Tuesday, 8 October 2013

To vote or not to vote in Sunday's mayoral referendum?

For readers outside of Poland; Warsaw's mayor, Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz faces a no-confidence referendum this coming Sunday, brought about by an alliance of opposition party PiS and local Ursynów district mayor Piotr Guział. For her to be kicked out of office, a majority from a turnout of 29% of the eligible electorate is required. In other words, 14.5% +1 of all registered voters in Warsaw.

This is political opportunism riding the wave of public protests that followed recent public transport price hikes. Has HG-W had her day? I don't know. I'm against public money being spent on a referendum to oust an incumbent that will face regular local government elections in less than a year's time; having heard PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński on the radio the other day, I can see his policy (rather than political) arguments are wafer-thin and this referendum really boils down to right-wing PiS trying to cash in on leftie discontent for party-political reasons.

So - the dilemma facing me on Sunday is do I go to vote (to keep HG-W in), or do I boycott the referendum as being a waste of time and money?

Before I make my mind up as whether to vote or not, I'd like to know more about the division of responsibility between City Hall and district hall. Who's really responsible for ul. Karczunkowska still not having a pavement? Who's really responsible for the appalling state of ul. Hołubcowa? (not so much as street as a giant puddle used for dumping household and construction waste) Who's really responsible for the lack of asphalt on ul. Poloneza (between ul. Jeziorki and ul. Ludwinowska, and between ul. Krasnowolska and Platan Park?

Guział or Gronkiewicz-Waltz? Where does the buck stop in issues concerning the city, and issues concerning individual districts (in our case Ursynów)?

The referendum is spurious. If less than 29% of eligible voters within Warsaw's city limits turn out to vote, the result is null and void. So - given that most of those who will be going to the ballot boxes on Sunday are PiS-ites and assorted fellow-travellers, surely those who wish to see HG-W seeing out the last nine months of her second term of office should stay at home, and let the febrile political posturings play themselves out against a vacuum of indifference?

I'm genuinely in need of advice here - smart tactical voting decisions. Gazeta Stołeczna gives me no lead - for every tactician there's an ideologist wedded to the notion that the right to vote was hard-won and should always be exercised. I'm tending towards the former view, but would be interested to see what readers think - I'd be grateful for your suggestions (you don't need to be a registered Warsaw voter to contribute).

And indeed, if you think that HG-W should go - please tell me why... Maybe you can still convince me. Four days till the polls open.

This time last year:
Gorgeous cars from Czechoslovakia

This time two years ago:
Donald Tusk and Co. get re-elected

This time three years ago:
Poland's wonderful bread

This time four years ago:
An October Friday in Warsaw


Anonymous said...

She has been in power for a number of years and the promises to deal with city zoning and upgrading an adminsitration that is inefficient, lacking technology and overall not fit for purpose. Her lawyers eye has given us the refuse scheme that nobody seems to understand. I see the referendum as a wake up call to politicians who sit on their backsides doing nothing or not responding to the demands of their constituents that there are consequences - its not the loss but the humiliation on Ms Waltz - while Warsaw demanded development Ms. Waltz slept.

Michael Dembinski said...

@ Anon - the wake-up call argument is a good one. Indeed, not just HG-W, but Tusk and PO have only achieved a fraction of what they intended to do.

Still, better the (lazy) devil you know...

Re: refuse scheme - in Jeziorki at least it's been working well.

Alexander said...

A referendum is a excellent way to let people decide, and to remind politicians that they are there for the interests of their voters. The Swiss use it frequently.
Costs and efficiency are widely used arguments against referendums, and democracy as a whole.
A referendum can be a vote of confidence too, making the mayor stronger, and not a lame duck for the rest of the term.
The mayor did a lot of good things in her first term. But in het second term taxes shot up, other municipal costs shot up, parking got much more expensive, the new trash system is very inconvenient in the older blocks, people hate it.
These are a few things that did not go down well policy wise.
Remarks like people should enjoy the view while standing in rush hour traffick are not helping either.
For her achievements in her second term I would vote against her.
People in Warsaw in general want her out. The pro mayor side knows this all too well. And in stead of a proper debate and explain what she achieved, and why she should continue, they call for her supporters to boycot the referendum to get it void by a lack of votes. This call to sabotage angers me, and is another good reason to vote against her.
While under pressure the mayor decided she did not have to pay an entrence fee for a walk in park, because she is the mayor. Even treatening the guard with him losing his job if he did not let her in for free.
This is not just a slip up, but a gross abuse of power.
Politicians have a role model in society, even a higher standard to keep up.
And this is a huge breach of it’s example to society.
For me another KICK her out.
What ever you decide, do use your voting power. More votes means more pressure on politicians to keep focused on their jobs.
Best regards,


Neighbour said...


The Swiss do not use referendum to decide on persons.

Please also remember, that the referendum is a simple Yes/No question. real life has more shades than black and white, and hence many say that referendum is a wrong decision-making tool.

Best regards,

Marcin said...

