Polish president names twin brother prime minister as moderate resigns


BERLIN -- Already weakened by coalition squabbles and disagreements with the European Union, President Lech Kaczynski of Poland announced over the weekend that today he would appoint his twin brother and longtime political partner, Jaroslav, to succeed Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, according to the Polish news agency PAP.

The resignation of Marcinkiewicz, considered one of the most popular politicians in Poland and one of the more moderate voices in the national-conservative coalition government, was confirmed Saturday. Neither the government nor the president's office would give an official reason for his resignation. The Kaczynskis have been trying to increase their grip on the fragile governing coalition as local elections approach in November.

Marcinkiewicz, 46, a physicist, was a surprise appointee in October. When the Law and Justice Party won parliamentary elections the preceding month, Jaroslav Kaczynski, who founded the party with his twin, was expected to become prime minister. But after Lech Kaczynski was elected president, he said it would send the wrong signal to the outside world if he and his twin held the two most powerful jobs in Polish politics.

Indeed, some analysts said they feared the appointment would further weaken Poland's role in Europe.

"At a time when Poland is trying to help its neighbor Belarus, support Ukraine's entry into the EU and NATO, and have a greater say in Europe, it needs all the help it can get from the bigger European countries, especially Germany," said Jan Truczczynski, who negotiated Poland's entry into the European Union in 2004, in a telephone interview yesterday. "Unfortunately, I am afraid the policies being pursued by this government are leading Poland down a one-way street, reducing its influence in Europe and even isolating it."

Since coming to power, the Law and Justice Party has clashed with Germany and other European Union countries over economic policy, particularly its protectionist policies and reluctance to privatize further.

A report issued last week by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warned that Poland's economy, growing at a strong 5.2 percent, could not be sustained as long as the government slowed public ownership, became less open to foreign investment and failed to introduce structural changes, particularly in the labor market.

It is difficult to see how the Kaczynski brothers can address these problems, especially before the local elections. Marcinkiewicz had tried to steer a moderate economic and foreign policy but was frequently undermined by President Kaczynski and the government's coalition partners. They include the Farmers' Self-Defense Party, led by Andrzej Lepper, who wants much more social spending, and the nationalist pro-Catholic League of Polish Families, led by the education minister, Roman Giertych.

When both parties were included in the governing coalition, Steffen Meller, the politically unaffiliated foreign minister, resigned, saying he could not support the policies of the government. Marcinkiewicz had no say in Meller's successor; President Kaczynski personally appointed Anna Fotyga, his foreign affairs adviser.

Last month, the finance minister, Zyta Gilowska, resigned over the disclosure that she had been an informer for the communist secret police during the 1980s. When Marcinkiewicz appointed Pawel Wojciechowski, an economic moderate, to fill the post, he was criticized by President Kaczynski for having failed to consult him beforehand.

Marcinkiewicz resigned at a low point for Poland's relations with Europe. Just days earlier, President Kaczynski, 57, canceled a "Weimar Triangle" meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Jacques Chirac of France.

These meetings were first started 15 years ago soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union to forge closer political, economic and security ties between the three largest countries in the European Union but also to break down decades of suspicions and tension between Warsaw and Berlin.

President Kaczynski's office canceled the meeting with very short notice, officially because he had become ill. But senior Polish diplomats and opposition politicians said the real reason was a satirical article published in the German daily newspaper Taz that described the Kaczynskis as "the Polish new potatoes."

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