Tag Archives: Lech Kaczyński

Polish Presidential Election 2010

Being a lightweight when it comes to knowledge of Poland’s political landscape, I’m grateful to Wikipedia, Polskie Radio and others covering this election.

Only 14 days left before voting day and this election is going to be interesting. Originally planned for the autumn it was brought forward by the sudden death of President Lech Kaczyński in Smolensk and voting will now take place on 20th June. Aside from the usual interest generated by any Presidential race this one has the added spice of whether the people will want to prolong the Kaczyński dynasty by electing Lech’s brother Jarosław or will decide that enough is enough.


I was going to add that there’s also the question of whether Smolensk will enter the debate and the pulling of heart-strings used as a voting tactic but the question is answered by Jarosław’s comments when announcing he will be standing for election:

“We need to complete the mission of victims of the catastrophe near Smolensk. We owe it to them, we owe it to our motherland (…) It is out duty to fulfill their will,”

“It is important to overcome personal grief and take up the task in spite of personal tragedy. That is why I decided to run for presidency and my family supports me.”

Twenty three candidates (all men – booo!) registered themselves as candidates. Of those, only 17 were able to gather the required 1,000 votes to be accepted by the election commission. Poor show by the six, I think Jamie could have gathered a thousand signatures, in fact I think he did.

Each of the 17 candidates then had to gather 100,000 signatures by May 6th to progress to the final stage of contest. This sorted out the men out from the boys. As Jamie’s campaign manager I instigated a cunning plan to get Jamie over the line. We targeted a single Polish town with enough inhabitants and bombarded it with “Vote for Jamie!” – we chose Legnica (pop 104,393) as it’s not too far from Kraków and campaigning didn’t disturb Jamie’s sleep pattern too much. We hit the town with a tantalising pakiet of incentives;

  1. Change the name of city back to Liegnitz, declare German as the official language and build “Liegnitz Land” an adventure park celebrating 200+ years of German history, each resident to have a share in the profits.
  2. Free daily bus transport for all residents to either Dresden, Chemnitz or Prague.
  3. 50 pln per signature.

This worked well enough to get Jamie into the final round where he will be facing the 10 other candidates that were able to gather their own 100,000 signatures. To help you get prepared for the big day and figure out where you’ll be placing your vote, we present a largely useless review of the runners and riders (party representing & number of signatures collected in brackets):

  • Jamie “Island1” Stokes (Polandian Party – 104,393) – clean shaven. Campaigns tirelessly on equal rights for hedgehogs. Avid beer drinker.
  • Marek Jurek (Prawica RP – 180,000) – clean shaven. Leader of a party with no MPs that he set up because the Sejm didn’t vote to outlaw abortion. Other important policies include banning porn, longer maternity leave and preserving Sundays and other religious holidays. Almost certainly Catholic.
  • Jarosław Kaczyński (PiS – 1,650,000) –  clean shaven. Twin brother of deceased President Lech Kaczyński. Lived with his mother and now with his cat. Was Prime Minister of an extremely silly coalition government that somehow managed to last just over a year. Many people left the country when he became Prime Minister, how many will leave if he becomes President?
  • Bronisław Komorowski (PO – 770,000) – has a nice moustache and looks like he should be your uncle. Current acting President of Poland. Met his wife when they were both scouts. Son of Count Zygmunt Leon Komorowski and has enough of an aristocratic background to have been on the wrong end of a guillotine in the French revolution.
  • Janusz Korwin-Mikke (UPR – 138,000) – has a moustache and not much hair. National bridge champion, skilled chess player, eater of tax returns and member of Conservative-Monarchist Club.
  • Andrzej Lepper (Samoobrona – 122,000) – clean shaven. Nationalist, former farmer. Charged with several criminal offences and involved in almost every scandal that exists. Has nice red and white striped ties. Had the chance of a lifetime to become a serious player and blew it big time but won’t let any of that stop him trying.
  • Kornel Morawiecki (110,000) – used to have a nice moustache and beard. Doctor of theoretical physics. Represents the more rebellious side of Solidarity. Has previously failed to collect 100,000 signatures but obviously learnt his lesson and did things differently this time around.
  • Grzegorz Napieralski (SLD – 380,000) – clean shaven. Youngest candidate (36). Spent most of his time in Szczecin, which is a bit of a handicap.
  • Andrzej Olechowski (233,000) – an old chestnut with a fine moustache. Probably had his best shot in 2000 when beaten by Kwaśniewski. I always think of him as a bit of a Michael “Tarzan” Heseltine character.
  • Waldemar Pawlak (PSL – 190,000) – clean shaven. Born in a model village. Has already been the 4th and 6th Prime Minister of the Third Republic – surely that’s enough? Finished fifth in a Presidential bid in 1995.
  • Bogusław Ziętek (WZZ Sierpien ’80 – 170,000) – clean shaven. Militant Trade Union activist, a kind of Arthur Scargill po polsku.


