Rumor has it that Jarosław Kaczyński will retire from politics in four years. I have a hard time believing that, even though Kaczyński is 70 years old. However, should he in fact retire, PiS will need much more than robust economic growth (link) to continue its political dominance.
Kaczyński is an interesting figure. Political scientists often compare him to Viktor Orbán but such a comparison might be a bit misleading. Orbán has been a Prime Minister of Hungary since 2010, while Kaczyński today is just a regular deputy and a leader of the ruling party. It is also no secret that PiS aims to copy what Fidesz is doing, so in that sense Orbán’s vision is superior to what Kaczyński is trying to achieve.
Kaczyński political story is also quite complex. From 2005 to 2007 Pis governed Poland, while Kaczyński served as a Prime Minister. This was not a good time for PiS, as the party was forced to call early elections in 2007 and effectively handed power to PO-PSL for the next eight years (2007-2015). For a long while it looked like Kaczyński’s political career is over. And yet he came back strong in 2015, surrounding himself with associates like Ziobro and Gowin who were not capable of leading their own movements.
This too tells us something about Polish politics. Mainly, how boring it can be at times. Thirty years of democracy, same old faces. The truth is that we live in an era of sub-par political figures. Most deputies lack political imagination and long-term vision to offer anything of substance. The two most skilled Polish politicians are without a doubt Jarosław Kaczyński and Donald Tusk. But it also has to be said that both of them facilitated their positions by surrounding themselves with average political figures. One only has to look at what happened to PO after Tusk left. Both Kopacz and Schetyna proved inept to lead their party, and I am not quite certain that PO will be around in eight years.
This brings us back to Kaczyński. Should he in fact retire from politics in four years, his leadership will not be easily replaced. Perhaps his best move was to substitute Morawiecki for Szydło. Most observers agree that the latter was a puppet PM without much decision-making power. Morawiecki is younger, more skilled, and he makes Poland more modern and capable of being an important international actor. Morawiecki is also more autonomous than Szydło ever was. This might be the price that Kaczyński had to pay to ensure that PiS will survive his departure. However, if PiS is to continue its political dominance, Morawiecki alone will not be enough. And I doubt that Kaczyński can solve that problem anytime soon.