Poland’s Double Trouble

Much of the world seems fascinated by the fact that Poland is now governed by a set of identical twins who first became famous as child movie actors: President Lech Kaczynski and Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski. They are indeed intriguing, but the political forces they represent are even more interesting – and worrying.

Since the fall of 2005, the Kaczynskis have led a conservative-populist coalition, with a dose of nationalism – represented by the small League of Polish Families (LPR) – thrown in. The Polish right was last in power in 1997, having previously governed in the years 1990-1993. The post-communist Party of the Democratic Left (SLD) was voted out in 1997, despite a five-year streak of economic prosperity and rapidly falling unemployment. Although the SLD’s popularity remained high, the previously fragmented right prevailed due to temporary unity.

In 1998, however, prosperity vanished. So the right’s turn in government was followed by years of stagnation and exploding unemployment. Unable to cope with the downturn, the right was replaced by another SLD-led government in 2001.

During this period, the right disintegrated. Among the splinter groups that arose were the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) and the nationalist LPR. As they emerged on the political stage, the left was failing: the economy did not improve, unemployment remained high, and the SLD, which attracted all kinds of riffraff, became mired in corruption scandals.