “They’ll be assessed by the voters.”

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