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Madness or Method?
October 1, 2010   
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Around 70 percent of those surveyed by sociologists say they are worried about what the future holds for them. People are afraid that they may lose their job, that prices in the stores will go up, that they will have to pay higher interest on their loans or that they will have to pay higher gas, electricity and water bills. A series of strikes and street demonstrations by miners, teachers and healthcare workers is planned for the fall. Economists are skeptical about the government’s efforts—or rather the lack thereof—to reform the public finance system even though such reforms are needed urgently. They are critical of the mounting budget deficit and warning that the pension system may collapse if this policy is continued for another decade.

In this situation, politicians and the media are focusing on one subject—Jarosław Kaczyński, the leader of the largest opposition party, Law and Justice (PiS). Kaczyński is constantly in the headlines and on the television news: what he has done, whom he has attacked, whom he has praised in his own ranks and who has fallen foul of the PiS leader.

Why is Jarosław Kaczyński—who was prime minister in 2006-2007 and the twin brother of Lech, the Polish president from 2005 to 2010, who died in the plane crash near Smolensk—causing such a stir? The bluntest comment recently came from Waldemar Kuczyński, an economist and a member of Poland’s first noncommunist government who helped design some of the country’s market reforms in the early 1990s. In a radio debate, Kuczyński compared Kaczyński to a madman running around with a canister of gasoline and a torch threatening to set something on fire. According to Kuczyński, the focus on the PiS leader is understandable because many people tend to see him as an unpredictable lunatic and are afraid of his hidden agenda.

During the presidential election campaign, Kaczyński shocked fellow politicians with his apparent metamorphosis, posing for a few weeks as a moderate ready to reach consensus with his rivals and even capable of complimenting them. After he was narrowly beaten in the election by Bronisław Komorowski of the Civic Platform (PO), Kaczyński immediately reverted to his old ways, showering accusations and insults on his political opponents. Not a day has passed since that time without the opposition leader or one of his associates aiming a sharp blow at the government. This is a no-holds-barred struggle—from a constant campaign of accusations that the investigation into the presidential plane crash is not being conducted properly, through allegations that the government is pursuing a servile foreign policy toward Russia, to criticism of all economic measures taken by the PO, and finally the grotesque scandal over the cross placed in front of the president’s palace in Warsaw to commemorate the April 10 air disaster.

Political experts are divided about Kaczyński’s behavior. Some say that he has lost his political intuition and that this is the end of his career. Others believe there is a method to his madness and that Kaczyński aims to shore up his backing among hardline supporters in the hope that a major economic crisis will come and that PiS will be able to return to power. Whichever interpretation is closer to the truth, no one expects Kaczyński to mellow.
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