Tags: Poland | death | president | political

Poland Begins Political Wrangling Over Future

Monday, 19 April 2010 09:41 AM

KRAKOW, Poland – Poland steeled itself on Monday for a return to political wrangling after burying president Lech Kaczynski, as hundreds of mourners bid a final farewell at his tomb.

Lawmakers are this week set to announce June 20 as the date for presidential elections after Kaczynski and 95 others died in a plane crash in Russia, while other top posts left vacant by the accident must also be filled.

Around 150,000 mourners thronged the city of Krakow on Sunday for the funerals of Kaczynski and his wife Maria, who were buried alongside kings, national heroes and poets at the historic Wawel Castle.

"I hope that a certain social peace is preserved under the circumstances. The usual kind of election campaign is totally inappropriate," Jadwiga Wrobel, 67, told AFP as she queued to see the couple's tomb on Monday.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, one of the few foreign leaders to beat Europe's volcanic ash-spawned air travel crisis and attend the funeral, used the occasion to call for reconciliation between the two often hostile neighbours.

Kaczynski's government jet slammed into a forest in western Russia on April 10 while heading for a ceremony marking the 70th anniversary of the massacre of thousands of Polish prisoners of war by Soviet secret police in the nearby Katyn forest.

Polish acting president Bronislaw Komorowski has accepted Medvedev's invitation to attend a May 9 ceremony in Moscow's Red Square marking the 65th anniversary of Nazi Germany's defeat in World War II.

Besides the presidential couple, those who perished in the air crash included lawmakers from across the political spectrum, the military's top brass and iconic figures from the communist-era opposition.

A presidential ballot had in any case been due by October, with Kaczynski, a conservative nationalist first elected in 2005, expected to bid for a second term.

"The time of mourning is coming to an end. Politics is back in Poland and with it comes conflict, arguments and, let's have no illusions, scandal-mongering battles," Wojciech Maziarski, chief editor of the Polish edition of Newsweek, wrote Monday.

Komorowski, who became acting president according to the Polish constitution because he is speaker of parliament, had already been named as the candidate of Poland's governing liberal Civic Platform party. Polls had shown he was likely to beat Kaczynski.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the late president's identical twin, has been at the centre of growing speculation that he could now stand for president, although he has made no public statements since the crash.

He was prime minister in 2006-2007 and leads the conservative Law and Justice party, which he co-founded with his brother.

"I'm convinced that Jaroslaw Kaczynski will stand for president," political scientist Stanislaw Mocek told AFP, saying he would want both to fulfil his brother's "political destiny", but also that the party lacked other candiates with enough clout.

Another crash victim was Jerzy Szmajdzinski, the presidential candidate of the opposition Democratic Left Alliance, a movement long gripped by infighting.

Poland's central bank governor Slawomir Skrzypek also died in the crash. He had close ties with Kaczynski, making the search for a replacement a potential source of conflict.

Twenty bodies are still unidentified and undergoing DNA tests in Moscow which are expected to be completed by Wednesday, Poland's military prosecutor's office said.

Russia says it suspects pilot error in the crash.

Voice recordings from the accident are "significantly marred by noise and there is a large number of places in need of restoration," Russia's Interstate Aviation Committee said Monday in a statement.

Polish experts were expected in Moscow to help identify the voices of the crew members, it added.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

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KRAKOW, Poland – Poland steeled itself on Monday for a return to political wrangling after burying president Lech Kaczynski, as hundreds of mourners bid a final farewell at his tomb.
Monday, 19 April 2010 09:41 AM
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