I suppose it is reasonable to assume that the final leg of this race will be between Kaczyński and Komorowski. Voting probably split as it was when Kaczyński won the general election – all major city dwellers and businessmen/women (I’m trying to avoid using the term ‘intelligent people’) voting for Komorowski and all country-folk, strong Catholics and babcias voting for Kaczyński. I think Jarosław’s terrible performance as Prime Minister is bound to count against him but will probably be offset by a strong “sympathy” vote because of his brother’s tragic death. Whether sympathy will be enough we shall have to wait and see.

According to Polskie Radio this morning the latest poll suggests:

Bronislaw Komorowski would receive 46.5 percent of the vote, if presidential elections were held this weekend, finds the latest poll from the Homo Homini institute for Polish Radio. The poll sees support for the acting president and Civic Platform candidate down 1.1 percent compared to the same poll taken seven days ago. Komorowski’s nearest challenger for the ballot on June 20 remains Jaroslaw Kaczynski on 32.4 percent.

“Komorowski‘s support is stable,” says Anna Karasińska from Homo Homini. “Many are not necessarily for him but against Kaczynski. If Jaroslaw Kaczynski presents a softer image and himself as a politician of reconciliation then this might weaken the opposition to him. ”

Other candidates have not seen their support grow or decline significantly in the last seven days. Grzegorz Napieralski is on 6.1 percent, followed by Waldemar Pawlak (4.4 percent), Andrzej Olechowski (2.2 percent), Andrzej Lepper (0.6 percent), Marek Jurek ( 0.4 percent), Janusz Korwin Mikke-(0.4 percent), Kornel Morawiecki (0.1 percent) and Boguslaw Ziętek (0.0 percent). Six and a half percent said they had yet to make their minds up of how to vote. Turnout would be a high 69.3 percent.

For reasons best known to himself, our own candidate, Jamie, has been keeping a low profile during this critical campaigning period. However, in an attempt to rejuvenate things we’ve bought him some wellies and and a rubber dinghy so he can go and be Presidential with the double-drowned people of Sandomierz and other places suffering from the new flood-wave. Some of our more creative campaign workers have come up with slogans to be painted on the side of his dinghy, for example – “In times of flood you need an Island1! Vote Jamie and never be wet again!”.

If no candidate receives over 50% of the vote on June 20, a second round will be held on July 4. If you believe the polls, Komorowski is close to the 50% target but there’s nowt as queer as Polish politics and with democracy being what it is, you never know what’s going to happen next.


PS – Our roving reporter, Bartek, (he of quiz fame) has written more intelligently on the same topic on his blog – HERE.

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The Krakow funerals

I knew there was never any chance I would get to the centre of the action, but I wanted to be on the streets sampling the mood and eavesdropping on conversations on what was surely the biggest day this city will see in a long while. It felt like we were at the centre of the world for a few hours, a rare enough feeling anywhere in Poland and even more so down here in sleepy Krakow.

Saturday: the day before

The plan for Saturday was to see how the preparations were going for the big day, to walk the route the cortege will take, and to visit the crypt under Wawel where the Kaczynskis will be interred.


Krakow waits

The television was on as we prepared to head out. After slowly slipping back into the routine of movies, soap operas and ads as the week of mourning progressed, most channels suddenly reverted to the wall-to-wall coverage that characterised the first two days after the disaster. Live footage of the commemorative event in Warsaw was interspersed with still more scenes from the lives of the Kaczynskis. It’s amazing how slowing down video and turning it black-and-white can make anyone look statesman-like and pivotal. The guy who composed the score for the movie Katyn must be making a fortune this week, it’s played every five minutes over yet more slow-motion images of Kaczynski saluting or having his tie straightened by his wife. Dimly overheard from my neighbour, who is obviously watching the same thing: “NATIONAL HERO! HA!”

The main square, 3pm

On any given Saturday you will find gangs of mustachioed men setting up stages, lights and camera platforms on the square. The almost weekly concerts, pageants and commemorations are the bane of city-centre dwellers. Today was no different. Giant screens, stages, floodlights, camera cranes, and serried ranks of seating were everywhere. The only difference today was that everybody was taking pictures of the scaffolding rather than tutting at it.

There was a shuffling stream of people filing in and out of the Mariacki church—the scene of tomorrow’s funeral mass. My wife went inside and reported that a wedding was about to take place. Mariacki is the administratively-favoured venue for mixed marriages, where ‘mixed’ means ‘between real people and foreigners.’ Walking past the side entrance we overheard a stressed-looking English bride in full regalia asking: “Will you be my witness?” Volcanic ash at 30,000 feet must have taken a serious toll on her guest list. I hope her parents made it at least.

