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Europe

Poland Inaugurates Kaczynski-Twin President

Lech Kaczynski was sworn in as Poland's president on Friday, marking the start of an intriguing political double act with his identical twin brother Jaroslaw, who heads the minority ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party.

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Jaroslaw is expected to exert a heavy influence on Lech's presidency

Although on paper the president's powers are limited, the fact that the PiS won September's legislative elections to form a minority government puts most of the levers of power in the hands of the 56-year-old brothers. When the party won 155 seats in the 460-seat Diet, Jaroslaw stood aside and appointed Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz as prime minister, so as to give brother Lech a clean run in subsequent presidential polls.

However, observers believe that Jaroslaw will exert a major influence behind the scenes. Lech Kaczynski himself told AFP in a recent interview: "My brother has always pushed me to the fore. He prefers staying behind the front line, from where he can lead our political party."

The deeply Catholic new head of state will succeed Social Democrat Aleksander Kwasniewski, who took the post-communist state into the NATO alliance in 1999 and the European Union in 2004 during two five-year terms in office.


City vs. country

Kaczynski was elected on the strength of a conservative, traditionalist vote. Kaczynski got most votes from those living in the countryside who haven't done particularly well during Poland's transformation to a free market. His tough talking left the other half of the electorate -- city-dwellers with a more westernized outlook -- unimpressed, even scared.

Lech Kaczynski Gewinner der polnischen Präsidentschaftswahl

Kaczynski's base is in the Catholic Church and the countryside

On the domestic front, the future president campaigned for a break with the corruption scandals that have blighted the left's post-Communist administrations. As a former justice minister and mayor of Warsaw, Kaczynski showed his colors in anti-mafia operations and in the rigorous and sometimes repressive application of the law. He attracted international attention for banning a gay pride parade and making comments about homosexuals that few politicians in the West would dare to make.

In his foreign policy, the new president wants to forge even stronger ties with the United States. And while speaking of reconciliation with Germany and Russia, he has also promised to staunchly defend Poland's interests against these two powerful neighbors, whom he deeply mistrusts.

Little foreign experience

But according to analysts, Kaczynski's fairly inexperienced in terms of foreign policy.

Angela Merkel

Whether Kaczynski views Merkel's Germany as friend or foe has yet to be seen


"With Lech Kaczynski you would expect a presidency which is much more active on an internal level and perhaps less active on an international level, which is something where he definitely does not have much experience and doesn't feel very comfortable," said Polish political scientist Jacek Kucharczyk.

Already moving to realize his agenda, Kacyzinski and the cabinet raised eyebrows this week when they set about to amend media legislation. Some critics question whether the move is really in keeping with Kaczynski's stated intention to free the media world from the "corrupting influence" of politics and business, or whether it's simply an attempt to make the media more friendly to his own party.

As for outgoing president Kwasniewski, at 51 many analysts say he is not ready to take political retirement and expect him to attempt to re-launch the splintered left into a new, more powerful political force in Poland.

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