Thursday

13th Dec 2018

Analysis

Meet the new Mr Poland - worse than the old one

  • Brudzinski (l) with Morawiecki, the PM, who is not a contender (Photo: pis.org.pl)

Poland's power behind the throne, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, is unwell, but the ageing party chief's potential successor could be even worse for EU relations.

The 68-year old Kaczynski has been out of sight for the past month in his bed at the Military Medical Institute in Warsaw.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Kaczynski (c): Most recent photos on PiS' website were from 14 April (Photo: pis.org.pl)

It is due to an infected knee, Poland's ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, which Kaczynski chairs, has said.

"I'll start with the bad news, especially for all those who either wish Kaczynski a quick political retirement or who spread nasty, fake lies about his health," Polish interior minister, Joachim Brudzinski, joked on Wednesday (7 June).

"Jaroslaw Kaczynski indeed has a problem with his knee. It causes him pain … but he's not thinking about retirement," Brudzinski said.

The PiS chairman might be up and about in a few days, a party spokeswoman added.

The comment on "nasty, fake lies" referred to some Polish reports that Kaczynski was actually being treated for cancer.

But even if he springs back into public life, his prolonged absence has prompted speculation on who might succeed him when, one day, he does step aside.

Kaczynski has pulled the strings behind the scenes of Polish democracy since PiS won power three years ago.

He has shuffled around ministers and prime ministers, while steering Warsaw into a clash with the European Commission over judicial independence and migrant sharing.

He has said outrageous things on asylum seekers and has accused Donald Tusk, the Polish EU Council president, of being in on a purported Russian plot on the 2010 Smolensk air disaster, which killed his twin brother, Lech Kaczynski.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, a confirmed bachelor, who lives with his cats, and who disdains modern technology, like computers, embodies a 'Little Poland' mentality on EU affairs.

His illness has also shown how much personal power he wields and the opacity of his regime.

Paparazzi have kept watch outside the Military Medical Institute to see who goes in and out to visit him. Snaps of prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki, ex-prime minister Beata Szydlo, Brudzinski, and others have prompted 'kremlinology' in Polish media on who is in favour with the PiS chief and who might take over if he does not get better.

But if Kaczynski has been bad for EU relations, then his anointed successor, Brudzinski, sounds worse.

Kaczynski 2.0

Brudzinski, the interior minister, who is also the PiS vice-president, is a Kaczynski loyalist who already stood in for him at a PiS meeting in May, which divvied out regional jobs.

He holidays with Kaczynski and posts chummy photos together on social media.

"If I broke my leg, if something happened to me, he [Brudzinski] is the one I want to replace me," Kaczynski said, in a prescient remark, in 2016.

Even less well known in Brussels than PiS prime ministers, Brudzinski is more Catholic than the Pope when it comes to Kaczynski's views on EU relations, migrants, and Smolensk.

"When I drove to Warsaw today, I filled up with petrol at Orlen [a Polish firm], despite all those 'Europeans'," he said last summer on Twitter.

People going on holiday should fill up their cars "only at POLISH stations. Everything that's POLISH is the best," he said.

Kaczynski once said Muslim migrants were infected with contagious "amoebas", but Brudzinski went one better.

There were no roses in Poland at New Year's Eve because feminists had bought them all to give to Muslim rapists in Germany, Brudzinski once joked on Twitter. "They're preparing to give them out after New Year's to the hot young bucks called 'refugees'," he said, in a reference to sexual assaults in Cologne, Germany, two years ago.

He was equally obnoxious on Smolensk.

"Get fucked by a dog", he tweeted in 2013, when local authorities in Bydgoszcz, a Polish town, declined to name a bridge after the late Lech Kaczynski.

All this bodes ill for delicate EU talks on rule of law and asylum reform if Brudzinski was to get his hands on the PiS reins.

His rise in the party despite his foul mouth shows the depth of parochialism and chauvinism in the conservative Polish establishment, which bodes ill even if he does not.

