“We both know how valuable our time is. We have a lot in common, we are both in our positions only for a limited time and we both know the names of our successors,” said the Speaker of the Polish Chamber of Deputies Szymon Hołownia on Wednesday.
Bonmoty maršálek Hołownia
While the politicians’ faces were petrified in the right part of the hall, in the other part of the Sejm, where the new parliamentary majority is sitting, it caused a thunderous response. The cameras also captured the smiling leader of the Civic Coalition, Donald Tusk.
Marshal Hołowni’s remark was made by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki from the Law and Justice (PiS) party. He became prime minister again on Monday, but he has no chance of gaining confidence in parliament.
With a probability bordering on certainty, he will rule until November 11, that is, exactly two weeks, when the constitutional deadline for gaining confidence will expire. The new parliamentary majority, i.e. the current opposition, does not plan to give him this. Instead, he wants to elect Donald Tusk as prime minister soon in the second attempt to form a government. He could take office as early as December 13.
Relations in the Sejm
In the Sejm, after the October elections, PiS has 191 MPs out of 460, which is not enough for a majority. The new parliamentary majority has already been confirmed in several votes by the Civic Coalition, the Third Way and the Left, which consists of several political parties. It has a total of 248 deputies. The absolute majority in the Sejm is 231 deputies.
However, Hołownia also has a precisely measured time, which he himself struggled with. In the middle of his term of office, according to the signed coalition agreement of the Civic Coalition, the Third Way and the Left, he will replace the head of the Sejm with the left-wing politician Włodzimierz Czarzasty.
The “rotating marshal” takes over Sejmflix
Despite only two limited years and the nickname “rotating marshal”, Hołownia has already become a political star. It is precisely his bon mots, jokes and the way he conducts parliamentary meetings that made watching the proceedings of the Sejm a hit.
The parliamentary account on YouTube alone, where live broadcasts of meetings are broadcast, now has 333,000 subscribers. This is several times more than before the October elections.
From the original thousands of viewers, there are hundreds of thousands. Millions more people watch parliamentary meetings on news television broadcasts, on social networks and on tape. Hołownia is also a hit with short videos on TikTok or Instagram. Broadcasts from the Sejm began to be nicknamed Sejmflix (or Sejmfliks) after the example of a well-known streaming platform.
The sudden huge growth of interest in what is happening in the Sejm is undoubtedly related to the record turnout in the parliamentary elections. In mid-October, more than 74 percent of eligible voters went to the polls. In addition to women, the younger generation also mobilized.
Entertainment Industry in Parliament
“The growth of interest in the proceedings of the Sejm reflects a higher interest in participating in the electoral process, especially among young people,” commented Dariusz Tworzydło from the Department of Communication and PR at the University of Warsaw (UW) in an interview with Gazeta Wyborcza.
According to Tworzydł, major political changes after eight years, the new composition of the Sejm and curiosity are behind the interest. “Broadcasts from the Sejm can also be perceived as a form of entertainment similar to a cabaret. The meeting is chaired by a new marshal who, after all, had something to do with the entertainment industry,” the UW pedagogue points out.
He alludes to Szymon Hołowni’s professional career, which evidently came in handy for him in politics. The leader of the modern Christian-democratic movement Poland 2050 hosted the talent show I have talent on TVN, the largest Polish private television, between 2008 and 2019.
Novice, moderator, presidential candidate
In the end, he gave preference to another scene – the political one – in the order of the thirteenth series. Shortly after the last episode of “talent” aired, he announced his candidacy for the presidency. He finished in third place in the 2020 elections and turned his support into the creation of the Poland 2050 movement.
Hołownia also has a rich career in journalism. Among other things, he contributed to moderate Catholic media and was also the program director of the religious television Religia.
That Hołownia is close to the faith is also shown by the fact that he was twice a Dominican novice, i.e. waiting to enter the Catholic religious community. But in the end he did not join it and ended up marrying a pilot of the Polish Air Force, with whom they have two daughters.
Critics accuse Hołownia of only having a high school education and that he sometimes does not control his emotions in public. As one of the few politicians, he shed tears in front of the cameras. For example, three years ago, he was overcome with emotion when he talked about the importance of the Polish constitution and democracy in a video message.
Hołownia is able to respond promptly to ministers and MPs, she is cultured and kind. And if he makes a misunderstanding or a mistake in the conduct of the meeting, he apologizes for the mistake and corrects it, albeit with a bon mot.
For example, when he confused the words “process” and “procedure”, towards the laughing members of the PiS party, he added that “process” was simply “rubbing on his lips”. It was a clear allusion to the notice of the new parliamentary majority on the reckoning with PiS politicians, whom they accuse of violating the principles of the rule of law, bending the constitution and abusing power.
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List In November in Warsaw, the News spoke with Barbara Nowacka, a candidate for the post of minister in the looming government of Donald Tusk.
In 2020, the daily Rzeczpospolita wrote that Catholics see a Catholic in Hołownio, liberals a liberal and leftists a person with leftist sensibilities. The commentator of the same paper, Zuzanna Dąbrowska, now writes about the new marshal as the “emperor of the new majority”.
“More or less until December 12, Poland will be ruled by the Marshal of the Sejm, Szymon Hołownia. Morawiecki’s government, nicknamed temporary, does not work. “Donald Tusk has no authority and the president is busy helping PiS and planning ski trips,” writes Dąbrowska uncompromisingly.
Can people’s smiles last?
So far, Hołowni’s advantage is that he quickly fulfills his promises in office. Immediately after taking office, he had the metal barriers removed, with which the police had surrounded the parliament during the PiS government in fear of demonstrations.
The marshal also met with journalists. He made it easier for parliamentary correspondents to access politicians by expanding the possibility of their movement through the corridors of the Sejm.
“I would like people to walk past the Sejm with a smile during the two years that I will be leaving office. It is my goal that they look at that building with hope and do not look away, do not threaten with a fist,” Hołonia said in the week.
Whether he will be able to achieve such a goal is uncertain. This week’s proceedings of the parliament were also accompanied by sharp exchanges of words, chanting and swearing.
But the Poles themselves still appreciate Hołowni’s tenure. In the ranking of trust in politicians, he found himself in first place for the first time ever with 49%, and jumped over Warsaw Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski and President Andrzej Duda. It is a good springboard for Hołonia to run for the presidency in 2025.