Wawel, 4pm

Wawel is to Krakow what the Tower of London is to London; if you live here, you never go. I’ve walked around the free parts but never bothered to buy a ticket. I’m glad I finally did. The cathedral itself is not exceptional, it’s small and cramped compared to Europe’s great gothic examples, but the crypt is well worth a visit. It’s an extraordinary experience to walk among the sarcophagi of some of the greatest names in Polish history. They look as if they’re been there a couple of weeks rather than centuries. The chamber containing the Kaczynskis’ tomb was, unsurprisingly, closed to the public.

Władysław Sikorski tomb

The tomb of Władysław Sikorski–seeing names like this at first hand and how few of them there are raises questions about the Kaczynskis’ place down here that I didn’t have before.

The climb to the Sigismund Bell is an experience in itself. Don’t attempt it if you’re not capable of squeezing into the cupboard under your sink, there are a couple of places where you have to perform a similar manoeuvre as you climb among massive timber beams on a series of wooden staircases. It’s not a scary or long climb, but it is tight. The bell itself is just a big bell, albeit a very old one. I had always believed that it was only rung at moments of exceptional national grief or celebration, so I was surprised to discover that, in fact, there are at least 29 days every year when it sounds: three extra occasions this year.


The Sigismund Bell


More photos of preparations from Krakow Migrant

Sunday: the funerals

I learned two things about Historic Events today: they hurt your feet and the rattle of camera shutters is deafening.

We woke to the news that 14 delegations had been grounded by rampaging volcanic ash. “Poland is on its own again; our allies have been frightened away by smoke from a mountain.”


A photogenic mourner

Only Poland could have this kind of luck. From an international event it turned suddenly into a very local affair. Medvedev was still coming and the president of Georgia who, apparently, insisted on taking off from Rome volcanoes or no volcanoes; “That’s how you lose presidents,” I thought to myself.

The first hour and a half was taken up with vain attempts to get near the main square. People were drifting from street to street in the hope of finding one that would miraculously provide a grandstand vista. None of them did. We even popped into the second floor office of the Krakow Post with vague thoughts of a window seat, but the view was no better. The crowd was chatty and lighthearted. The most common overheard phrase was “Chodżmy gdieś indziej” (“Let’s go somewhere else”). It was the very essence of milling about.


Cameras held high and kids on shoulders were the order of the day

With little hope of success we decided to try our luck on the procession route along Grodzka. Jostling along with the crowd I heard a young student complaining to his girlfriend: “Miał być Obama, miał być czad…” (Obama was supposed to be here, it was supposed to be buzzing…”)


A street plugged with people, just like all the others

At 3 pm, half an hour before the funeral mass was due to end, we made our stand in Mary Magdalene Square (opposite the Church of Saints Peter and Paul) just two rows back from the barricade. Loudspeakers were relaying the service. Most Poles in the crowd knelt at the appropriate moments, much to the surprise of the few tourists around.

With the end of the mass we were expecting the procession imminently. Instead, Komorowski launched into an extremely dull and worthy speech. The guy next to me under his breath: “Dobra gościu, nie jesteś jeszcze prezydentem” (“Alright mate, you’re not president yet”). Then there was something in Russian and, literally, a dozen words in English. BBC World reports that the service was conducted in Polish, Russian and English were wildly overstated.

Brief flurries of entertainment were provided by people attempting to get a better view and, more importantly, a seat by climbing on top of a wall across the street. The pioneers were chased off by the police, but that didn’t stop a new bright spark trying it every 10 minutes. Us pavement people hated the wall people and murmured approvingly every time they were deposed.


We hate wall people

After two hours that I would never have knowingly volunteered for, the thumping rhythm of the procession finally approached. It was one of those uncanny and disturbing moments when TV-reality becomes right-here reality. The military police Humvee rolled past two arm’s-lengths away and the gun carriage bearing the president’s coffin was right where I had seen it the day before on TVN. What you don’t get on TVN is the sense of a very real wooden box containing the broken and burned remains of a very real human being, and then another one containing his wife, and then his twin brother walking right behind looking utterly exhausted and horribly vulnerable.


Cameras and coffins

There is a strange contradiction in human behaviour on occasions like this. We want to experience it in person and will stand on hard concrete for many hours to make sure we do, but as soon as the occasion happens, the coffin passes by, or the King waves, or the superstar blows kisses to the crowd, we immediately place our camera screens between our eyes and reality. We want a record. There must have been tens of thousands of photographs taken within five metres of where I was standing. The clacking of computer-generated shutter sounds was like hail. There were no tears, there was no sobbing, there was just a raging hunger to capture the image.

