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Poland's Twin Leaders Gain Victory on Secrets

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Poland's Twin Leaders Gain Victory on Secrets


Poland's Twin Leaders Gain Victory on Secrets

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

As of this week, identical twin brothers are running the country of Poland. One is the president, the head of state, and the other has now been sworn in as the Prime Minister, the head of the government. And their policies are dividing the nation.

Take what happened today. The country took a big step toward opening its secret police files from Communist times. The lower house of Parliament voted to allow public access to files of people who hold positions of public trust, including politicians, diplomats and other public servants.

NPR's Emily Harris reports.

EMILY HARRIS reporting:

Last fall the Kaczynski twins promised they wouldn't take both top jobs in Poland, even if their party won presidential and Parliamentary elections. So when Lech won Poland's presidency, his brother Jaroslaw did not take the Prime Minister's job, even though their Law and Justice Party had won the Parliamentary vote, too.

Many observers saw Jaroslaw did run the government from behind the scenes and after the Prime Minister was ousted late one recent Friday evening, Jaroslaw formally started the job this week. Since the twin takeover, they've been called new Polish potatoes by a German newspaper and satirized in the U.S. by comedian Jon Stewart.

(Soundbite of The Daily Show)

Mr. JON STEWART (Host): How to tell the Kaczynskis apart? Well, follow the guidelines provided by Sunday's Washington Post. Lech is distinguished by two extra moles on his face. Jaroslaw is the unmarried brother who lives with their mother.

HARRIS: Supporters in Poland aren't laughing at that or at former Solidarity leader Lech Walesa's description of the twins as consumed by conspiracy theories. The brothers were active in Solidarity's opposition movement in the 1980s. They were kicked out of the movement in the early ‘90s in a policy clash with Walesa.

They then formed a new party that had marginal support for years. Journalist Mijow Karnovski(ph) has written a biography of the twins. He says they were determined to shift Poland's political center to the right, and he says they succeeded.

Mr. MIJOW KARNOVSKI (Polish journalist): I think they believe in a strong state. They really want to stop bribery and corruption. But on the other hand, it's true that they are hungry. They like power. But I think no more than others.

HARRIS: Although Law and Justice got the biggest chunk of votes in parliamentary elections last fall, it wasn't enough to form a government. Two far-right parties joined in a coalition. The government's emphasis on traditional family roles and Polish nationalism is dividing the country, as is the twins' determination to out people who helped the secret police before the fall of Communism more than 15 years ago. Law Professor Monica Poitik(ph) says it's too late to do that now.

Ms. MONICA POITIK (Law Professor): We are looking into the back only because they have no good plans for the future.

HARRIS: Many Poles suspect the secret police archives have been insufficiently guarded against forgeries or file destructions and some worry about the social impact if they're opened. Poitik says the hunt for previous Communist informers or collaborators feels uncomfortably familiar.

Ms. POITIK: I remember quite well the time when we were living in so-called Socialist Polish Republic, and I'm back. I'm back exactly to the times of Poland under the Soviet Union, the same style, the same arguments, the same way of acting and the same activity towards taking over all the democratic institutions by the party.

HARRIS: She's also worried about a plan to give the president full authority to appoint constitutional court judges. Poland's president is supposed to check the power of the Prime Minister, but no one here thinks President Lech would stand up to his twin, Jaroslaw.

(Soundbite of The Two That Stole the Moon)

HARRIS: As children, the two were inseparable and at one point starred in a movie. In a bit of dialogue circulating in emails among Poland's political class, the twins discuss ways of cheating in a race. No one is accusing them of cheating to win the presidency and the Prime Minister's job, but their joint government is being closely watched by many people both inside and outside the country.

Emily Harris, NPR News, Warsaw.

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