Monday, September 19, 2011

Poland's Dr. Jekyll

Someone who completely transforms their behaviour, so much so he is almost unrecognisable, is often diagnosed with a personality disorder of some sort. In Polish politics, it means it's election time again.

Law and Justice (PiS) leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski is cranky, controversial, provincial, irritating, grating and completely self-righteous . . . until elections roll around. Then, he is jovial, funny, calm, moderate and an all-round nice guy.

Kaczynski performed this very act just last year for the presidential elections. He eventually lost to Bronislaw Komorowski, but he did get some 47% of the vote, a huge amount considering Kaczynski has among the biggest negative electorate in the country.

The PiS leader tried the very same thing in 2007 but only did it partially. This probably helps explain why his party lost. But in 2005, Kaczynski showed a far more moderate face than the one that eventually led the crazy coalition of his PiS, the far right LPR and the super-populist Samoobrona.

The funny thing about Kaczynski's Dr. Jekyll is it usually gives away to the Mr. Hyde almost immediately. In the concession speech after losing the presidential election last year, Kaczynski went immediately on the warpath and dropped any pretence of being a moderate leader focused on union, not interminable attacks on anyone that does not believe he is infallible.

The question is can Poles be fooled again? Will they really buy into the Mr. Nice Guy Kaczynski one more time?

I think yes. The Civic Platform's (PO) campaign seems so inept at present (i.e., trying to restrict free speech, standing PM preferring the bus to running Poland) that Kaczynski's nice guy tactics might even work. After he inevitably makes his Mr. Hyde switch, Polish voters would have only themselves to blame.

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