Will election of Poland's Kaczynski have knock-on effect in Czech Republic?

24-10-2005

Poland is now firmly in the hands of conservative politicians, following the election at the weekend of Lech Kaczynski as the country's new president. Mr Kaczynski's right-wing Law and Justice party - led by his brother Jaroslaw - also won the recent parliamentary elections and is now trying to form a coalition. So what does all this mean for the Czech Republic?

Lech Kaczynski, photo: CTKLech Kaczynski, photo: CTK The success of the Law and Justice Party is being seen as a major shift in Polish politics, but it's unlikely to have a major effect on relations with the Czech Republic. The two countries have a good if not especially close relationship, and the political changes in Poland are unlikely to change that. However, there might be a change in Poland's attitude to the European Union. Political analyst Jiri Pehe:

"I think there may be some changes in Poland's attitude towards the European Union, and Poland's overall policy. It is well known that President Kaczynski is not a great fan of the European Union; he's much more sceptical than his predecessor and that may be reflected in Poland's attitude to the European Union."

Jiri Pehe believes Mr Kaczynski's election as president could serve as an encouraging sign for the Euro-sceptic camp in the Czech Republic.

"At this point the Czech Republic is fairly pro-EU, but at that same time we know the Czech Republic has a rather Euro-sceptic president. So I think Poland and the Czech Republic could in a way form a bloc if, for example, the conservative Civic Democrats win the 2006 elections in the Czech Republic. Then we would have two very similar kinds of political establishments in the Czech Republic."

However the scenario of a conservative, euro-sceptic administration taking power in the Czech Republic seems less likely than a few months ago. Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek is doing a good job of turning around the fortunes of his Social Democrats, closing the gap with the Civic Democrats.

One thing that does tie the two countries together is the struggle against corruption. President Kaczynski won the election on a platform of fighting the alleged corruption of Poland's outgoing post-Communist government. The Czech Republic has been plagued by corruption scandals in recent years, and according to the anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International the country is perceived as being the third most corrupt in the European Union. Stamping out corruption is likely to feature heavily in the campaign ahead of the 2006 elections.

Lech Kacynski also promised a return to Christian values. In the Czech Republic, such calls would most likely fall on deaf ears. Catholic Poland is one of the most religious countries in Europe; the Czech Republic is almost certainly the most secular.

24-10-2005