Broader public backing also indicates the popularity of PiS-type thinking in Polish society.

Kaczynski's party is polling to win parliament elections next year by a wide margin.

Nine percent of respondents wanted Brudzinski to take over PiS if need be, putting him in second place after Morawiecki in a recent survey by Rzeczpospolita, a Polish newspaper.

Forty percent of respondents believed Brudzinski was in line for the PiS top job in a poll by Gazeta Wyborcza, another Polish daily.

PiS-ology

PiS declined to answer EUobserver's questions on Kaczynski's health or Brudzinski's potential succession.

But party insiders have had plenty to say about the PiS pretender in off-the-record remarks to Polish media in recent days and further back.

Brudzinski, a 50-year old from a working-class family, who was once arrested for violence on a train, was a "street thug, but dressed in a suit", one PiS source said. "He cursed like a shoemaker and loved the good old days when he used to knock back cheap booze," another PiS colleague said.

Other rivals for Kaczynski's crown, whose mandate as PiS chairman expires in 2020, include Mariusz Blaszczak, Andrzej Duda, Jaroslaw Gowin, Antoni Macierewicz, and Zbigniew Ziobro.

Morawiecki, the PM, an urbane former banker, was ruled out as being a PiS outsider in an in-depth article on the succession issue by Gazeta Wyborcza last Sunday.

The former PM, Beata Szydlo, was said to be eyeing an MEP post instead.

Duda, the Polish president, had no PiS clique to back him, while Macierewicz, an ultra-nationalist MP, was out of favour because Kaczynski and he had quarrelled about World War II history, PiS insiders told the Polish newspaper.

That left Blaszczak, the defence minister, Gowin, the education minister, and Ziobro, the justice minister and prosecutor general - few of whom would augur well for EU ties.

Blaszczak is mild by PiS standards, but Gowin, a devout Roman Catholic, was previously ejected from Donald Tusk's old party, Civic Platform, for making bigoted comments on embryo testing.

The last contender, Ziobro, is the author and enforcer of the judicial reforms that gave PiS control of Polish courts, in what could see the EU impose sanctions on a member state (Poland) for the first time in the 60-year history of the union.

Anti-semitism 'disturbingly normalised' in Europe

Almost 40 percent of European Jews contemplate leaving their home country because they no longer feel safe, and almost 85 percent say their number one concern in Europe is anti-semitism and racism, according to a new EU survey.

Merkel loyalist AKK wins CDU leadership battle

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, seen as championing similar policies to Angela Merkel, has won the CDU party leadership contest and is thus the frontrunner to become chancellor once Merkel leaves. But a split party will mean challenges.

News in Brief

  1. Hungary votes to create new court overseen by government
  2. Polish PM calls confidence vote in EU judicial clash
  3. MEPs urge Russia to free Ukrainian prisoners
  4. No renegotiation of Brexit deal, MEPs say
  5. Italy to spend less than EU feared: report
  6. May: new leader would have to delay or rescind Brexit
  7. Brexit chaos as Tory MPs to vote on May's leadership
  8. EU set to spend 3.2 percent more in 2019

Opinion

EU parliament vote strengthens whistleblower protection

We must not undervalue what a massive step the European Parliament vote represents. The hard work has paid off. We can take a moment to celebrate, but the hard work begins again for finalising strong protection for European whistleblowers.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. EU awaits May's future, insists on no renegotiation
  2. Deja vu: Bulgaria pipeline to face EU scrutiny
  3. MEPs and EU staff hid from Strasbourg gunman
  4. 'Trumped Up': The curious case of Babis' conflicts of interest
  5. EU rules out Brexit changes, but could help May
  6. Lead MEP on Morocco resigns as her report passes
  7. UN text not yet ready for ministers, says EU climate czar
  8. Russian propaganda prompts alarm in Ukraine and France

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  2. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  3. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  5. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  6. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  8. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  10. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  11. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us