International Information Programs
October 26, 2005

October 26, 2005





**  Papers welcomed the winners but can only speculate on their "program of governance."

**  Media concerned that Kaczynski will strain Warsaw's ties with Berlin, Moscow and Brussels.

**  Many fear the Kaczynskis will take more than "two steps to the right."

**  EU writers saw a "worrying" anti-market, anti-pluralism "signal from Eastern Europe."




'Congratulations' to winners 'Kaczynski & Kaczynski'--  While media welcomed "national-conservative" Lech Kaczynski as Poland's new president, many believed the result showed "how divided the country is."  A Romanian analyst proclaimed, "The real test begins now" as the winner tries to form a "strong government" in coalition with a "weak opposition."  Poland's centrist Rzeczpospolita declared, "We are waiting" to see how governance will go as liberal Gazeta Wyborcza negatively opined, "It would be a bad thing if the governance of Poland were dominated by the party that fears modernity, Europe, tolerance, market economy."


Warily eyeing 'conflict-prone hardliner' Lech Kaczynski--  Russian analysts noted that "difficult Lech" upholds "conservative Catholic values and criticizes Russia and Germany," at a time when Russian-Polish relations "couldn't be worse."  Business-oriented Kommersant held that "under Kaczynski, a nationalist trend is likely to prevail in Polish policy toward Germany and united Europe as a whole."  Austrian observers asked if Lech would "really risk permanent conflict with Germany and Russia?"  German writers acknowledged the nations' relations hover around a "common history [that] is dark," but expressed optimism Angela Merkel would "make clear to the new leadership in Warsaw that Germany poses no threat to Poland."  They further advised their EU partners to "remain open-minded regarding the new leaders in Warsaw."


Forming an 'upright' and 'right-wing conservative' government--  Hungary's center-left Nepszabadsag pondered whether the new "right-wing-conservative government will be compelled to continue the international politics of its left-wing predecessor."  But Indonesian and Irish outlets echoed, "There is no strong center or left camp in the parliament" to check Poland's "powerful twins" who won by "taking advantage of support from the extreme right and populists."  Many editorialists reacted to Kaczynski's Law and Justice party prevailing by noting apprehensively that promises of building a strong state might cater to "the 'upright,' the church-goers and the anti-communists among the Poles." 


'The new Warsaw leadership will be unusual'--  Independent Romania Libera pointed out that while the new president may be anti-communist, it does not mean he "has any sympathy at all for capitalism."  Germany's left-of-center Berliner Zeitung declared the Kaczynskis cannot ignore the global economy or EU connections because EU subsidies are integral to Poland's budget.  An Irish observer judged there would be "satisfaction in Washington that its pro-American line will be reinforced," even as Austria's independent Der Standard emphasized the twins "distrust a pluralistic society, a liberal market economy, the European Union, and fear the loss of national identity and the repercussions of globalization."


Prepared by Media Reaction Division (202) 203-7888,


EDITOR:  Rupert D. Vaughan


EDITOR'S NOTE:  Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment.  Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion.  Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet.  This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government.  This analysis was based on 30 reports from 10 countries over October 24-26, 2005.  Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.




BRITAIN:  "A Worrying Signal From Eastern Europe" 


The left-of-center Independent editorialized (10/25):  "The choice made by Polish voters shows that they--like the French, Dutch and Germans--are not finding it easy to come to terms with globalization....  This election result should serve as a reminder of how difficult economic reform in Europe will continue to be."


GERMANY:  "Only One Half"


Thomas Roser argued in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (10/25):  "Poland's social and political division will deepen under these polarizing patriots.  The committed anti-Communist Kaczynski's highest priority has always been to confront the country with its socialist past.  If he will now realize his election promises, the country will be paralyzed by an endless debate about the former security service.  The election result shows how divided the country is....  Kaczynski will never become a president for all Polish people like his predecessor Kwasniewski, who was interested in social harmony.  Patriotic pathos alone will not win the hearts and minds of all Polish people....  Kaczynski wants to boost the relations with Washington, and he will insist on Polish interests in the Europe.  It remains to be seen what role Warsaw will actually play in the European Union.  Pursuing its policies against its partners too harshly could turn into a boomerang for Poland, because the new member will rely on the European Union's solidarity and understanding.  In the past, Poland has always been a reliable European partner.  The EU partners would be therefore well advised to remain open-minded regarding the new leaders in Warsaw.  In the years to come, Poland will need Europe's spirit more than ever before."


