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The Politics of Fun

WARSAW: We in Poland have had a hectic political year. Last autumn we had presidential elections; this autumn we will have parliamentary elections. In both, the outcome was obvious before the campaigning started. Indeed, the postcommunists now hold such an enormous advantage over all their competitors that a vote scarcely seems necessary.

But today’s political parties and politicians are so well known that Polish politics is boring us to sleep. The ruling right-leaning coalition (with “Solidarity” roots) is such a failure and the centrist Union of Freedom is so well known and ineffective, that people support the postcommunists simply because they have been in opposition for four years and might (just might) behave differently.

Suddenly, however, something is changing and for totally unexpected reasons. During the presidential elections Mr. Andrzej Olechowski ran as an independent candidate. He had no party support, no big money, but he somehow managed to place second with 17 % of the votes, more than what the governing party achieved. Mr. Olechowski is well known in Polish politics, for he was once a minister of finance and later a minister of foreign affairs. He is tall, handsome, and smart. A disc jockey in his youth, he later worked in some international financial institutions, where he spied for the communists, something he openly admits. Now he appears as a gentleman of independent means and views.

Both of my children and a majority of Polish students voted for him mainly because he seems fun. He has no specific program or strong ideas, but he speaks in a clear and reasonable way (he calls himself liberal-conservative) that is very different from the mechanical party language of the postcommunists and rightists.