Poland's powerful political twins

Jaroslaw and Lech Kaczynski, photo: CTK

Twin brothers now hold the two jobs in Poland - those of president and prime minister. This is indeed 'a world-unique double act', as one news agency put it. But is there any other country in which identical twins have pursued independent political careers for three decades? Michal Kubicki of Radio Polonia reports:

Jaroslaw and Lech Kaczynski,  photo: CTK
The Kaczynski brothers won early fame in the early 1960, starring as young lovable scamps in a film about 'the two who stole the moon'.

The movie poster showed them as angelic, blond boys, who dreamed of becoming rich and having to do nothing once they steal the moon. Over four decades on, the Kaczynski brothers are graying rather than angelically blond, but they are as ambitious and strong-willed as the film heroes.

In the late 1970s they emerged as members of the anti-communist opposition and Solidarity activists. After the fall of communism, they often acted as power brokers on the right of the fragmented political scene. Lech Kaczynski, before becoming president last year, held several high posts, including that of justice minister and Warsaw mayor. His brother Jaroslaw is much more of a strategist who preferred to pull the strings from the back seat.

Nine months after their conservative Law and Justice party won the elections, they decided it was time to take the risk of the president and prime minister being brothers. The majority of Poles, especially those of the young generation, are not happy about it.

'People knew from the start that the Kaczynski brothers were trying to take over all sort of government branches that were available, so this comes as no surprise to me, and to many people as well.' 'I think it's a very strange situation' 'This isn't good, to have two brothers as the president and prime minister.'

For many Poles of the middle generation, having the Kaczynski twins at the top is a source of hope.

'For the first time in Poland we have really strong men on the right of the political scene. They were very active in Solidarity and I hope that they will rebuild Poland's political scene putting priority morality. They will act with solid determination.'

Oskar Chomicki of the Poland in Europe Foundation says he's somewhat fed up with all talk about identical twins.

'If you look at these two men who are almost identical and people have problems in making distinction between the two...it's a source of more or less stupid jokes, but it's irrelevant if you think of the main problems that confront Poland today'.

So what are these problems? Oskar Chomicki lists two major challenges ahead of the new prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski,  photo: CTK
'One issue is whether the Polish economy is going to proceed in the same direction as it has for the past eight months or whether Jaroslaw Kaczynski will take a new course. I think that he is a careful player and that he will be the last person to make drastic changes. What I am much more worried about is Poland's foreign policy. Poland has ceased to be a credible partner for the European Union. This is what Jaroslaw Kaczynski should be made aware of and should realize as soon as possible.'

The critics of the Kaczynski brothers speak of their all-or-nothing style and a certain radicalism. Konrad Schuller, the Warsaw correspondent of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, told me that their actions, especially the first decisions of the new prime minister, will be followed with much interest outside Poland.

'We'll have to see whether Jaroslaw Kaczynski will be able to convince the outside world of the same realism and the same non-radicalism that the previous prime minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz could convince us of.'

Nine months after the elections, the conservatives come first in popularity surveys, with around 30 percent of the people ready to vote for them. This is surely a major success for the Kaczynski brothers. But interestingly, the party's popularity does not translate into the popularity of the two brothers. It'll be interesting to look at the polls one hundred days after the twin rule began.