"Hello To Warsaw"


Herbert Kremp editorialized in mass-circulation, right-of-center tabloid Bild-Zeitung of Hamburg (10/25):  "Not everybody is happy about the election of the national-conservative Lech Kaczynski as Poland's new president.  We hear mixed responses from Russia and the European Union.  But the candidate was elected and Poland is a democracy, an important part of Europe and Germany's friend.  The election campaign is over and the voters have had their say.  For those elected, it usually is the time to turn from a party man into a statesman....  German-Polish relations are as important to Germany as the one with France.  We owe this to history and the future.  Friendship is a feeling originating from mutual understanding.  Our common history is dark; the memory of the recent centuries is painful.  Both sides must deal carefully with this legacy.  Germans and Poles must sit together and pursue a dialogue.  We welcome Lech Kaczynski as the new Polish President." 


"The Kaczynskis"


Thomas Urban observed in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (10/25):   "Poland relies on the EU; Brussels' billions of euros are already part of Poland's budget for the next years.  The twins will soon speak in a more moderate language to Brussels.  However, they will support forces inside the EU who want to slow down the pace of the integration, who fight for an 'Europe of fatherlands,' and they will find allies in London, Paris and Munich.  The relationship with Berlin will be less straightforward.  Playing the anti-German card in the election campaign has helped the brothers win the elections....  The new German government under Angela Merkel must make clear to the new leadership in Warsaw that Germany poses no threat to Poland, and that the planned center for the history of the expulsion, which the two Kaczynskis condemn as casus belli, will not threaten Poland....  If Berlin succeeds in convincing Warsaw that the controversial project, which cannot be stopped, could be to Poland's advantage, there would be an opportunity for a thriving political cooperation.  The twins aren't blind ideologists.  They have often shown in the past that they can find pragmatic compromises."


"The Brother"


Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger commented in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (10/25):  "Nobody in the European Union must sound the alarm because Kaczynski's first visit will take him to America.  In security matters, Poland--like many other countries in Central and Eastern Europe--trust the alliance's superpower rather than European promises.  It would be awkward if it were different.  The new president of the largest new EU member will certainly be confident, at times uncooperative, make claims and hold opinions which stem from a different era.  The new Warsaw leadership will be unusual."


"Poland In Europe"


Gerhard Gnauck noted in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (10/25):  "The election winner will hesitate to join the euro zone.  Many voters fear for the nation state--a legacy of Poland's history--and the social welfare system.  The new Poland will be a confident but reliable partner in Europe."


"Polish Twin Solution"


Frank Herold wrote in left-of-center Berliner Zeitung (10/25):  "Poland is a member of the European Union.  It has accepted Europe's values and will have to stick to them in the future.  The conservatives will therefore not realize certain election promises, such as the introduction of the death penalty.  Moreover, unlike Kaczynski, the majority of the people are happy with the country's EU membership, not just because Poland is the greatest recipient of subsidy among the new EU members.   The new leaders will not be able to ignore this.  Neither can they disregard the fact that their country is closely tied to the global economy."


ITALY:  "Kaczynski President, Poland Belongs To The Twins"


Alberto Pasolini Zanelli had this to say in pro-government, leading center-right daily Il Giornale (10/24):  "Poland, like only few other countries, has experienced a spate of  'uncertain' elections, and in many ways paradoxical....  Kaczynski succeeded in offering a more comprehensive 'plate,' offering a different taste for each mouth, including nationalism, anti-Communism, justicialism, Europe-skepticism, advocacy for welfare."


