Big blunder of Kaczynski brothers

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Yelena Shesternina) - The Kaczynski twin tandem, Europe's most bizarre ruling alliance, broke apart last Sunday, as the Law and Justice (PiS) party led by one of the brothers, Jaroslaw, announced it was turning to opposition after suffering a defeat in parliamentary elections.

The post of Polish prime minister is now most likely to go to Donald Tusk, a long time opponent of the Kaczynski brothers and leader of the center-right Civic Platform (PO) party, who narrowly lost the 2005 presidential election to the current president, Lech Kaczynski.

Paradoxically, in 2005 all the opinion polls pointed to a Tusk victory, and his defeat in the presidential run-off on October 23 was entirely unexpected. Analysts investigating the anomaly afterwards came to the conclusion that most Poles were simply reluctant to admit, even anonymously, that they planned to support a national chauvinist who declared half the world Poland's enemies, Europe and Russia included. In the light of this, forecasts for last Sunday's parliamentary elections were deliberately vague.

Yet despite such caution the pollsters were again proved wrong. The day before the vote, Civic Platform was expected to receive 5% less than Kaczynski's party, but in fact it outran PiS by 10%. The left-wing democrats led by former president Aleksander Kwasniewski came third, followed by the Polish Peasant Party (PSL). Kwasniewski might even strike a deal with Tusk and negotiate a government post, and PSL is also willing to help consolidate the ruling coalition.

There are several reasons behind Jaroslaw Kaczynski's high-profile fiasco. One of them is an unheard-of voter turnout, a record level of 55%, the highest since 1989. The Poles, especially younger voters, appear to have tired of the former Cabinet's nationalist rhetoric, which threatened to lead the country into complete political isolation.

Polish voters probably did not mind Kaczynski's consistent criticism of Moscow. It is certainly true that few Poles are ardent admirers of Russia. But even so, the former prime minister clearly overdid it. Suffice to mention the closure of the Russian display at the Auschwitz memorial, or the censure of Aleksander Kwasniewski for his decision to visit Moscow for the 60th Anniversary of Victory over the Nazis, or the demand that the Russian government repent its errors beginning with the division of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 18th century to the Soviet invasion.

Kaczynski did more than seek his own interpretation of "historic justice." He consistently torpedoed Russia-EU negotiations. Offended by Russia's ban on its meat imports, Poland alone voted against a strategic partnership between the EU and Russia. It also rejected any compromise on hosting the U.S. missile-defense system. A few days before the elections, Jaroslaw Kaczynski said quite openly that the U.S. 'missile shield' was designed to shoot down Russian missiles, not Iranian ones, thus indicating which nation Warsaw saw as its number one foe.

Still, Kaczynski's anti-Russian rhetoric was not his greatest fault. He was wrong, as he was trying to build what he referred to as "a fourth republic," to list the whole of Europe as Poland's enemies. His favorite policy was to threaten the European Union with blocking major agreements. It is a miracle Angela Merkel did not have a nervous breakdown during the German presidency of the EU after overnight talks in which 26 member states tried to convince one (Poland) to sign a fundamental agreement - in fact a European constitution. Last week, participants in a EU summit in Lisbon avoided a similar scandal by an inch, as Poland again refused to sign an important document unless it was granted certain privileges.

Kaczynski was no friend of the OSCE either. Warsaw did not even invite that organization's observers to monitor elections under the pretext that Switzerland was voting on the same day. He must have thought that Swiss democracy was in greater need of protection than the Polish model. The problem was solved at the last minute: on election day, Warsaw received a whole group of OSCE members, along with Russian CEC head Vladimir Churov. The latter came on an informal visit.

Donald Tusk, although repeatedly blamed by the Kaczynski brothers for accepting German financing to support his party, will obviously behave in a more moderate way at EU summits. He will never make the 26 EU leaders stay up all night to reach a decision, and will hardly allow himself explicit anti-Russian rhetoric like his predecessor.

Russia will still have to deal with the other twin until the 2010 presidential elections in Poland, as Lech Kaczynski remains president of that country. It is hard to tell now who will dominate Poland's foreign policy - the president or the prime minister.

But Tusk will certainly try and change the explicitly pro-American policies his country is currently pursuing. First, he has pledged to pull Polish forces out of Iraq early next year. Second, Warsaw will soon adopt a softer stance in the missile-defense talks. Although the would-be cabinet leader will not be able to abandon the plan, he has promised to insist that Washington make Poland's interests a priority.

Tusk will probably be more willing to compromise with Moscow on the extremely sensitive U.S. missile-defense issue. He probably will, given that Moscow offered some solutions for discussion.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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