GB No. 12, winter 1994
The elections of September '93 were executed early -- it was only the middle of the previous Parliament's term of office. Twenty three national parties and coalitions took part, but only 6 of them got into the new Parliament because of the threshold of 5% of obtained votes set by electoral law (groups which got fewer than 5% of the votes were not granted parliamentary seats).
Among these 23 groups there was no group which was defined as ecological. In the previous election there were four such groups. None of them ended up in Parliament. Their way of conducting an electoral campaign was heavily criticised and was perceived as discrediting the environmental movement among the general public (P. Glinski wrote about this in "Greens on the political stage," KRYTYKA 38).
In the latest election, environmental issues were not of any importance at all -- in part because of the carry-over from the previous election, but mostly because of the domination of economic and social matters. The big issues were proprietary transformations and their impact on employees of privatized institutions, decreases in the standard of living, the regression of protective functions of the state, and -- most importantly -- the threat of unemployment (as of September '93 about 2.85 million people and 39% of Polish families live under the social minimum). This seems to indicate that the environmental consciousness of a society depends noticeably on the level of its wealth. Communities fighting poverty are not inclined to care too much about the bad condition of the environment in which they live.
Environmental issues have become a permanent part of the political repertoire, and therefore the platforms of various political groups usually contain greater or lesser developed collections of formulas relating to environmental topics. However, these are often platitudes which mean nothing in terms of concrete action. This was the situation in the latest election, so there is no need to do a complete review of the documents describing the programs of the groups taking part in the election. But it is impossible to leave environmental issues out of state policy, and the parties and coalitions in the new Parliament will have to deal with them. I will limit myself to presenting only the environmental programs of the parties and coalitions in the new Parliament. I will discuss them according to the number of seats they have in the Parliament.
The SLD (Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej - Democratic Left Alliance) obtained the most seats (171). The SLD is a coalition of about 30 former Communist groups and organizations. They devoted very little attention to environmental issues in their program, which contained just few distracted sentences and remarks about the environment. They declared the necessity of economic development proceeding in harmony with the environment. Their domestic policy included helping local goverments with environmental protection. In terms of international relations they mentioned decreasing imports of environmentally unfriendly materials and products.
The PSL (Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe - Polish Peasants' Party) paid much more attention to environmental issues. The PSL gained second position with 132 seats. There are two major program areas which concern ecology: one about environmental safety and one about the natural bases of production of healthy food.
Poland has a very degraded natural environment. One third of its population lives in ecologically threatened areas. This situation impedes the health and the biological survival of the nation. Based on these conditions, the PSL formulated the leading aim of their environmental policy: the harmonious joining of economic activities and natural laws (i.e. sustainable development). Among other things, their policy includes developing a rational program of natural resources management, protecting the environment against pollution and devastation, and preserving the as-yet-unpolluted areas. Economic policy should take special care of agriculture. Clean areas of the country should be used for production of healthy food. Agriculture should be reconciled with the demands of the ecosystem in the range of management of forests, peatbogs, swamps, and water resources. Very polluted soils should be excluded from the cultivation of food -- they should be used exclusively for crops for industrial purposes, and the weakest soils should be used for reforestation.
The UD (Unia Demokratyczna - Democratic Union) gained third position -- 74 seats in the new Parliament. Until the 1993 election, it was the main part of the governing coalition. This group has a structure consisting of units, and one of the units is the ecological unit. The UD program "Stabilization and development" devotes a quite substantial chapter to environmental issues. It is more extensive than the other groups' documents relating to environmental issues. The program touches upon the following environmental matters: industry, energetics, agriculture, transportation, housing, and environmental safety. The program emphasizes the anachronism of Polish industry with its domination of raw materials production and heavy industry, which are terribly destructive to the environment and not economically efficient. Improvement of the environmental situation in Poland will depend on the use of economic and administrative tools. The program also emphasizes the necessity of developing a rational program of energy management, which is one of the most fundamental economic/environmental problems of the nation.
The UP (Unia Pracy - Labour Union) got fourth position. It used to be a small group, but now occupies 41 seats in the Parliament. Its program, entitled "Restore hope," contains a separate, though small, chapter (the 6th) dedicated to the environment. It raises the problem of the lack of a political program for environmental protection sufficient to the enormous needs of the country. It declares the necessity of extending the funds allocated for environmental protection in spite of the difficult financial situation of the country.
The KPN (Konfederacja Polski Niepodlegej - Confederation for an Independent Poland) is the next party and has 22 seats. It suffered quite large losses in comparison with the previous election. Their program consisted of a series of reports given at a seminar called "The truth about the economic program of KPN -- an anti-recession and pro-development alternative." None of these reports touch on the environment directly. Environmental issues appear only occasionally in the discussion of industrial policy, which is of great importance in the KPN's program.
The KPN industrial policy is conceived as a set of governmental enterprises which are intended to promote selective development of industry and to form its structure adequately. They cite progress in environmental protection as one of the reasons for the likely liquidation of national firms and as one of four priorities in their industrial policy. They criticize the present structure of Polish industry with its emphasis on raw materials and heavy industry, and they discuss its destructive influence on the environment. They point out the necessity of compensations for underprivileged regions, including regions of ecological disaster. They also propose creating, almost from scratch, new enterprises which will produce means and installations for environmental protection.
The last group which garnered enough votes to make the 5% cutoff was BBWR (Bezpartyjny Blok Wspierania Reform - Nonpartisan Reform Support Bloc). They got 16 seats. This group was created not long before the election on the initiative of President Lech Wa3esa. In the BBWR's program there are 21 proposals, and final one refers to the environment. For more specifics, the proposal refers to earlier official government documents entitled "State Environmental Policy." This is a quite detailed program of environmental policy worked out by the first post-Communist government of Tadeusz Mazowiecki. It was announced in autumn of 1990. In May, 1991, it was recommended by the resolution of the Parliament, and later it was announced three more times (September '91, February '92, and July '92). Successive versions differed from one another in small details. The program is too elaborate to present here, but it is enough to say that it was prepared competently. If the following governments had treated this program seriously and promoted its realization, we might have had hope for real improvement in the environmental situation in this country. Unfortunately, the program proved to be only a facade once confronted with socio-economic reality and political pressure from various interest groups. This is the reason for the skepticism and overall suspicion on the part of pro-environmental groups about political groups which do not show too much interest and understanding in environmental matters.
The above presentation is simplified because it only shows the results of the election for the lower chamber of Parliament -- the Diet. The Diet, in the Polish political system, has basic rule in forming state policy. But there is also the higher chamber of Parliament -- the Senate. One hundred senators were chosen according to electoral law. I mention this because I would like to present a list of the few parliamentarians (deputies and senators) that are connected with environmental matters because of their present or previous activity. They are: