Runoff presidential elections took place in Poland on Sunday, July 4. Bronislaw Komorowski, speaker of the Sejm (Parliament) and candidate of the right-center Civic Platform Party, beat Jaroslaw Kaczinski of the ultra right Law and Justice Party, former prime minister and identical twin brother of the late President Lech Kaczinski, who was killed along with his wife and others in an airplane crash near Smolensk, Russia on April 10 of this year. The vote was approximately 53 per cent for Komorowski and 47 per cent for Kaczinski.
The original election was programmed for September or October, but had to be sped up after the Smolensk accident, which also killed the candidate of the main center-left party, Jerszy Szmajidzinski of the Democratic Left Alliance. The Democratic Left Alliance then ran their party chairman, Grzegorz Napieralski, as their candidate in the first round of the rescheduled presidential elections. He got about 13 percent of the vote on a program of defending the interests of workers and the poor against neo-liberal policies, but only Komorowski and Jaroslav Kaczinski went to the runoffs.
The candidate most associated with Lech Walesa and the famous "Solidarity" union, Kornel Morawieczki of the "Fighting Solidarity" Party, got a little more than one tenth of one percent of the vote.
Komorowski is a relative of Count Tadeusz "Bor" Komorowski, the Polish World War II general who led the Warsaw Uprising in August to October of 1944. However, his major voting strength was in the more Northern and Western parts of the country, and among young people. In agrarian-traditional Southern and Eastern Poland, and especially in areas where the Roman Catholic Church has its strongest social and political base, Kaczinski did better.
It is not expected that Komorowski's victory will lead Poland away from right-wing, neoliberal policies. It may increase cooperation between the offices of the president and the prime minister. The latter, Donald Tusk, now can work with a colleague of his own Civic Platform.
Possibly, the strident ideological rightism and highly politicized religiosity of the period of ascendency two Kaczynski brothers might now be muted.
What is not yet clear is what will happen to the "communism" issue. On June 8, a law came into force that criminalizes the use of communist symbols, on the same basis on which in Poland and other European states the use of Nazi symbols is criminalized. Thus a person who appears in public wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt could now be sentenced to up to two years in jail, on the theory that Che is the same as Hitler. The late President Lech Kaczinski had supported and signed this law, claiming that communists had killed "dozens of billions" of people, even though the population of the world is only 6.7 billions at present.
Communists and other leftists around the world have been protesting this policy, which mirrors similar ones introduced in Moldova, the Czech Republic and other places.
Photo: In this March 2009 photo stand Poland's Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski, left, now-President Bronisław Komorowski, center, and Lech Kaczyński, who died in an airplane crash near Smolensk, Russia. (CC)