Poles expected to back ruling party in vote


POLISH VOTERS were expected to back the ruling Civic Platform (PO) in local elections yesterday in the last test of public opinion before next year’s general election.

The vote for nearly 50,000 local councillors and 2,500 mayors was also seen as an important barometer of public opinion on opposition leader Jarsolaw Kaczynski, whose twin brother, President Lech Kaczynski, died in an April air crash in Russia.

After the tragedy, which claimed the lives of the president’s wife and dozens of political figures, Jaroslaw Kaczynski toned down his battling political style and ran a muted campaign to succeed his twin as president.

After losing to PO candidate Bronislaw Komorowski, Mr Kaczynski has returned to his old ways, but now finds himself battling to retain control of his Law and Justice (PiS) party.

The national conservative party has been in upheaval since two moderate MPs were expelled earlier this month. Joanna Kluzik-Rostkowska and Elzbieta Jakubiak had called for a more moderate style of politics in Poland, a country with a bruising and brawling culture whether politicians lob insults at each other on a daily basis.

Mr Kaczynski, a leading practitioner of the art, admitted last month that Poland’s politics had been infected by a “culture of hate”, but claimed the practice had been started by PO prime minister Donald Tusk.

He has blamed Mr Tusk’s government for the shooting last month of a PiS official by a gunman who broke into a regional party office shouting “Kaczynski must die”.

Opinion polls suggest that, after a surge in support for PiS after the April Smolensk air crash, voter support has slumped to the same low level of last spring.

Nervous party figures suggest that former justice minister and MEP Zbigniew Ziobro should launch a coup. He has dismissed as “fairytales” reports that he is already de facto leader.

“I am really amazed that anyone who knows Jaroslaw Kaczynski could believe them,” said Mr Ziobro. “The claim that Jaroslaw Kaczynski is controlled by anyone is completely contrary to what we know about him through the years.”

Meanwhile, the centre-right pro- business Civic Platform is hoping that local elections, with a run-off in two weeks, will kick off its re-election campaign next year.

After three years in power, Poland’s most stable administration in years has been criticised for failing to introduce radical reforms as promised, in particular a planned pruning of the welfare system.