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A carnival float depicting the chairman of the Law and Justice party, Jarosław Kaczyński, oppressing Poland.
‘Jarosław Kaczyński has convinced Poland that it is threatened by a shadowy left wing cabal – and become the country’s most powerful man’
…. How did the Poles arrive here?
In late January 1993, three years after the abolition of the Soviet-imposed Polish People’s Republic, a crowd of 5,000 demonstrators marched on the Warsaw residence of Lech Wałęsa. As the chairman of Solidarity, the independent trade union and mass opposition movement that negotiated communist Poland’s demise, Wałęsa is widely credited with initiating the chain of events that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union and a peaceful resolution to the cold war. But after he became post-communist Poland’s first democratically elected president, his critics circulated rumours that he had been a communist collaborator all along. Chanting “We want a president, not an agent,” the demonstrators burnt the Nobel peace prizewinner in effigy.
Their leaders included a former Solidarity functionary called Jarosław Kaczyński. Armed with a megaphone, he angrily denounced his former leader: “He was supposed to be our president, but he turned out to be their president, the president of the reds!”
Photo: Ludmiła Mitręga/AFP/Getty Images
IdenticalTwins: Lech and Jarosław Kaczyński in 2005.
Short, white-haired, and always dressed in black and white, Kaczyński is now the most powerful man in Poland. In 2015, the party he founded with his identical twin brother Lech, Law and Justice, won the first parliamentary majority for a single party since the democratic transition; since then, it stands accused of attempting to reverse that transition by seizing control of Poland’s independent democratic institutions. Although Kaczyński holds no office other than his seat in parliament and the chairmanship of his party, President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Beata Szydło are entirely beholden to his patronage. Law and Justice’s eminence grise – part Yoda, part Karl Lagerfeld – runs a country of almost 40 million people from his party office in central Warsaw.
Photo: Czarek Sokołowski/AP
Jarosław Kaczyński on a Law and Justice party election poster in Warsaw in 2007.