Monday, May 25, 2015

An election and a referendum

Events just keep happening. Poland went to the voting stations for the second round of the Presidential election and duly brought in the unexpected (at least before the first round) Andrzei Duda of the Law and Order Party. He got 53% of the vote to the outgoing President Komorowski's 47%. Official results will be announced tomorrow when we shall know the turn-out as well.
This is a remarkable and decisive victory for Mr Duda. It's remarkable because he is a relative unknown and Mr Komorowski has been a popular president. It suggests that many Poles have grown weary of President Komorowski's backers, the governing centre-right Civic Platform party.

In its eight years in office the party has maintained Poland's economic growth despite the financial crisis. But it has also reneged on some of its promises and increased the retirement age, an unpopular move.

Poland is gradually catching up to Western Europe's living standards but youth unemployment is high and Poles can still earn much more in the UK or Germany. Many Poles simply do not feel the benefit of 25 years of near uninterrupted growth and Mr Duda appeals to them.

He has promised to bring the retirement age back down, but he'd need his Law and Justice party to win this autumn's parliamentary elections to be able to do that. It's been 10 years since they won an election but many think that may now happen. If it does, judging by its last spell in office in 2005-2007, Poland will become more inward looking and much less at ease with its EU partners.
Why Poles, who just like all others in the developed world live longer and are healthier for longer should want to spend an ever larger proportion of their lives on the scrap heap, living on an inadequate pension is anybody's guess but one can understand why many of them are sceptical about the much-touted economic growth when they look at the huge exodus of the economically active population to the West.

Meanwhile, there was also a referendum in Ireland but this was about same-sex marriage, which was voted through, the first time such a measure has been passed via a plebiscite. What, one wonders, would those Irish writers who have made their names describing a gloomy priest-ridden Ireland have said or, indeed, will say, since many of them are still around.

The actual subject of the plebiscite is of no interest to this blog. But one thing struck me as worthy of comment and that is the huge campaign to bring people who had left to work in other countries (not unknown in Irish history) back to vote or as the hashtag had it: #Hometovote. Many, it seems, responded and took trains and planes and cars and, for all I know, bicycles to do just that, as this ex-pat relates.

It appears that 60.5% of the population, which must include the ex-pats, turned out and 62% of them voted yes to gay marriage. That is pretty decisive. And, undoubtedly, it is very touching that the Irish diaspora who have not the slightest intention of living in Ireland ever again, cared enough to come back to vote but it does raise some questions that we shall have to be dealing with when a very different referendum rolls around. At present anyone who has lived abroad more than a certain number of years has no right to vote here but that might change as the Conservatives have been hinting that they might look at the issue again. Nor is the ex-pat British vote, even at its largest, likely to be such a large percentage of the electorate as it is in the much smaller Ireland. All the same, what about that #Hometovote? How do we feel about it?


  1. 'Events just keep happening...' That's the thing about events. They do happen.

    1. As Harold Macmillan noted when he was still Prime Minister.

  2. A couple of observations.

    1. Diasporas in my experience, when they are large enough, tend to maintain their identity across generations. Certainly I know a lot of "Irish" people who were born in this country, but still consider themselves Irish. I'm not sure what relevance that has.

    2. In the case of the British ex-pat community living in the EU, would I imagine vote to stay in the EU, being easily frightened that an out vote would mean them having to leave their warm Southern European exiles to return to a cold blighty. Not to mention having to trade down their properties given the disparity in prices.

    The 15 year rule for ex-pats being allowed to vote is an interesting one. Given my comments above you would think the Conservatives, who wamt to stay in the EU after all, would try to abolish it.

    1. At present only those who would have the right to vote in the General Election will be able to vote in the referendum. I doubt if the 15 year rule will be changed in time but one can never tell. Remember we are talking about ex-pats in other parts of the world as well.