Poles last weekend elected the conservative candidate Lech Kaczynski as their new President. If his campaign is any indication, Mr Kaczynski's Presidency looks like setting itself apart from those of his predecessors. He says post communist Poland is tainted by corruption and by economic reforms that benefit only elites and promises a clean break with the past.
The announcement of exit poll results on television evoked huge applause from Kaczynski's election team. His victory over the liberal candidate Donald Tusk, who won in the first round, came as a big surprise. Kaczynski received over 54 percent of the vote. Here's what a few people in the streets of Warsaw had to say soon after Kaczynski's victory was announced:
"I have very negative feelings towards Lech Kaczynski. I don't really bind to his very conservative views on many issues."
"He will be a good president. I think. When he promises something he will do it."
"I think he's a very strong man. He knows what he wants and he sees politics as a service for his country and nothing else."
The president-elect himself has returned time and again over the past few days to his idea of breaking with the past:
"It's necessary to redress all the wrongs of the past. Without this there can be no genuine healing of social divisions. Sixteen years after the collapse of communism the time to do it is now."
"Lech Kaczynski will strive to give the impression, at least among the Poles, that his presidency is something new, is a break with the past. Although one has to say that the constitutional constraints within which he will have to work, will probably compel him to limit the changes to symbolic, rather than substantive aspects of Polish politics and especially of the role of the president."
Lech Kaczynski's conservative Law and Justice Party won last month's parliamentary election. According to Marcin Sobczyk of the Warsaw Independent news service, with a very strong parliamentary backing, he is going to be a strong president:
"He has a strong party behind him in the Sejm, the Lower House of Parliament. What will work to his advantage, in terms of revolution, the moral revolution that he's talking about, the ethical issues, will be the fact that he unlike the neo-conservatives, will be able to reach some kind of agreement with the far right. It is perhaps not as sizeable as it would like to be but definitely it has enough seats to be able to swing the House in this or that direction."
Lech Kaczynski and his identical twin brother Jaroslaw, the leader of Law and Justice, first came to nationwide attention as child actors in the early Sixties when they starred in a hit movie The Two Who Stole the Moon. A professor of law, Lech Kaczynski served as justice minister in a previous centre-right cabinet. He opposes a federal Europe, stresses political ties with the United States and has criticized Germany and Russia for not making up for the suffering they inflicted on Poles during and after World War Two. As mayor of Warsaw, he has drawn criticism from politicians at home and abroad for banning gay pride parades. Jacek Kucharczyk again:
"Kaczynski seems to be a politician for whom the word 'compromise' is not necessarily a positive word. His political biography always stresses the fact that he was sticking to his principles, even when it was politically not expedient. And, I think, he will try to take over some of that attitude to the presidential palace."
Lech Kaczynski will be sworn in as the successor to Aleksander Kwasniewski, who served two terms, on December 23.
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