Poland’s Kaczynski Ready to Waive Bid for Premiership in Gambit

Poland’s opposition leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, one of the country’s least-trusted politicians, is ready to back his deputy as the Law & Justice party’s candidate for prime minister ahead of October’s general election.

Kaczynski, 65, is seeking to sweep back into power after eight years in the opposition, building on the victory of his protege Andrzej Duda in last month’s presidential ballot. Law & Justice will present Beata Szydlo, who ran Duda’s campaign, as its candidate to head the government on Saturday, Nasz Dziennik daily reported on Wednesday, without revealing its sources.

“You don’t change a winning team and Szydlo was a great asset in the campaign,” Kazimierz Kik, a political scientist at Jan Kochanowski University in Kielce, said by phone. “Let’s remember that Kaczynski is calling the shots and he may yet end up leading the government if Law & Justice wins.”

Kaczynski’s party is poised to unseat the ruling Civic Platform, with Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz’s government reeling from an eavesdropping scandal and discontent over the lack of well-paid jobs. Kopacz shuffled her cabinet this week and vowed to win back voters in the last four months of the parliamentary term, taking on some of the opposition’s spending promises.

Law & Justice is backed by 33 percent of Poles, compared with 19 percent for the Civic Platform and 29 percent by a protest movement formed by rock musician Pawel Kukiz, according to a June 10-11 survey by pollster Estymator for Newsweek Polska. Kaczynski, who was prime minister for 16 months until November 2007, isn’t trusted by 50 percent of the electorate, the fourth-worst showing among the country’s politicians from a CBOS poll carried out on May 14-20.

Campaign Mastermind

Szydlo, 52, is Law & Justice’s spokeswoman on economic issues who masterminded Duda’s victory over incumbent Bronislaw Komorowski in a campaign based on town-square meetings, where the president-elect criticized the ruling party for failing to improve economic prospects for Poles while offering a vision of a more “decent” society focused around family and Catholic values. Kaczynski, known for his bickering political style, was noticeably absent from Duda’s campaign, even skipping his election-night victory celebration, drawing accusations from the ruling camp that Law & Justice was hiding its true face.

Duda, who as president will have the right to veto legislation and a say over military and foreign policy, called Szydlo his “closest colleague” and also suggested she would make a good head of government earlier this month.

“If someone asks me if she would be a good prime minister at a time when Poles are looking for positive change and new pro-social approach, then I’ll reply: she’d be fantastic in this role,” Duda told Radio Krakow in an interview on June 5, according to a transcript on its website.

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