"Who's really responsible for ul. Karczunkowska still not having a pavement?"

Uncle Google solves this problem:
Search engine: "karczunkowska miejski system informacji" Click first link enlightened... And a result is... 14.th position from the above on the left side:
"Ulice ZDM... Karczunkowska, odcinek: Puławska-Granica". Meaning. Thanx to Bufetowa for the year-to-year of a floundering in a mud. Find also "interpelacja" counselors Lenarczyk and Zabłocki. You'll have everything on that topic. Still have any dilemma if to kick Bufetowa or not? Think, you're informed enough and very well to know, whom we should "thanks" regarding of "The Karczunkowska Problem".

Marcin said...

And I just only forgot:

Resolution no. XCIV/2771/2010 of the City Council of the Warsaw Capital City of November, 9, 2010 on a changing of the resolution on the Statutes of the Urban Roads Management.

Para. 1

At the Statutes of the Urban Roads Management, being an attachment of the Resolution no. XXXIV/1023/2008 of the City Council of the Warsaw Capital City of May, 29, 2008, on the Statutes of the Urban Roads Management (…) there are to be the following changes introduced:

3) para 2. obtains contents:
"Para 2 sub para 1. The Urban Roads Management [Zarząd Dróg Miejskich – Marcin.], called further URD [ZDM – Marcin], is an organization entity of the Warsaw Capital City, not-possessing of a legal personality, acting as a budgetary unit.
4. A supervision over the ZDM is undertaken by the Mayor of the Warsaw Capital City with an aide of a substantive organizational unit of the Warsaw City Hall."

z dnia 9 listopada 2010 r.
zmieniająca uchwałę w sprawie statutu Zarządu Dróg Miejskich


W statucie Zarządu Dróg Miejskich stanowiącym załącznik do uchwały Nr XXXIV/1023/2008 Rady miasta stołecznego Warszawy z dnia 29 maja 2008 r. w sprawie statutu Zarządu Dróg Miejskich (Dz. Urz. Wojew. Maz. Nr 98, poz. 3491) wprowadza się następujące zmiany:
3)§ 2. otrzymuje brzmienie:
"§ 2. 1. Zarząd Dróg Miejskich, zwany dalej ZDM, jest jednostką organizacyjną m.st. Warszawy nieposiadającą osobowości prawnej, działającą w formie jednostki budżetowej.
4. Nadzór nad działalnością ZDM sprawuje Prezydent m.st. Warszawy przy pomocy merytorycznej komórki organizacyjnej Urzędu m. st. Warszawy."

Any doubts, objections, misunderstandings...?

P.S. Sorry, for perhaps, improper translation. You, Mike, may do it better.

Bob said...

Michael - I have to admit that I am 'responsible for ul. Karczunkowska still not having a pavement?'

I offered HGW 4 of my talon's for chocolate and 2 talons for shoes and she accepted the trade. As long as my talon's are dangled in front of her there will be no new road surface.

However, if you perhaps have a talon to offer me for .75 liters of Jack Daniels your road may become a reality within our lifetime.

Neighbour said...


You should know by now, that if she is kicked out, there will still be a "komisarz" from the same political party.
If you don't like what she has done during her 2 terms as a city major, go and vote on someone else next year, maybe you will succeed. And don't waste public money on a political action.
as I have already said above, life is not black and white.

Marcin said...


2012 Quality of Living worldwide city rankings – Mercer survey

"Europe has 15 cities among the world’s top 25 cities for quality of living. Vienna retains the highest-ranking for both the region and globally. The rest of the top 10 for Europe are dominated by German and Swiss cities, with three cities each in the top 10. Zurich (2) is followed by Munich (4), Düsseldorf (6), Frankfurt (7), Geneva (8), Copenhagen (9) and Bern (10). The lowest-ranking Western European cities are Athens (83) and Belfast (64).
Other European cities among the top 25 include Amsterdam (12), Berlin (16), Hamburg (17), Luxembourg (19), Stockholm (19), Brussels (22) Nürnberg (24) and Stuttgart (27). Paris ranks 29 and is followed by Helsinki (32), Oslo (32) and London (38). Dublin dropped nine places from last year to rank 35, mostly due to a combination of serious flooding and an increase in crime rates. Lisbon ranks 44 followed by Madrid (49) and Rome (52). Prague, Czech Republic (69) is the highest-ranking Eastern European city followed by Budapest, Hungary (74); Ljubljana, Slovenia (75); Vilnius, Lithuania (79); and Warsaw, Poland (84). The lowest-ranking European city is Tbilisi, Georgia (213)." (http://www.mercer.com/qualityoflivingpr#Europe) Bolded by me.


Marcin said...

