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Poland - Presidential Election

Victory of the conservative candidate Lech Kaczynski in the presidential election in Poland

Victory of the conservative candidate Lech Kaczynski in the presidential election in Poland

24/10/2005 - Results - 2nd round

The Law and Justice candidate (PiS) Lech Kaczynski easily won the presidential election on 23rd October with 54.47% of the vote. His rival Donald Tusk (Civic Plateform, PO) won 45.53% of the vote. None of the opinion polls had forecast Lech Kaczynski winner of the election even though the last polls showed that the gap between the two adversaries was closing daily. On 9th October in the first round the Civic Platform candidate came out ahead with 36.33% of the vote versus 33.10% for his rival. "Lech Kaczynski undertook a campaign of fear over the last few weeks and he succeeded in frightening people. Like in Germany a month ago people were afraid of reform," analyses Cornelius Ochmann, a political analyst at the Bertelsmann Foundation. "Lech Kaczynski is in tune with a trend of western politicians within the European Union that comprises defending for their own electoral purposes their country's interests at the expense of those of Europe," emphasised Eugeniusz Smolar, director of the Centre for International Relations in Warsaw. The participation rate was almost the same as that recorded in the first round on 9th October, 50.5%.

"Today I must say that I failed. I probably lost this campaign but you won," declared Donald Tusk on the announcement of the results. For his part, Lech Kaczynski called on Civic Platform to conclude negotiations on the formation of the future government coalition rapidly. "I should now like to address my Civic Platform colleagues and ask them to conclude our discussions on the formation of the government. We have to conclude rapidly. With respect to this I shall contact Donald Tusk who fought a brave battle during the campaign," declared the new President of Poland.

Although the role of the President of the Republic is officially an honorary one in reality he exercises significant influence. He is elected for a five year mandate and has the right to veto the Diet, the Lower Chamber of Parliament, a veto it can reject but the majority of three fifths of the vote and the attendance of at least half of the MP's is however required. The President of the Republic is also head of the armies, ratifies international agreements and can also decide to hold a national referendum. The Constitution stipulates that he may not undertake more than two terms in office.

Lech Kaczynski has therefore repeated the results achieved by his party last month to everyone's surprise when they came out ahead of the Civic Platform during the general elections on 25th September. The "Kaczory » -the Ducks- as the two Kaczynski brothers are called, Lech and his twin brother Jaroslaw, president of Law and Justice, won their dual wager both in the general and presidential elections. "Mission accomplished" declared Lech to his brother Jaroslaw to whom he has always attributed his victory and whom he qualified as being the main planner of his campaign.

At 56, Lech Kaczynski enjoyed his first victory with his brother when he was thirteen when he had a role in a 1962 Polish film entitled "The two little devils who moved heaven and earth". He chose to continue his legal studies at the University of Gdansk, a town where he lived until 2001, when he was elected Mayor of Warsaw. He was brought up an anti-Communist and a patriot – his parents Jadwiga and Rajmund Kaczynski participated in the insurrection of Warsaw in August 1944 – at the end of the 1970's Lech joined the Committee for the Defence of Workers (KOR) before advising, in his capacity as a specialist in labour law, the strikers at the shipyards of Gdansk during the great movement of 1980 that gave rise to the first free union in Communist Central Europe. A delegate of the first historic congress of Solidarity in 1980, he became a close friend of Lech Walesa and was sentenced to prison for a few months during the State of War decreed in December 1981 by General Jaruzelski. In the Spring of 1989 Lech Kaczynski took part in the round table that brought the government and the opposition together and which heralded the end of the Communism. He was elected Senator on the lists of Solidarity during the first democratic elections in June 1989 before breaking away from the historic leader of Solidarity who had by then become President of the Republic (1990-1995) due to his opposition to the drastic therapy administered to the Polish economy. Minister of State for Security and the President of the Auditors' Court between 1992-1995, he built a reputation of being an honest, incorruptible man who fought against organised crime and promoted a repressive legal system. He was Minister of Justice in 2000 in the government led by Jerzy Buzek.

Last Spring as Mayor of Warsaw, Lech Kaczynski prohibited the "Gay Pride" in his town before authorising a "march of normality" by the movement of young nationalists from the Polish Families' League (LPR) three days later. "I support tolerance but am against the spread of the gay trend," he then maintained. In the name of the fight against corruption he froze the town's investments only a part of which had been used. Lech Kaczynski is very Catholic, a destroyer of homosexual rights and an anti-abortionist, he defends a Poland of solidarity, loyal to his past and traditions. He has promised moral renewal, a return to values and to break from the post-Communist Poland and the establishment of a 4th Republic. "Poles have the right to feel safe," he likes to repeat. A convinced Atlanticist Lech Kaczynski is quite a Eurosceptic and very mistrustful of his Russian and German neighbours. "I hope to have good relations with Moscow but Russia must acknowledge that Poland is no longer part of its sphere of influence," he declared during his electoral campaign.

The Catholic Church, which is very powerful in Poland, had officially refused to take up any position in this presidential election and yet called for people to vote in favour of the candidate supported by the union Solidarity i.e. Lech Kaczynski. During his electoral campaign the Law and Justice candidate sent out letters in which he promised to restore "Poland's traditional values". The new President rallied the oldest voters and the inhabitants of small towns to his name. Lech Kaczynski also benefited from the votes of Andrzej Lepper's electorate (Autodefence of the Republic, S) from the first round. "I shall not hand Poland over to the Liberals," declared the populist leader to justify his support of the Law and Justice candidate. On 19th October during the inaugural session of the Diet Law and Justice received the support of the Autodefence of the Republic in order to block the election of the Civic Platform candidate to the presidency of the Assembly. By supporting a strong Welfare State and promising to improve social protection Lech Kaczynski seems to have succeeded in convincing a part of the electorate of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) and this, although the outgoing President, Social Democrat Aleksander Kwasniewski had publicly called for a vote in favour of Donald Tusk.

Several questions have arisen since the presidential election. Will Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz be maintained as Prime Minister? How will the presidential election results influence the composition of the future government coalition? Negotiations between the Civic Platform and Law and Justice are to start again and the announcement on the new government is expected at the end of this week. As for Lech Kaczynski, he will officially succeed Aleksander Kwasniewski as Head of State in December next.

Results of the Second Round of the Presidential Election – 23rd October 2005 in Poland

Participation rate: 50.5%

Source Cevipol
Publishing Director: Pascale JOANNIN
The authors
Corinne Deloy
Author of the European Elections Monitor (EEM) for the Robert Schuman Foundation and project manager at the Institute for Political Studies (Sciences Po).
Fondation Robert Schuman
Other stages
2nd roundD-7