Poland's crisis rolls on with publication of post-1989 secret police archives

Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, photo: CTK

The political crisis in Poland continues. A day after two major parties staged rival rallies in Warsaw, the go-ahead was given for the publication of documents showing that in the 1990s the State Protection Office spied on right-wing political groups, including the party to which the Kaczynski brothers, the current prime minister and president, belong. In Warsaw Michal Kubicki has more:

Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski,  photo: CTK
The extensive fragments of the declassified documents make it clear that illegal surveillance actions were conducted against various political parties in the early and mid-1990s. One of them was the Centre Agreement party founded by the current Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski in the early Nineties. According to independent commentator Robert Strybel the methods used by the secret services against him and his political associates were a violation of democratic procedures:

"These documents, what I've seen of them, portray the people who were spied on as being radicals, who posed a threat to the stability of the state, in other words as subversives. That's how those who were ordering the spying justified what they were doing. But of course these parties were not subversive parties, they were not trying to overthrow the state by violent coup d'etat or something, so obviously this was a violation of democratic procedures."

In an interview for the Polish Press Agency, Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski spoke of the shady dealings by the secret services to influence politics in democratic Poland and accused his political opponent Jan Rokita, at that time head of the prime minister's chancellery, of being politically responsible for such practices. Jan Rokita, now one of the leaders of the opposition Civic Platform, denies the accusations:

"I was never responsible for the secret services or the State Protection Office and I can state with full responsibility that the prime minister's chancellery had nothing to do with all this."

Most Polish analysts expect that after sliding into a distant second spot in opinion polls, the ruling conservatives will be now trying to portray themselves as the victims of methods rooted in communist times. But according to Marcin Sobczyk of Interfax Central Europe in Warsaw, in the final account it is the voters themselves who will draw their own conclusions:

"The players that were the key players on both sides are still key players in Poland today and the report helps people look at various politicians putting them in a new light. This can be said of those who were in the opposition and not necessarily saying that those who were infiltrated are morally good and those who were in government were morally bad, as the current government is trying to put it. That picture is far more complicated than that but for sure the publication sheds new light on the players who are still active in Polish politics."

It seems that for the Polish man-in-the-street the publication of the declassified documents from the early Nineties is seen as another chapter in the political struggle which, more than a year after the elections, has not produced a stable governing majority. Robert Strybel again:

"The average person in the street is not interested in politics. The more of this nonsense and mud-slinging the less and less he identifies himself with the political class so all the politicians are basically shooting themselves in a foot by escalating the political tension."

Most commentators in Warsaw agree that the level of confrontation is unlikely to subside in coming weeks. According to some sources, the prime minister's conservative Law and Justice Party has decided to play for time and continue its shaky minority rule until local government elections on November 11.