Cucumber season

In Polish politics, the term 'cucumber season' (sezon ogórkowy) refers to the downturn in political activity during the summer months. Parliament goes into recess, politicians restrict their activity to Instagramming carefully curated holiday photos, and everyone disappears to their allotments to pick cucumbers. Cool, soothing, inoffensive cucumbers. Everyone likes cucumbers. A bit of sour cream and the ubiquitous dill is procured, and we have a mizeria - a classic Polish salad. Everyone likes mizeria.

It would be fair to say that the cucumber season is no longer entirely in vogue in Polish politics, which has seen a summer full of controversy and contestation, from protests over the unconstitutional purge of the Supreme Court to the abject cynicism of the "just-talking-to-Varsovians" pre-campaign campaign by Warsaw mayoral candidates Patryk Jaki and Rafał Trzaskowski. With so much at stake right now, nobody can relax for a minute. Instead, cucumber season has shifted to the realm of public opinion, at least where vote intention is concerned. After a certain degree of fluctuation in the first quarter of 2018, the last few months have seen remarkable stability in attitudes towards parties.

The governing Law and Justice (PiS) party has restored its double-digit lead, continuing to poll in excess of 40% when undecided voters (typically around 10% of declared voters overall) are discounted, while its main rival, Civic Platform (PO) has apparently plateaued on around 27%. The liberal party Modern (Nowoczesna) appears to have arrested the slide that briefly took it below the electoral threshold in May, but remains unable to pull itself above 5% for now. The social-democratic Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) has consolidated its mini-resurgence; while last year it often polled below the threshold, it now enjoys a stable 8% of support, which is approximately the same share commanded by the nationalist Kukiz'15 movement. The Polish Peasant Party (PSL) maintains its customary position just below the threshold, while minor parties Together (Razem) and Freedom (Wolność) both have around 2% support.

With the exceptions of SLD, which would enter parliament, and Nowoczesna, which would lose a substantial percentage of the seats it gained in 2015, a hypothetical election this weekend would not have much of an impact on the distribution of power in the Polish parliament. PiS would still command a slight majority.

I write this overlooking my in-laws' plot of land outside Warsaw, where chilli peppers grow next to the wilting remainder of this season's cucumbers. Chilli-pepper season would perhaps be a better analogy for Polish politics right now, but it looks like voters have got used to the heat.