Conservative Lech Kaczynski has been elected president of Poland, sealing a swing to the right for the new EU member state. His Law and Justice party defeated the pro-business Civic Platform, which is led by his former-ally-turned-rival Donald Tusk, with more than 54 percent of the vote. Kaczynski campaigned on pledges to root out corruption and shore up welfare protection in Poland. The country has the highest unemployment rate in Europe, at just under 18 percent.
Analysts believe he owes his victory to the public’s fear of sweeping reforms called for by his rivals. Many rely on state benefits, particularly in Poland’s impoverished rural areas where Kaczynski picked up more than two thirds of the vote. Celebrating victory, he paid tribute to his twin brother, Jaroslaw, who is also party chairman. He said: “He was the main strategist, he united the people, sometimes against my will, I just want to say: mission accomplished.” The victory will put the twins’ Law and Justice party at the helm of the country, says Boleslaw Rok, a political analyst at Warsaw’s Kuzminski University. He said: “They have full power, it means they can’t blame each other, they can’t blame the president of another party, it means that the prime minister or the government can do anything, because in fact having full power they have the possibility to make a change, a radical change.” As far as foreign policy is concerned, there will not be much change, according to Eugeniusz Smolar, from the Warsaw-based Centre for International Relations. “Mr Kaczynski will be openly pro-American, that’s for sure. And this will not make some of our European partners very happy,” he said. The president-elect has already pledged to hold a referendum on the euro in 2010. But first his party will have to reach a compromise with its future allies from the Civic Platform to form a new government. They will face the tough task of boosting Poland’s ailing economy.