Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

AFRICA NEWS

2014-07-11 21:47 AFRICA NEWS

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Finally, a good use for new app "Yo"

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 11 July 2014 (part 2)

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 11 July 2014

Read more

REPORTERS

Exclusive: an unlikely victim of the 'War on Terror'

Read more

#THE 51%

Sweden: A Feminist's Paradise?

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Politics: parties under pressure

Read more

FOCUS

In Burma, the rise of radical Buddhism

Read more

ENCORE!

Haute Couture: the hand-stitched clothing made in Paris that sells for the price of small yachts

Read more

Our Focus programme brings you exclusive reports from around the world. From Monday to Friday at 7.45 am Paris time.

FOCUS

FOCUS

Latest update : 2010-06-22

Poles go to the polls

Poland is going to the polls to elect a new president. The snap election was triggered by the tragic death of Lech Kaczynski in a plane crash that killed 96 people in April. His twin brother, Jaroslaw, is running, but with a reputation as deeply conservative and eurosceptic, can he inherit his brother's mantle?

Poland’s presidential election is taking place in exceptional circumstances. Originally scheduled for the autumn, it was brought forward to this Sunday after President Lech Kaczynski died in a plane crash on 10 April, alongside 95 others - many of them prominent figures in Polish society.

As speaker of parliament, Bronislaw Komorowski, already the governing Civic Platform party’s candidate to challenge Lech Kaczynski, became acting president after the crash. A difficult position to manage – especially after Lech Kaczynski’s twin brother Jaroslaw declared he would run in place of Lech.

Many feared Jaroslaw would not be psychologically prepared: “If he were elected, would he then sleep in the same bed as his dead brother did, eat with the same cutlery? It’s a sick idea!” commented Joanna Kowalska, a teacher. But sympathy for the family certainly helped Jaroslaw’s poll ratings. In the small town of Rawa Mazowiecka, many of those attending a Kaczynski rally cited respect for Lech’s memory as their main reason for voting for Jaroslaw.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski is seen as a peculiar man. A bachelor, he has lived almost his entire life with his mother and cat in a small house in north Warsaw. But he is anything but a new kid on the political block. Co-founder of the conservative Law and Justice party, he was prime minister in 2006 and 2007 and subsequently leader of the opposition (the liberal Civic Platform party won parliamentary elections in 2007, leaving president and parliament in opposition to one another). Widely seen as the power behind the throne of his brother’s presidency, he was even less popular than Lech, whose own poll ratings had sunk below 20 percent before his death.

But beyond the initial wave of sympathy, the campaign Kaczynski has fought has seen his ratings climb steadily. Once known as a bad-tempered, xenophobic firebrand, Jaroslaw Kaczynski has presented a radically new image. He started with a special message of friendship to the Russians and continued with appeals for consensus and dialogue among Poles, and a concerted effort to woo young voters.

Radoslaw Markowski of the Polish Academy of Sciences says Kaczynski is counting on his core electorate to stay with him, and seeking to win over more liberal-minded Poles. “He knows that in a presidential campaign, he needs 50% plus one, and the 20-30% of the vote which he was usually in the running for in parliamentary elections is not enough.”

Kaczynski, though, says the tragedy changed him as a person, without changing his political beliefs. His new style reflects a genuine mood in the country, and one that his rival Komorowski has also picked up on. Komorowski made “consensus” the buzzword of his campaign – sensing that a country reeling from the plane crash and two waves of devastating floods wants to feel united. Watching a TV debate where confrontation was conspicuous by its absence, Grzegorz Zelazowski, a baker, commented that “this is simply the way the campaign had to be in the present circumstances”.

As acting president of a country in mourning, Komorowski has steered clear of fighting an offensive campaign. But fear of a Kaczynski comeback means he remains the favourite, almost by default.

There is a certain symmetry between Kaczynski’s effort to woo liberals and the Civic Platform’s choice of Komorowski as a candidate. Komorowski appeals to more conservative voters and is less committed to free-market economics than others in his party. A sign perhaps, that at just 21 years old, Polish democracy already resembles that seen in “mature” Western countries, where two parties dominate and converge on the centre-ground…for better or for worse.

By Gulliver CRAGG

Comments

COMMENT(S)

 
 
Archives

2014-07-11 Burma

In Burma, the rise of radical Buddhism

Buddhism places great importance in non-violence and overcoming anger. Yet in Burma – a country 90% Buddhist - a very vocal group of monks has no qualms expressing their violent...

Read more

2014-07-10 women

Ireland's missing babies cast light on dark history

The world was shocked when the remains of almost 800 babies were dug up in a small Irish town recently... babies buried more than half a century ago. This story, sadly, has...

Read more

2014-07-09 UK

Sharia law to be enshrined in British legal system?

It's not often that a discreet publication in obscure legalese makes press headlines. But that is exactly what has happened in the UK, after the Law Society of England and Wales...

Read more

2014-07-08 environment

US shale gas: Full steam ahead with fracking

Recent calls for less European dependence on natural gas from Russia are adding to pressure on countries like France to open up its massive shale gas deposits and allow fracking....

Read more

2014-07-07 Pakistan

Pakistani parents forced to send children to madrassas

Schools providing a modern education in Pakistan's Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province and tribal areas struggle to survive as Islamist trusts running madrassas force parents to send...

Read more