And then it was all over.

There was a certain amount of chaos on the way home because the main road through the centre of town (Franciszkańska/Dominikańska) was sealed off to allow more important people to be whisked to the airport. It’s one of my undying ambitions to be whisked somewhere, preferably to the great annoyance of thousands of lesser mortals. It was impossible to get from the south of town to the north or vice-versa for 45 minutes. People passed the time sitting on the planty flicking through their photos. A shrill-voiced woman passing by said: “Wszędzie tajni agency Secret Service” (“There are Secret Service everywhere”), even though there weren’t.


Memories of 20-minutes-ago


Some more photos:


Armoured vehicles pelted with carnations



Commemorative posters everywhere



The Polish flag at half-mast over Wawel Castle



Outside-broadcast units on every corner


It’s 2 am as I post this. There is a profound and absolute silence over the city. The story is over. What is next for Poland? Somehow, this week, the country  became part of Europe in a way it hasn’t been for decades. Iconic Polish images of a new kind have become part of the modern European story.

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Polandian on Sunday #6


Welcome to Polandian on Sunday (with a slight delay due to author’s weekend break in Sopot). Here is a brief summary of what happened this week in Poland.

1. Warsaw’s future architecture

When you’re having a walk down the Warsaw’s Powiśle neighborhood why not pop into the Warsaw University Library. Since this week it is hosting an exhibition Plans for the future presenting what is going to be built in Warsaw. Organisers collected visualisations and models for various building and new developments. A sneak peek into what is coming.

Most praised


This apartment house, planned to be built in Traugutta street, respects the architecture of its area, being modern and light at the same time.


The new wing of the ASP Beaux-Arts Academy at the Vistula bank. Those huge windows will give sculpture and film set students some great views.


This Muslim Cultural Institute with minaret-like tower will be an original addition to Ochota district. There is something for the mind (lecture hall) and for the spirit (prayer room).


In times when walled districts become the fashion – this open complex at the former Norblin factory is like a breathe of fresh air. There is place for appartments, shops, offices and various facilities – like theater. Pedestrianised streets and markets make this a human-friendly development.

Most criticised


IPN – The Historical Institute is going to construct a new digitising centre in the Służewiec district. Architects complain that the design is similar to communist offices and follows boring patterns.


This boxy kindergarten is to be constructed in the intensively developing Wilanów district. It is being criticised as too tiny for the huge developments nearby and for its container-like form.


The offices of WOSiR – administrator of Warsaw’s sports and recreation facilities, near the Polonia stadium, doesn’t fit its neighbourhood with its disturbing, irregular shape.

2. Poland lifts (some) restrictions on foreigner real estate ownership

When Poland joined the European Union five years ago many people feared foreigners will come and buy out farms and houses. For this reasons some temporary restrictions were enforced.

EU citizens had to apply for a special permission, each time they wanted to buy land, house or apartment. Since May the 1st 2009 EU nationals from other countries are allowed to purchase houses and apartments on free market. However some restrictions still apply to land – especially farms and forests.

3. Long live comrade president!

This Saturday Poland saw an unusual happening. Janusz Palikot, an eccentric millionaire MP from the ruling Civic Platform party organised an open reading of president’s LLD thesis in the Museum of Social-Realism in Kozłówka. President Lech Kaczyński and his twin brother’s Law and Justice party are famous for their uncompromising policy towards Poland’s communist past. Some people however point to the fact that their politicians demand people manifested courage in communist time – while they, the Law and Justice party officials, had been conformist themselves. Mr Palikot’s happening was to prove just that.

President Lech Kaczyński, law professor, hasn’t exactly boasted about his LLD thesis. It was revealed that this work is written from a communist party point of view, in the style of communist newspeak. Lech Kaczyński was not a communism-refusenik, who would consider a decrease in standard of living for his ideals.


Mr Palikot in white.



What’s hot what’s not this week in Poland


Safer sex – Yes. Despite the Catholics shouldn’t use that devilish invention! Poles have stopped reproducing. Statistical office predicts the number of inhabitants in Poland will decline rapidly. It is said in 2060 for every three people in working age, there will be two people in retirement.
Poland has changed, more people are now into having comfortable lives and only as many children as they could afford to educate. The government is not doing anything effective to help people balance family and work, nor to assure an equal, good start for all children. Without proper social policies or immigrants we are destined to shrink as a nation. But there is a good news: it will be easier to find a parking spot.


Conflicts between the president and prime minister – Which seriously start to work on everyone’s nerves. Can we get anything done please for a change? In Kenya they’ve come up with an original way to end rows between their president and prime minister. Their wives said there will be no sex, until they start to get along with each other.
We’ve tested everything in Poland, maybe it’s time for unusual methods already?

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