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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » October 1, 2010
Politics & Society
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Kaczyński Casts Off Sheep’s Clothing
October 1, 2010   
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Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of the largest opposition party, Law and Justice (PiS), has adopted a strategy of constant confrontation with the ruling Civic Platform (PO). At the same time, he is imposing rigorous discipline in party ranks and sidelining PiS members with liberal views.

Kaczyński’s political image has changed radically from the one he adopted during the recent presidential election campaign, when he took pains to portray himself as a conciliatory politician and renounced his aggressive rhetoric. On many occasions he surprised the public with his moderation and positive statements about other politicians, such as left-wing leader Grzegorz Napieralski. After his defeat in the second round of the presidential election, he congratulated his victorious PO opponent, Bronisław Komorowski, and warmly thanked his supporters.

Political observers speculate the veteran politician had changed his tune due to the tragic death of his twin brother Lech, the president of Poland, who died in a plane crash in Smolensk April 10 together with a large group of prominent Polish politicians. Kaczyński was unusually silent about this national tragedy during the election campaign, a fact stressed by those who believed that he had truly changed.

But the change did not last long. Now Kaczyński is demanding that all those “responsible” for the tragedy should “leave Polish politics once and for all” and that the PO must be removed from power. Kaczyński did not turn up Aug. 6 for the presidential ceremony in which Komorowski was sworn in as head of state. Instead, he granted an interview for the PiS website saying that Komorowski won the election due to a “misunderstanding” because the PO candidate had posed as a different person than he really was. To justify his comments, Kaczyński pointed to Komorowski’s critical remarks about the presence of the cross commemorating the Smolensk crash victims in front of the presidential palace and about proposals to build a monument there to the presidential couple and the remaining 94 people who had died in the crash. Kaczyński then justified his absence by complaining that not all those “responsible for the campaign of contempt for the late president” had apologized.

With each passing week, Kaczyński’s remarks became sharper. Commenting on the work of the special parliamentary team appointed by PiS to investigate the Smolensk crash—which was labeled a “crime” by team leader Antoni Macierewicz—Kaczyński said that Prime Minister Donald Tusk, Komorowski, Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski and Defense Minister Bogdan Klich bear “political and moral responsibility” for the disaster due to the government’s sluggishness in buying new aircraft to transport VIPs.

Anna Fotyga, foreign minister in the previous PiS government and head of President Lech Kaczyński’s office, said that after receiving an invitation to the ceremony commemorating the Katyn crime from Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Tusk should have consulted with President Kaczyński and the latter should have headed the Polish official delegation. Instead, two ceremonies had to be organized in the Katyn Forest—one on April 7 attended by the government delegation and another, unofficial one on April 10 with the participation of the president. Fotyga, regarded as one of the closest political allies of the Kaczyński brothers, said the crash would not have taken place if the prime minister and the government had acted differently.

It is not only politicians of the PO and Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) that have been surprised and outraged by the aggressive rhetoric of Kaczyński and his closest associates. Some PiS politicians, who until recently were influential in the party, have warned that Kaczyński’s strategy is a sure path to defeat in the local elections in November and parliamentary elections next year.

Marek Migalski, a political scientist and a popular member of the European Parliament elected on the PiS ticket, a politician who had made an important contribution to the party’s recent election campaigns, wrote an unprecedented open letter to Kaczyński, warning that his policy would have disastrous consequences. PiS withdrew its support for Migalski and he is now an independent MEP.

Elżbieta Jakubiak, a member of the presidential election campaign staff whom Kaczyński had praised publicly, was suspended as a PiS member. Mariusz Błaszczak, PiS’s spokesman, claimed she had been suspended because of her “attitude and remarks.” She had also criticized the hardening of PiS’s policy, although much more moderately than Migalski.

Paweł Poncyliusz, former spokesman for the PiS election campaign staff, and Joanna Kluzik-Rostkowska, former head of the staff, were also sidelined. Both have a reputation as liberals. Meanwhile, Jacek Kurski, Joachim Brudziński and Zbigniew Ziobro, considered to be PiS “hawks,” are back in grace. Ziobro, who was justice minister in the former PiS government, said that if PiS had been more vociferous and taken a harder line on the Smolensk crash during the election campaign, Kaczyński could be head of state now.

Yet the U-turn towards a bellicose strategy has not resulted in improved popularity ratings for PiS. Quite the contrary: the party’s ratings have dropped and now range from 25 percent to 30 percent against 45-48 percent for PO. Some political scientists believe that Kaczyński realizes that he will not be able to defeat Tusk’s party in the near future and is banking on long-term success. Until that time, the speculation goes, he is mainly trying to retain his core electorate, that is, right-wing circles. And for these people, PiS’s current rhetoric is attractive and comprehensible.
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