In an April interview with Onet.pl, Law and Justice (PiS) party leader Jarosław Kaczyński said he now “has a feeling that [my twin brother] Lech Kaczyński was murdered.”
This came just before the second anniversary of the April 10, 2010 plane crash in Smolensk which claimed the life of then-President Lech Kaczyński and 95 others, including many of the top military commanders of the Polish armed forces. Although Mr Kaczyński later added that he “could not be certain” that it had been an assassination, his message was clear.
Mr Kaczyński has now whole-heartedly joined the conspiracy theorists who believe the late president was murdered on the orders of the Kremlin. Indeed, 18 percent of Poles agree that Lech Kaczyński was assassinated, while 32 percent say that both the Polish and Russian governments are “hiding the truth” about the Smolensk catastrophe, indicates an April poll carried out by Gazeta Wyborcza.
What’s the need?
This poll seems to indicate that Jarosław Kaczyński and his party have been at least partially successful in propagating the view that the Polish government, led by Mr Kaczyński’s main political rival, Prime Minister Donald Tusk, directly or indirectly helped cause the death of the late president.
But in my opinion, the PiS leader does not truly believe that his brother was assassinated. Not because the current leadership of the Kremlin is incapable of ordering an assassination, since there seems to be ample evidence to the contrary, but because even the most far-seeing political analyst would be hard-put to find any tangible benefits for the Russian government from taking out the late Polish president.
Lech Kaczyński was not in any way a threat to the Kremlin or its policies and was far too minor a geo-political player to warrant assassination in such spectacular fashion. Besides, Russian security services know subtler methods of handling such matters.
Jarosław Kaczyński is no fool. He must be well aware of all of this, so why is he suggesting something he likely doesn’t believe? Well, first of all, because of those 32 percent of Poles who think the Polish and Russian governments are hiding the truth.
The Smolensk catastrophe is an emotional chain that holds many conservative voters in Poland together and he who is able to dominate the Smolensk narrative gets the ear of those Poles. When asked about the most important events in post-communist Poland in an opinion poll, PiS supporters placed the Smolensk catastrophe in second place, after the death of John Paul II and ahead of Poland’s accession to the EU.
Politics, but not only ...
Mr Kaczyński is also battling to keep his supremacy on Poland’s right. He has now lost six elections in a row and thus some are questioning his ability to lead Poland’s conservatives to victory. His former number two, Zbigniew Ziobro, recently announced the inauguration of his own political party, Solidarna Polska Zbigniewa Ziobro. Mr Kaczyński wants to make sure all the available emotional and political “benefits” deriving from the Smolensk catastrophe accrue to him and to him only.
He made that quite clear when he addressed his supporters in front of the Presidential Palace on April 10, saying that strength is in unity and “those who are dividing us are not working for victory, they are serving the other side.”
Having said all that, one should definitely not discard the real emotions which Mr Kaczyński must feel about the catastrophe. It is said that the bond between twins is like no other and Jarosław Kaczyński was always very protective of his brother, who was widely perceived to be the weaker-minded of the two.
I think Jarosław Kaczyński does believe that Mr Tusk is indirectly responsible for his twin brother’s death by having done everything to belittle Lech Kaczyński’s presidency when he was alive and, as a consequence, not providing the April 10 delegation to Smolensk with the secure transport befitting a head of state.
The state of relations between the PM and then-President Kaczyński is best illustrated by an incident in 2008 when, after a quarrel over who should represent Poland at an EU summit in Brussels, Mr Tusk’s office refused to allow the president to use an official plane, forcing him to charter an aircraft. Today, with his brother dead, Jarosław Kaczyński is unlikely to forgive Mr Tusk for what he feels was a deliberate effort to rubbish his brother and the post he held.
All this means more negative emotions in Polish politics and an even lower chance of Poland’s two major parties, Donald Tusk’s Civic Platform and Mr Kaczyński’s PiS, being able to work together on any kind of political initiative.
Remi Adekoya is Warsaw Business Journal’s politics editor. Read his blog, “The business of politics” on WBJ.pl
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