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Poland's Kaczynski says won't quit after poll defeat

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Tue, 11 Oct 2011 12:40 GMT
Author: Reuters
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* Says hopes to emulate Hungary's Orban

* "Day of victory will come" - Kaczynski

* Critics say he stuck in past

By Gareth Jones

WARSAW, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Polish opposition leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski on Tuesday ruled out quitting over his election defeat and said he hoped to emulate Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban in leading his right-wing party through setbacks to eventual victory.

Kaczynski's conservative-nationalist Law and Justice party (PiS) won 30 percent of the vote in Sunday's election against 39 percent for Prime Minister Donald Tusk's ruling pro-business Civic Platform (PO) which will now form a new government.

It was Kaczynski's sixth successive election loss in a row but the feisty former prime minister was typically defiant.

"I believe the day of victory will come, so I will not quit," he told a news conference.

Kaczynski invoked Hungary's Orban, a maverick right-winger who swept to power last year with a big majority, cut ties with the International Monetary Fund, nationalised private pension assets, slapped big taxes on banks and other firms and passed a new constitution that critics say erodes democratic freedoms.

"In Hungary, all the enemies of the rightist reforms Orban wanted to introduce -- and we want more or less the same things as Orban -- kept on telling him to leave," said Kaczynski.

"Luckily, he never did and now he can implement those changes."

Kaczynski's blend of economic populism, Polish nationalism, Euroscepticism, distrust of Poland's historic foes Germany and Russia and devout Roman Catholicism holds strong appeal for older Poles living in the countryside or small towns.

His critics say he is stuck in the past and has little to offer younger, urban Poles, many of whom voted instead for a new ultra-liberal party, Palikot's Movement, which backs gay rights, abortion and an end to the Roman Catholic Church's privileges.

Law and Justice backs more state involvement in the Polish economy and opposes large-scale privatisations.


Kaczynski's invocation of Orban is aimed at shoring up the hopes of his disappointed voters, political analysts said, but Poland today, with its robust economic growth of around 4 percent, is not comparable to pre-Orban Hungary, which endured a wrenching crisis and had to be bailed out by the IMF.

"Kaczynski's promise to his electors is viable only on the assumption that Poland will be affected by a crisis comparable to that in Hungary (in 2008) or even bigger, combined with a total discrediting of the ruling coalition," said Jan Kucharczyk, head of the Institute of Public Affairs in Warsaw.

"Then conservative populism would become more attractive, but the basis of this kind of politics is really anti-modernisation and in Poland it will shrink gradually for demographic reasons."

Kaczynski seems to be banking on Tusk's new government eventually succumbing to the turmoil now brewing across Europe as the EU struggles to overcome its sovereign debt crisis, paving the way for his party's return to power on a nationalist, Eurosceptical platform, analysts said.

"He knows how to wait, he is not desperate for power at any price," said Marek Matraszek, head of political consultancy CEC Government Relations.

Kaczynski has one other motive for staying on -- preserving the legacy of his twin Lech Kaczynski, Poland's late president who died along with 95 others, including many PiS officials, in a plane crash in Smolensk, Russia, on April 10, 2010.

"Kaczynski is driven by a need to honour his brother. He feels fundamentally that Tusk and Civic Platform somehow laid the foundations for what happened in Smolensk," said Matraszek.

A day after Sunday's election, as on the 10th day of every month since the plane crash, Kaczynski -- who always wears a black tie in memory of his twin -- attended a church memorial service and led a procession to the presidential palace.

"Our road will be a long one, but only those who know how not to succumb are victorious, those who fight for their truth, and our truth is irrefutable," Kaczynski told his supporters.

(Additional reporting by Pawel Sobczak; Writing by Gareth Jones; Editing by xxxxxxx)

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