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Commentariat: The end of twins’ peak

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Czech commentators didn’t bother trying to suppress a certain level of glee in their op-eds and editorials upon finding out the results of Poland’s election. On all ends of the political spectrum, there seemed to be a consensus that Polish Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczinsky’s ouster was a good thing.

While those on the left noted with satisfaction that Poland’s move closer to the centre might prove inconvenient for the current right-leaning, ODS-ruled Czech cabinet, conservative commentators argued that the Poland’s victorious party, the Civic Platform, is actually closer to the ODS than Kaczinsky’s Law and Justice party.

The Poles booted Kaczinsky out of office Sunday in an election with a record-high participation – 54% – sending a clear message that Kaczinsky’s conservative politics and authoritarian leadership style had gone too far.

And although Kaczinsky’s identical twin brother Lech remains president at least until 2010, his powers will now be severely curbed without his brother’s supportive cabinet.

Most EU leaders have welcomed the prospect of the more moderate Civic Platform head Donald Tusk as Poland’s new prime minister.

But what does this mean for the Czechs? A few voices have suggested that the current Czech cabinet might not share Europe’s joy over Tusk’s victory.

“The EU is hopefully anticipating that Poland, without which it’s virtually impossible to realize any major joint project, will stop being Europe’s patient that’s been stricken with American fever,” Alexandr Mitrofanov wrote in Právo Tuesday. “But President Václav Klaus and Topolánek’s cabinet have lost their closest ally in their crusade against the EU and developing (this is true only of the cabinet, not of the president) special ties with the US behind the EU’s back. Now they will be along.”

If that is indeed the case, neither Klaus nor PM Mirek Topolánek and his cabinet let on that Poland’s election result might be inconvenient. “I congratulate the victors,” Topolánek told Czech reporters. “Poland has decided to say stop to extremism.” Not exactly the words of a leader who has just lost a strong ally.

Perhaps that’s because Tusk could prove to be an equally good ally, argued Michal Mocek, also writing in Wednesday’s Právo. “Sunday’s election doesn’t change anything about the fact that the next cabinet will defend its own interests just as strongly as its union partners,” he wrote. “It just might change the style of how it goes about defending its interests. And this is significant for the EU and for Poland’s neighbours.”

Lidové noviny’s Lukáš Palata agreed Tuesday, saying that while Poland’s tone and political culture might change, its attitude to the EU and to Germany will not.
“The Civic Platform, at least when it comes to the EU and foreign policy, is sort of a Polish version of the ODS,” he wrote. “And Radoslaw Sirkowski, the likeliest new foreign minister, is a Polish version of [Czech] Deputy PM Alexandr Vondra.”

In Hospodářské noviny Tuesday, Tomáš Němeček warned that it’s still too early to declare the end of the Kaczinsky era. “The [Justice and Law] party has developed deep roots. It still enjoyed the support of a third of Polish voters. In fact, it received 1.5 million votes more than in the last election,” he wrote. And even without a supportive Parliament, President Lech Kaczinsky will have the power to veto laws he doesn’t like – something he didn’t do when his brother headed the cabinet,” Němeček argued.

According to Miroslav Karas, a Czech Television reporter in Poland, the Kaczinsky brothers will continue to be a threat for the new cabinet. “With the help of his brother-president, Jaroslaw Kaczinsky will try at all costs to seek revenge,” Karas wrote in Tuesday’s Mladá fronta Dnes.

Martin Ehl, writing in Hospodářské noviny Tuesday was more optimistic: “The election results go against political analysts’ claims that populism is on the rise in Central Europe,” he wrote. “The Poles have sent out a clear signal: we care about the future. We want to do something about it.”

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