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The faces of Polish politics in the wake of the Smolensk tragedy

Text by Priscille LAFITTE

Latest update : 2010-04-15

After the plane crash that killed Polish President Lech Kaczynski and several other key public figures from Poland, who is in line to fill now vacant roles of leadership in the country? takes a closer look.

Bronislaw Komorowski: acting president, official Civic Platform candidate

The president of the Sejm – the lower chamber of the Polish parliament – since November 2007, Komorowski is now acting president of Poland. This 58-year-old former defence minister is known for his pro-capitalist economic position and his past as an anti-communist activist in the 1970s. He is one of the highest-profile personalities of the pro-European Civic Platform (PO) party, which also counts Prime Minister Donald Tusk among its members.

A PO presidential candidate in an election initially scheduled for October, Komorowski was polling ahead of Kaczyinski before the plane accident. The political relations between the two men were stormy, with the president regularly using his veto power to block initiatives put forth by the PO party, which holds a majority of seats in the Polish parliament.

Komorowski now has more freedom, particularly because the leadership of the rival Law and Justice (PiS) party was hit hard by the Smolensk tragedy. He could either choose to keep a low profile before the elections or take the lead on the reforms promoted by his party, notably those concerning healthcare and retirement.

Donald Tusk: prime minister, PO member

Donald Tusk formed an opposition government after the PO’s decisive victory in the October 2007 legislative elections. He worked on boosting Poland’s diplomatic ties with Germany and Russia, contrary to the Kaczynski brothers’ eurosceptic policies.

Three days before the plane crash, Tusk had met with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, to commemorate the Katyn massacre of 1940 – a first in Polish-Russian relations. They has also discussed issues on which the two countries disagree, most notably an anti-missile shield deal that Poland signed with the US.

A proponent of economic liberalism, Tusk says he is preparing Poland for transition to the euro in 2015.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski: former prime minister, opposition leader
The deceased president's twin brother has been at the forefront of the Polish political scene since Saturday's plane crash. Since 2007, Jaroslaw Kaczynski has been chairman of the Law and Justice (PiS) party, which became the opposition party following legislative elections in 2007. From July 2006 to November 2007, he served as prime minister, resulting in an unusual configuration of identical twins leading a republic.

Several political analysts say he has presidential aspirations and is naturally positioned as frontrunner for the PiS in the next election, particularly as several PiS leaders were killed in the plane crash.

For the moment, his public appearances have been justified by the fact that his brother died in the accident; it was Jaroslaw who identified Lech in Smolensk. Following the president’s daughter, Marta, Jaroslaw Kaczynski was also one of the first public figures to kneel down before his brother’s coffin on Sunday, as a nation in mourning looked on.

Date created : 2010-04-13