2011 Quality of Living worldwide city rankings – Mercer survey
"Vienna is the European city with the highest quality of living. German and Swiss cities dominate the top of the ranking, with three cities each in the top 10. Zurich (2) is followed by Munich (4), Düsseldorf (5), Frankfurt (7) and Geneva (8), while Bern shares ninth place with Copenhagen.
In the next tier are Amsterdam (12), Hamburg (16), Berlin (17), Luxembourg (19), Stockholm (20), Brussels (22), Nurnberg (24) and Dublin (26). Paris ranks 30 and is followed by Oslo (33), Helsinki (35) and London (38). Lisbon is number 41, Madrid is at 43 and Rome ranks 52. Prague, Czech Republic (69), is the highest-ranking eastern European city, followed by Budapest, Hungary (73), Ljubljana, Slovenia (75), Vilnius, Lithuania (79), and Warsaw, Poland (84). The lowest-ranking European city is Tbilisi, Georgia (214)." Bolded by me.


Marcin said...

Mercer's 2008 Quality of Living Survey

"Switzerland and Germany dominate the European cities with the best quality of living, each having three cities represented in the top 10. Bern, in Switzerland, ranks 9 following behind Zurich and Geneva. Dusseldorf (6), Munich and Frankfurt (both at 7) represent Germany. Outside the top 10 are Copenhagen (11), Amsterdam (13), Brussels (14), Berlin (16) and Luxembourg (17). Dublin, ranking 25, is followed by Paris (32), Barcelona (42) and Madrid (43). Lisbon is number 44 and is followed by Rome, 55, up from 61 in 2007. Prague (71) is the highest-ranking eastern European city followed by Budapest (74), Vilnius (78), Ljubljana (82) and Warsaw (85). The lowest ranking European city is Minsk (183) in Belarus. Minsk scores 49.4 on the index compared with Zurich's 108. Milan (41), Lisbon (44), Vilnius (78) and Riga (89) have also become more attractive destinations, rising markedly in the rankings since 2007." Bolded by me.


Marcin said...

"Mercer hardship allowance recommendations
Mercer evaluates local living conditions in more than 460 cities it surveys worldwide. We analyze living conditions according to 39 factors, grouped in 10 categories:
Political and social environment (political stability, crime, law enforcement)
Economic environment (currency exchange regulations, banking services)
Socio-cultural environment (censorship, limitations on personal freedom)
Medical and health considerations (medical supplies and services, infectious diseases, sewage, waste disposal, air pollution, etc.)
Schools and education (standard and availability of international schools)
Public services and transportation (electricity, water, public transportation, traffic congestion, etc.)
Recreation (restaurants, theatres, movie theatres, sports and leisure, etc.)
Consumer goods (availability of food/daily consumption items, cars, etc.)
Housing (rental housing, household appliances, furniture, maintenance services)
Natural environment (climate, record of natural disasters)
The scores attributed to each factor allow for city-to-city comparisons. The result is a quality-of-living index that compares relative differences between any two locations that we evaluate. For the indices to be used effectively, Mercer has created a grid that allows users to link the resulting index to a quality-of-living allowance amount by recommending a percentage value in relation to the index."


Anonymous said...


"Bolded by me."

Why on earth do you Poles see the need to make this comment. Isn't it bloody obvious? It's not as if the people who did the survey would have singled out Warsaw for special treatment (Oh, Poland. Hmmmm.... Such a problem.... We'll have to put that in bold type or people won't believe us.)

Same goes for all those Polish academic papers where Polish authors feel the need to initial every single comment they make on a source text.
For example:

"Hamlet was a Danish king. He [i.e. Hamlet - AB] was not very happy."

It's really annoying. To my mind, one of the biggest problems in Poland today is that Poles are not taught how to write, even in their own language.

Anonymous said...

Having said that, it's fairly typical that the authority responsible for this survey (Mercers) don't specify the criteria for selecting cities included in the survey. Clearly they haven't used population as a primary parameter or we'd have info on Lodz and perhaps Gdansk-Gdynia-Sopot. A typical failure of western journalism. (No doubt it's mentioned somewhere, but after 5 mins of hunting I gave up. Most Americans have an attention span slightly longer than a goldfish, so don't think they'd find it either.)

Marcin said...

@Anonymous. I bolded it just only for a practical purpose, in order to find Warsaw easily within an entire list.

student SGH said...

On account of living just beyond the boundary of Warsaw, I am not entitled to vote in the referendum, but...

A few weeks ago I thought one should go and cast a vote no matter 'for' or 'against'. After the last week of pre-referendum intensive campaign, I would lean towards staying at home. The civic initiative to oust a bad mayor turned out to be a purely political campaign from which several politicians try to benefit. Referring to what you wrote many times - this is coarse politics with no policy. Mr Kaczynski, Mr Guzial, Mr Wipler and several other politicians sling mud at Mrs Gronkiewicz-Waltz, while none of them comes up with constructive criticism - no one says how things could have been done better, no one offers any specific ideas in return. First step is depose the mayor and then... jakoś to będzie

student SGH said...

Seeing the back of it. Based on exit polls HGW will keep her stool for another year.

Those who wanted to oust the mayor can now thank Mr Kaczynski, Mr Wipler, Mr Rozenek and all other guys who tried to capitalise on the referendum and spoilt the civic movement.