In recent weeks Citizens' Platform (PO) has been acting left. In an attempt to stem the threat of the SLD, PO has both tried to poach some of its politicians and present itself as a progressive left of centre party.
After defecting to PO, Bartosz Arłukowicz claimed that he would be attempting to win support for left policies within the government and PO. In particular he argued that he would be seeking to gain its backing for the state funding of in-vitro treatment and for a new law on civil partnerships.
Well now PO has a chance to prove its new left credentials, as the SLD has put forward a bill in parliament on introducing civil partnerships in Poland. These would include the right (including those in same sex relationships) to form civil partnerships - giving joint property rights, joint taxes and the right of inheritence. The SLD prepared the bill in cooperation with the Campaign Against Homophobia in Poland and it is based around the French system of civil partnerships (Pacte civil de solidarite).
The problem for PO is that its move to the left is more cosmestic than real. For sure, there is a section of its membership that would like to see PO take up the centre-left ground (at least on cultural and social issues) and most of its young, urban electorate are supportive of policies such as introducing civil partnerships. Also Polish society as a whole is becoming more open to such policies. A recent opinion poll showed that 54% of Poles are in favour of civil partnerships being introduced in Poland, with 41% opposed (in 2003 only 34% were in favour and 56% against).
The problem is that PO contains a strong conservative wing that opposes any such reforms. Its programme states support for the traditions and customs of the 'traditional family'. Previously PO politicians have actively supported and even introduced the banning of gay parades in Poznań and Kraków (thankfully it seems this shameful period of banning such marches is behind us). Last year the President of Warsaw and PO member Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz refused to back or support the Europride parade that was held in the captial city. This is not to mention the openly homophobic comments made by PO politicians such as Robert Węgrzyn. The list is long and for those who can read Polish it can be found here.
PM Donald Tusk has indicated that he is prepared to consider the issue after the election - as he tries to avoid such potentially devisive controversies before this autumn's parliamentary elections. MP Jarosław Gowin - the leading representative of PO's conservative wing - has stated that he will do all he can to prevent a law on civil partnerships ever being passed. The SLD are correct to push the issue at this time, primarily because it is important that Poland comes into line with the majority of EU countries on this question and provides rights to those who are presently unprotected by the law. It also exposes the empty gestures made by Tusk and his party as they attempt to widen their appeal to their left through cosmestic changes rather than substantial political actions.