RUSSIA:  "Difficult Lech"


Irina Kobrinskaya commented in business-oriented Vedomosti (10/26):  “The Polish vote is a lesson for all of post-communist Europe.  The low turnout attests to alienation and disappointment even in Poland, a developed democracy and civil society.  With the left and democratic forces in Poland down, the new President and Sejm may face a new situation, with one party dominant and the opposition weak.  This increases the potential for instability, given serious social and economic problems, primarily 18% unemployment.  This may become the EU’s headache, as well as Poland’s.  Surely, the right conservatives’ victory is a sign many Poles are unhappy about EU membership.  At the same time, it fits the common European political process, with nationalist trends coming in reaction to EU enlargement and the growing power of supranational structures.  The botched EU constitution referenda in France and the Netherlands and its vague future are more reason for Warsaw to seek closer ties with Washington....  As for Russian-Polish relations, they couldn’t be worse.  Even so, as time goes by, Russia’s cooperation with the EU, its constructive relations with the United States, and a healthy pragmatism in post-Soviet republics will have a greater impact as strategic factors.   Progress in those areas will serve as a reliable safety valve and stimulus to better relations with Poland, whoever its leader.”


"Polish Choice:  What It Means To Russia"


Anatoliy Shapovalov said on the front page of official government-run Rossiyskaya Gazeta (10/25):  “Poland’s new President upholds conservative Catholic values and criticizes Russia and Germany (mostly for their joint Baltic Sea gas pipeline project).  Based on his election statements, that seems to be true.  Apparently, Kaczynski’s views don’t change with time, meaning that he will steadfastly work to keep his election promises....   Even though Moscow and Warsaw at times see things differently, they need to try to understand each other better.  Poles and Russians are sharply divided on postwar history.  The opinion in Warsaw is that the Soviet army occupied Poland, retarding its development.  But Russia has its own interests to look after.  Also, Poles would do well to remember that Russia saved their country from the Nazis in WWII.”


"Congratulations, Mr. Kaczynski!"


Maksim Yusin held in reformist Izvestiya (10/25):  “From the Russian perspective, one might say that the vote outcome couldn’t have been worse.   Speaking of Moscow, Lech Kaczynski made harsh and, at times, insulting statements.  The irony is that we would have had it worse, if Kaczynski’s rival, liberal Donald Tusk, had won the vote.  Tusk is a cautious, moderate and civilized politician.  He, too, criticizes Russia, but he is less given to emotion and sounds more argumentative than Kaczynski.  With him as President, Washington, Brussels, Berlin and London might have been more receptive.  Not so with Kaczynski, who has discredited himself with statements made to date.  As a politician, Kaczynski is a man from the past.  There are few like him in modern-day Europe, and even fewer in power.  Today’s Russian-Polish relations are in the doldrums, with Moscow and Warsaw principal antagonists in Europe.  The antagonism won’t go away very soon.  Whoever gets elected in Poland will oppose Russia’s interests, be it in the EU, NATO or post-Soviet republics.  So, the more vulnerable and odious the candidate, the better.”


"We’ve Grown Far Apart Over The Past 15 Years"


Sergey Strokan commented in business-oriented Kommersant (10/24):  "The latest Polish poll makes you feel palpably how far we have grown apart over a mere one and a half decades, even though our countries seemed to go in the same direction after the collapse of the communist bloc.  Today’s Poland, ending a decade of the Kwasniewski presidency, enters into a new political era, with the government beset by corruption scandals, its credibility badly dented.  We witnessed about the same when the Yeltsin era drew to a close, with the popularity ratings of Russia’s first democratic President plummeting to 6%.  But, similarities end there.  In Poland, they couldn’t have anything like Operation Successor we saw in this country.  In that lies the principal difference between Russia and Poland, although both were formed out of the Dzerzhinsky trench coat.  Ruling out anything like Operation Successor and no-alternative elections in a 'managed democracy' is a distinctive feature of new democracies emerging in Eastern Europe from the ruins of communism."


"Political Correctness Bad For Tusk"


Lev Bruni reported from Warsaw for reformist Vremya Novostey (10/25): “There is nothing dramatic about Sunday’s vote outcome.  Kaczynski and Tusk flew out of one and the same nest, Solidarnosc.   Clearly, it was not politics that decided the Poles’ choice-both candidates are center-right.   Political correctness played a dirty trick on liberal Tusk.  He is too correct, a typical European liberal of the new strain of political bureaucrats who, being little different from one another, look like Barbie’s boyfriend, Ken....  From experience, guys with a ready tongue and guts often prove more pragmatic than political liberals.”


