Thursday, September 13, 2007

Aleksander Kwasniewski – still the Polish Left’s best asset?

Though he is not standing for parliament in the elections coming up in Poland on October 21, former president Kwasniewski has been thrust to the front of the campaign by the post-communist Left and Democrat alliance. Is this a good idea?

There are few politicians in Poland who can draw such strong and concrete opinions from the average Pole. Everyone has an opinion about Our Olek.

Many love him, others, as we will see, want to shave all his hair off!

He came to power in 1995, after a titanic struggle with the incumbent president, Lech Walesa. Kwasniewski’s victory was by less than one percentage point. The election showed how divided Poland was after five years of rule by Walesa, who had alienated many of his previous supporters by his autocratic style.

So Kwasniewski became the first – and so far only – ex- member of the communist party to become head of state in Poland via a democratic election.

Once in the presidential palace, Kwasniewski quickly became the most popular politician in Poland – if the opinion polls were to be believed. And he remained in that position for much of the ten years he was in office, after winning a second election in 2000.

Towards the end of his term there was a slip in support as he became identified with the inevitable cronyism of Polish political life.

The conservative right always hated him throughout those ten years, of course.

He took some time off out of the political limelight to go on lecture tours of the US. But this year he has returned to front the Left’s election campaign.

Aleksander immediately puts his foot in it

In an interview last week with the German version of Vanity Fair, Kwasniewski seemed to confirm what many of his opponents thought of him already. He is a traitor.

He said that if Kaczynski’s Law and Justice Party regained power after the election then Germany should react much more toughly in their relations to the Polish government.

Cue outrage! One Law and Justice politician said that, for appearing to take sides with Germany against Poland Kwasniewski should have done to him what collaborators with the Nazis had done to them during the WW II occupation: have their head shaved!

Kwasniewski first claimed that he had been ‘misquoted’ then ‘mistranslated’ but later repented and apologized for his remarks.

It shows that Kwas will never be free of controversy.

But has the row done him any harm? Do Poles want to shave the guy’s head?

Well, an opinion poll released today shows that Kwasniewski – after all these years and after many a scandal – is still the second most trusted politician in Poland!

It appears that many Poles don’t want to shave his head, rather pat it...trustfully.

Kwasniewski is still, by a long way, the discredited Left’s best asset in the coming election – which may show, simply, what a race of pygmies the Left political scene is in Poland.

Or maybe it shows what a race of pygmies Polish politicians are in general.


michael farris said...

I'm reminded of Sigourney Weaver in Aliens3. There's one great scene when Ripley realizes to her complete frustration that she'll never be free of the Aliens.

The poor ducks are in the same position; they'll never be free of the communists and ex-communists.

The difference is that Ripley was trying to escape while the ducks are bound and determined to never let the past actually be the past and have created their own litte cage.

Anonymous said...

Indeed, the sooner the ducks fly home the better.

Anonymous said...

This guy is the original teflon man. He survives one compromising situation after another and still enjoys enormous popularity. I think that LiD is in a better position with him than without. But I doubt that even Kwach is enough to catapult them to a majority.