Thursday, October 25, 2007

The end of Poland's evil twins?

I always thought the evil twin was a feeble plot device. Now the Polish electorate agrees...

opinion from International Herald Tribune: "Poland, untwinned":

Polish voters have rendered a clear, negative judgment on the fear-mongering political style of the Kaczynski twins, President Lech Kaczynski and Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, and their 15 months of joint rule. They decisively rejected the Kaczynskis' Law and Justice party, turning instead to the center-right, pro-business, Civic Platform, whose leader, Donald Tusk, is now expected to become prime minister.

Lech Kaczynski's job was not at stake Sunday - he remains president until 2010. But his power to veto future legislation will be largely nullified by the new parliamentary arithmetic.

The Kaczynskis spoke, and will doubtless continue to speak, for the hurts and resentments born of Poland's tragic 20th century history. The problem was that they often behaved as if that history was the exclusive property of their political party, and their belligerent, populist tone its only legitimate voice.

The grudges and suspicions they nurtured extended not just to ex-Communists, but to Germans of all generations, foreign business leaders, secularists, intellectuals, and on and on. They fostered a climate of accusation and suspicion that divided Poland from its natural European partners and alienated the more forward and outward looking younger generation.

That climate also threatened to snuff out the critical democratic spirit forged in the heroic Solidarity movement that defied Communist power a quarter century ago. Lech Walesa, Solidarity's former leader, became an outspoken critic of the Kaczynskis' rule.

All the main Polish parties are more or less pro-American, thankful for Washington's steadfast opposition to Soviet domination during the cold war. The Kaczynskis, with few friends left in Europe, ardently embraced Bush administration initiatives whenever they could, sending a military contingent to Iraq and offering Poland as a base for a proposed new American missile defense system.

Tusk has already made clear he will withdraw Polish soldiers from Iraq, and will agree to missile defenses only so far as they advance Poland's own security interests. Those shifts will not be universally welcomed in Washington.

Everyone, however, should be pleased that Poland - the largest, most important former East Bloc country to have joined NATO and the European Union - has voted to embrace Europe, modern capitalism and its own best political traditions. Tusk's challenge in the days ahead will be to assemble a broad and stable governing coalition that faithfully reflects those views.

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