"Law And Justice Prevail"


Boris Volkhonskiy observed in business-oriented Kommersant (10/25): “Some actions and statements by Lech Kaczynski have already seriously complicated Poland’s relations with EU partners, particularly its close neighbor, Germany.   Under Kaczynski, a nationalist trend is likely to prevail in Polish policy toward Germany and united Europe as a whole.   Furthermore, Lech Kaczynski has never been enthusiastic about wider ties with Russia.”


"Dudayev’s Fan To Run Poland"


Artem Mal’gin opined in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (10/25): “We need to take a closer look at Kaczynski now.   Obviously, he is not the one to give Russian-Polish relations a chance to improve.  That seemed plausible when Kwasniewski became President, but neither side made an effort to use that chance.  Nonetheless, it doesn’t seem right to demonize Kaczynski.  While his views are quite eclectic, something of his eclecticism may come in handy.”


"Facing The West"


Nationalist opposition Sovetskaya Rossiya ran this by A. Safarin (10/25):  “Before the ballot, Kaczynski went out of his way to show how much he disliked Russia, going as far as likening Russians to Nazis. This is quite indicative of widespread anti-Russian sentiment in Poland, with both candidates playing it up.   But with Poland dependent on the vast Russian market, oil and natural gas, Kaczynski’s tone changed immediately after the vote. His ranting and attacks on Russia turned out to be mere election rhetoric (some rhetoric!)   With victory secured, the new President hastened to declare that he will do his utmost to normalize relations with Russia.  By and large, the world was not particularly intrigued by the Polish election, with Poland seen as an undisguised satellite of the United States and a troublemaker in the European Union.”


AUSTRIA:  "A Strong State--But Only For The 'Upright'"


Ingrid Steiner-Gashi, foreign affairs writer for mass circulation Kurier opined (1025):  "The Kaczynskis did not win the election with their authoritarian law-and-order slogans. What trumped was the right-wing brothers' leftist card. Years of economic shock therapy and the harsh conditions of a market economy have hit the Poles full force. Half the population is living below the poverty line. The poor, the elderly, those with little education and the little-developed eastern part of the country are clinging to the Kaczynski brothers' promise that Poland will once again become a strong state--a state that will take care of its weakest members as well. That would almost be a Social Democratic program if it did not carry the underlying message that 'social warmth' is only for the 'upright,' the church-goers and the anti-communists among the Poles."


"Pitch Black Is The Color Of Poland"


Foreign affairs writer for centrist Die Presse Burkhard Bischof wrote (10/25):  "The election campaign was tough and dirty and it is by no means certain that the wounds that the declared future coalition partners have inflicted on each other in the fight over the presidency are going to heal. Political experts in Poland predict the right-wing coalition union in Warsaw will not last long. Re-introducing the death penalty, settling accounts with communism and post-communism, rebuilding of the entire state, redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor--the domestic program of the victorious Kaczynski twins is radical.  However, Europe is eager to see how the Poland of the Kaczynskis will affect its EU partners and eastern neighbors.  Will the next Polish President, conflict-prone hardliner Lech Kaczynski, really risk permanent conflict with Germany and Russia?  Does he really believe he will serve Poland's interests best through very close association with Washington?  Perhaps this was all just campaign rhetoric and the new head of state will turn out to be a pragmatic in the best Polish tradition. Hopefully!"


"Polish Contradictions"


Josef Kirchengast, foreign affairs writer for independent Der Standard remarked (10/25):  "Whatever else you say about the Kaczynski twins, they are political pros with the necessary sense of the possible. The moderate statements of future President Lech Kaczynski already indicate this. In their foreign and European policy the two brothers will find themselves confronted with reality very soon. Brussels's criticism of Lech's call for the death penalty came right after election day and the message was clear:  Those who belong to the club have to respect its rules. The situation is similar with regard to external security.  Although the newly elected President may choose the U.S. as the destination for his first official trip abroad, this does not change Poland's geographic situation.  Likewise, the harsh tones in the direction of Germany will soon give way to a more pragmatic course, albeit accompanied by tougher rhetoric. Things are not going to go smoothly for Poland's powerful twins.  After all, they owe their election victory mostly to distrust and fears resulting from it:  Distrust of a pluralistic society, liberal market economy, the European Union, fear of the loss of national identity and the repercussions of globalization.  It will take true statesmanship to turn these defensive reflexes into a positive dynamic for the country.  Lech and Jaroslav Kaczynski will not have much time to achieve that."


