Everybody knew he would lose in his fight against Tusk’s renomination, but few expected Jaroslaw Kaczyński to be such a bad loser.
But everybody knew he was stubborn. As the former Polish president Lech Walesa once put it: “I underestimated the twins.” He meant the Kaczyński twins, Lech and Jarosław, but now, with only Jarosław left alive, Walesa would say that one is even worse than two.
Jarosław Kaczyński (67) is the great winner of the Polish elections of October 2015, which gave an absolute parliamentary majority to his Law and Justice party (PiS). He publicly thanked his dead twin brother, calling him “Mr. President” and letting everyone see his tears.
The identical twins were known before entered politics. As children, Jarosław and Lech Kaczyński starred in the 1962 Polish film “The Two Who Stole the Moon”, and, being identical, they both kept that deceitful childish round face, their trade mark, into symbiotic adult life.
Jarosław is resentful, having never forgiven Walesa a joke about his (and his late brother’s) sexuality. Jarosław remained unmarried, and he lived with his ailing mother until her hospitalisation. In 2007, he said himself that his only sleeping partner was Alik, his cat.
He embraced the Catholic right wing already as a child and is obsessed with keeping clean the Polish identity clean, in a fairly homogenous country, where a black man out in the street is still seen as an oddity even today.
In a parliamentary debate, Kaczyński said previous the pro-European government of Civic Platform had no right to take decisions on accepting migrants under foreign pressure because the decision may hurt the daily lives of Poles.
He later said refugees should be checked for diseases and parasites, a comment that drew accusations of using ultra-nationalist, fascist imagery to fan hatred and fear.
Jarosław is also revengeful, and his deep distrust of big European powers, particularly Germany, remains intact, as analysts say he is expected to pull all the strings.
With a more assertive Poland, the EU will have a harder time dealing with Europe’s largest refugee crisis since World War Two, negotiating a global deal on climate change and forging a united stance towards a resurgent Russia in the east.
Jarosław is hawkish on Russia, more than the ordinary Pole, following the 2010 crash of Poland’s presidential jet in Smolensk, Russia, in which Lech, who was then head of state, died along with 95 other high-ranking officials affiliated with the party.
Jarosław Kaczyński has long argued that Russia bears at least partial responsibility for the crash in thick fog, and that his brother was probably assassinated. Jarosław has the profound conviction that the plane was voluntarily downed by the Russians and that Donald Tusk, at that time Polish prime minister, didn’t do anything to clarify the circumstances. Moscow and Tusk strongly deny the accusations.
Jarosław said Tusk, who chairs EU summits as president of the European Council, bears responsibility due to negligence.
Relations between Tusk and the Kaczyński twins have always been frosty and tense. In 2008 already, at the October EU summit, both Tusk and the late president Lech Kaczyński fought for the right to sit at the table in Brussels with the other leaders. Tusk refused to let Kaczyński have an official plane and headed himself for Brussels, but Kaczyński chartered his own flight and appeared at the Council, like the ghost of revenge in Hamlet, embarrassing Tusk and everybody else around the table.
After his electoral victory, Jarosław chose not to hold office. His short term as prime minister (2006-2007) didn’t leave good memories. But he has total authority over the new prime minister, Beata Szydło, as well as over the country‘s president, Andrzej Duda, two protégés from his own party.
But does that mean that he should be isolated and ostracised inside the EU? No, of course not. His party has been elected. After all this is what European democracy is all about. In the end, Kaczyński is no more reactionary than Berlusconi… or even Walesa, for that matter.