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Polish election ‘debate’ descends into farce

Polish election ‘debate’ descends into farce

by host

Poland’s highly anticipated — and only — election debate descended into farce on Monday as the format of the show on state TV ruled out the possibility of … any actual debate.

Instead, opposition leader Donald Tusk, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and other candidates scrambled to beat a one-minute buzzer to answer a series of questions put by their hosts.

Marketed as a key moment before Sunday’s general election, the debate on TVP’s main channel already lacked appeal after Poland’s de facto leader Jarosław Kaczyński pulled out last week.

Viewers who tuned in were subjected to a format that had about as much appeal as a low-budget daytime quiz show, in which the questions were blatantly biased in favor of the party in power. Arguably, the only thing the Q&A session showcased was the steep decline of media freedom in a nation that overthrew communism and embraced democracy over 30 years ago.

“Will it be a debate? No, it’s not even verging on a debate. It will just be a bizarre form of questioning,” said Szymon Hołownia, leader of opposition party Third Way, on his way to the studio. “But you have to take part.”

Out of time

The two moderators hosting the event hogged the limelight, with their questions at times lasting longer than the minute-long responses. Each question juxtaposed the purported successes of the current PiS government with the alleged failures of Tusk’s previous leadership.

Morawiecki seized the chance, launching relentless attacks on Tusk and painting a doomsday scenario if the opposition were to win. According to Morawiecki, a victory for Tusk’s liberal Civic Coalition would mean selling off national treasures like forests, the Baltic Sea, and the Tatra Mountains.

Tusk, whose Civic Coalition trails PiS in the polls, countered by pointing out the current government’s scandals but missed several chances to land significant blows. He even fumbled his response to a kickoff question on migration, introducing himself for 50 seconds before stopping altogether, thinking he was out of time.

In a bid for redemption, Tusk invited Morawiecki — and the missing Kaczyński — for another debate on Friday.

“You saw what the debate was like — questions longer than answers,” he said.

“We can do a debate with all the media. Maybe conducted not by PiS functionaries, but I am open to any proposal, and will be waiting for you on Friday.”

POLAND NATIONAL PARLIAMENT ELECTION POLL OF POLLS

For more polling data from across Europe visit POLITICO Poll of Polls.

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