CZECH REPUBLIC:  "Poland Of Kaczynski Twins?"


Tomas Nemecek noted in business daily Hospodarske noviny (10/24):  "It is in our interest for Poland to be pro-European and Western and economically liberal.  This vision, without a doubt, would have been better fulfilled by the Civic Platform of Donald Tusk....  Fortunately enough, Polish foreign policy has the strong tradition of continuity as an ally of the U.S., self-confident voice in the EU, and a patron of Ukraine.  The incoming Polish PM is already in talks with the outgoing one about the position Poland should defend at the upcoming EU summit....  The Polish political scene nowadays reminds of the Slovak one:  the right-wing government is lacking a strong and trustworthy left-wing opposition.  In such a case, we cannot but wish the government of the Kaczynski twins with the liberals success, because their opponents consist of coarse-grained populists."


HUNGARY:  "Two Steps To The Right"


Foreign affairs writer Gabor Miklos stated in center-left Nepszabadsag (10/25):  “Social groups that would like a ‘Poland of solidarity’ have supported the winner. They would like to be protected from the market economy and from foreign powers.…The party of the Kaczynski twins has scored a landslide victory....  In principle, the road is open for them to the Fourth Polish Republic, to the moral revolution and to the showdown with the Communist and Post-Communist past....  It is without question that the President can only realize his declared goals if he forms an alliance with the anti-European, anti-modernization and anti-enlightenment forces. With those who have sent him into the Presidential Palace, and not with the liberals with whom they [his party] are negotiating about a joint government....  It is likely that the right-wing-conservative government will be compelled to continue the international politics of its left-wing predecessor, with even more enthusiasm towards the U.S. and with a bit more of Euro-skepticism."


"The Fourth Polish Republic"


Foreign affairs editor Gabor Stier declared in right-of-center Magyar Nemzet (10/25):  “The majority having had enough of the tired politics of the last one-and-a-half decade has voted for a strong, just and conservative Poland.  A strong one where the centralized state strongly protects the national interests, a just one which carries through the change of regime, restores morality, diminishes social differences, and follows conservative values, and stands up for the family and for Christian values....  It cannot be surprising that the West, observing the changes of direction in our region with some aversion, is somewhat is embarrassed by this change, and has lost its very last hope, since the liberal right-wing alternative that fits European trends better and that, for lack of any better, they had come to like, has not won in the presidential election either.”


"Twin Eagle"


Staff writer Eva Elekes wrote in left-of-center Nepszava (10/25): “President Bush has anxiously asked left-wing President Aleksander Kwasniewski arriving to say good-bye what he may expect of his, probably right-wing successor....  Warsaw will continue to undertake its NATO responsibilities in the future, and Lech Kaczynski supporting law and order, opposing homosexuality and emphasizing the importance of Christian values would get on well with President Bush.”


"A Poetic Question"


Endre Aczel asserted in center-left Nepszabadsag (10/24):  "What would it have been if the Polish voters, even by mere participation, had legitimized the liberal-conservative view against the clerical-nationalist one?  Not much.  The conflict of the visions of the world and future of Kaczynski and Tusk is not only irrelevant because the parties of these two people will govern in the future in a coalition, but also because, even in the most positive sense, the head of the polish state is merely a 'medium strong president,' practically with no influence on anything except for foreign policy.  And if he only has influence on this, let’s see.  The Polish pain can be identified by two names:  the Russian one and the German one.  The anachronistic fear of the German-Russian conspiracy is hunting the Polish so much that they are holding on to America in their despair."


