Rock Star’s Campaign Burns Out in Boost to Polish Opposition

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Punk rocker Pawel Kukiz, once a rising political star in Poland, is at risk of burning out as infighting and sinking support throw his campaign into disarray.

Kukiz, 52, tried to use a surprising third-place finish in the first round of Poland’s presidential election in May as a springboard for a parliamentary ballot due in October. In a Facebook post on Tuesday, his top aides accused the frontman of abandoning their grass-roots campaign and using the same “strongman methods” he once fought against.

The musician’s political movement, whose support peaked at 24 percent last month, now polls at about half that, with defectors mainly switching to the opposition Law & Justice bloc that’s poised to return to power for the first time since 2007. While Kukiz mobilized the protest vote by promising to give “power to the people,” he wasn’t able to detail his vision to a wider audience, according to Andrzej Rychard, a sociologist at the Polish Academy of Sciences.

“Kukiz’s demise comes as a huge help for Law & Justice,” Rychard said in an interview in Warsaw. “They are taking some of his protest voters while he makes them look more moderate, pushing them closer to the political center.”

Majority Rule

Backing for Law & Justice jumped five percentage points last month to 36 percent, according to a survey of 1,044 people carried out on July 1-8 by research company CBOS. The ruling Civic Platform gained four points to 29 percent, while Kukiz’s support dropped to 11 percent from 19 percent.

Another poll, conducted by Estymator for Poland’s edition of Newsweek on Thursday, showed backing for Kukiz down to 10 percent from 20 percent last month.

If Law & Justice win over enough of Kukiz’s voters by October to gain a parliamentary majority, they’ll more easily implement their economic proposals, including more taxes on banks and retailers, plans that hurt valuations of Warsaw-listed lenders.

Civic Platform, which suffered a shock defeat in the presidential election to Law & Justice candidate Andrzej Duda, is struggling to reconnect with voters after eight years in power and a scandal involving secret recordings of top government officials. The Estymator poll puts the ruling party’s support at 28 percent, compared with 43 percent for Law & Justice.

“If these results last until the autumn election, Law & Justice would be able to rule alone,” Jacek Choloniewski, an analyst at Estymator, told Newsweek.

Combat Boots

Kukiz has said he could go into a coalition with Law & Justice if they back his plans to overhaul the voting system.

The combat-boot-wearing former leader of rock band Piersi, which means “Breasts” in Polish, seeks to implement a U.K.- style first-past-the-post voting regime to speed up political decisions and forge stronger ties between constituents and their elected representatives.

Kukiz was a clear winner with younger people in the May 10 presidential ballot, getting 42 percent in the 18 to 29 age bracket and 21 percent overall, according to polling company Ipsos. His reluctance to define his policy program and build party structures since the May vote has hurt his credibility among more centrist voters, Rychard said.

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