With no official title, Jaroslaw Kaczynski is the definition of the politically obscure, a petite man who speaks only Polish, does not have a driver’s license, and touts family values despite having never been married himself. In spite of all this, Kaczynski, alongside his late twin brother Lech, amassed a following of loyal supporters at an astonishing rate, and now presides over the Law and Justice Party which controls the Polish legislature. Kaczynski, in fact, is the founder of the Law and Justice Party, after becoming appalled at what he saw to be a morally corrupt Polish government, dictated by the same factionalized elites who had flourished under the Soviet rule. Addressing these so-called enemies of the state as “gangsters”, “cronies”, and “reds” in his various speeches, Kaczynski has convinced his Polish audience that he is working to restore Poland’s pride in its national identity and economic prosperity, the latter of which attracts voters, making Kaczynski a populist nationalist..
Often publicizing the names of those who he believes to be agents working against the state, Kaczynski has gone so far as to accuse Donald Tusk, an ex-Prime Minster of Poland and current President of the European Economic Council, of having conspired with the Russian government to plan the plane accident which claimed the lives of his brother and other high Polish officials, despite it being officially declared as an accident. Kaczynski’s blatant self-righteousness embarrassed Poland on many fronts, particularly when he attempted to prevent the aforementioned Tusk from being eligible for reelection as the President of the Economic Council, which was decided by a humiliating vote of 27 to 1, with Poland as the only nation voting in favor of Tusk’s suspension. This was not the first time Kaczynski challenged the authority of the European Union, which is currently in a fragile state due the tremors of the up-coming Brexit. The E.U. could be pushed to the breaking point if Poland continues to deny its authority. Kaczynski himself has even questioned the stability of the European Union, citing its “institutionalized undermining of the nation state” as the primary source of its recent shortcomings. The political agenda of both Kaczynski and the European Union are also vastly different; Kaczynski advocates for his self-described “cultural counterrevolution”, a movement which promotes the idea of a conservative, nationalistic state with an emphasis on religion. These values appeal to the majority of Poland, a country in which 86.9% of its citizens identify as Roman Catholic and where 96.9% of all its citizens are ethnically Polish. This demographic allows for Kaczysnki’s anti-EU rhetoric to flourish, for the brand of conservative Catholicism often practiced by the majority of Poles clashes with the secularism of the European Union.
While many authors are quick to cast Kaczynski as a “canny populist”, for his overwhelming support in Poland and political viewpoints that align with Poland’s majority, it has become apparent that his belief in conservative values, much like that of the average Pole, is serendipitous, not calculated. Having lived through Poland’s transitional periods, in which its changed hands from Nazi Germany to the Soviet Union to its own autonomy, it is unsurprising that Kaczynski has fostered the idea of a Polish identity, much like his fellow Pole.
The way in which he goes about enacting legislation that protects his precious Polish state is undeniably authoritarian, from his censorship of the Constitutional Tribunal’s rulings to his disarming of political opposition by holding late-night voting sessions for his party. Kaczynski has continued to consolidate his political power under the guise of rooting out corruption, recently having attempted to pass legislation that would have allowed for Law and Justice Party to be in direct control of the judicial system, the last autonomous governmental body. If the international community does not rebuke Kaczynski’s actions, and continues to allow him to continue to dismantle the democratic checks and balances that limit his power, not only will Kaczynski be able to bring disorder to Poland, but also to the entire European Union.