IRELAND:  "Poland's Government"


The center-left Irish Times editorialized (10/25):  “With the victory of Mr. Lech Kaczynski in Poland's presidential elections his populist right-wing Law and Justice Party has won a double endorsement from voters following its success in September's general elections....  Poland's powerful bureaucracy will ensure overall continuity in its foreign policy, as will its interest in budgetary transfers from Brussels.  But there will be anxiety in Berlin and Moscow about future relations with Poland, and satisfaction in Washington that its pro-American line will be reinforced.  Domestic policy will have much greater priority. Mr Kaczynski's party wants a new Polish constitution to promote traditional moral values and a reforming 'fourth republic' based on a French-style presidential democracy to tackle endemic corruption.  He wants to cut taxes, boost pensions and family benefits and tackle the 18 per cent jobless rate. He will certainly have a powerful platform to do this in a parliament with so little centrist or left-wing representation.  Some of the new political divisions in Poland echo those of its neighbours, not least differences between Dr. Angela Merkel and her CSU partners in Germany.”


POLAND:  "We Are Waiting"


Editor-in-chief Grzegorz Gauden wrote in centrist Rzeczpospolita (10/24):  "Poland faces external and internal challenges.  Among the most urgent ones is the undetermined shape of the EU budget for 2007-2013, the years Poland expects to receive resources to substantially modernize the country.  Striving for EU money and getting it is one thing, effectively managing the funds is another thing.  To absorb such huge resources would require the reform of the state, decentralization, and strengthening of local governments.  The presidential election campaign and political calculation paralyzed government formation for a month.  The public is fed up with this.  Therefore, both the winner and the loser must now jointly lead to the establishment of a new government based on a strong parliamentary coalition.  As of yesterday, electoral programs and slogans ceased to matter.  What counts now is the program of governance.  We are waiting."


"The Fourth Republic Of The Kaczynski Brothers"


Editor-in-chief Helena Luczywo opined in liberal Gazeta Wyborcza (10/24):  "The Kaczynski brothers' party assumes full responsibility for the next four years.  Taking advantage of support from extreme right and populists, they take on themselves responsibility for not letting those communities ruin Poland.  Beyond doubt, it is a success of a coalition which distrusts the market [economy] and European institutions, one that negatively assesses the outcome of the last 15 years.  It would be a bad thing if the governance of Poland were dominated by the party that fears modernity, Europe, tolerance, market economy....  Let us believe that the new president will safeguard the principle of equal rights of citizens before law, that he will not allow for the appropriation of the state, purges and politicization of all spheres of life.  And in foreign policy, he will be able to get along with our European partners and neighbors."


ROMANIA:   "A Euro-skeptic Conservative Leading Poland"


Bogdan Munteanu commented In the independent Gandul (10/25):  “In all probability, the new president will bring significant changes to Poland’s political life that will also reverberate within the EU....  Kaczynski will have to show he is faithful to the aging and poor electorate to whom he owes his spectacular victory, so he will not promote any of the liberal reforms championed by Tusk....  The success of his mandate depends on the practical confirmation of his incorruptible aura.  Without any concrete results...the capital of trust of the coalition between the president’s twin brother’s party and Tusk’s Civic Platform runs the risk of collapsing just as quickly as it was created during the last years of left-wing government.”


"Kaczynski & Kaczynski"


The independent Romania Libera carried an editorial by Cristian Campeanu (10/25):  “Lech Kaczynski’s program and campaign statements outline a left wing with an ideology that hasn’t been seen in Eastern Europe for a long time now....  The fact that he’s an anti-Communist does not mean that the future president has any sympathy at all for capitalism. The real test begins now. The two parties are forced to form a coalition if they want to have a strong government.”




INDONESIA:  "Kaczynski And Polish Politics"


Leading independent Kompas commented (10/26): “Finally Lech Kaczynski, from the conservative Law and Justice Party, beat Donald Tusk in the Polish presidential election, Sunday....  Under Kaczynski, Poland will be led by a president who is oriented to the right, and ruled by a conservative coalition from the same party.  There is no strong center or left camp in the parliament.  In addition to receiving strong support in parliament, the Polish president constitutionally holds tremendous power.  He is the supreme leader of the armed forces and has major influence in directing economic and foreign policies.  He can also veto draft laws.  Some worry that the veto power might be used to change parliament’s plans to bring Poland’s economy to the free market.”


Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

This site is produced and maintained by the U.S. Department of State. Links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views contained therein.

Back To Top

blue rule
IIP Home  |  Issue Focus Home