• Law & Justice party seeks to downplay deputy chief's comments
  • Most surveys show drop in party support before Oct. 25 ballot

Poland’s leading opposition Law & Justice party is on the defensive three weeks before a general election after its deputy leader suggested that European Council President Donald Tusk may have been a communist-era agent for Germany.

Opinion polls show the party’s lead over the ruling Civic Platform is declining after it turned to more negative campaigning and toughened its stance on letting migrants into Poland, which alienated some centrist voters. This week, comments from Law & Justice deputy chief Antoni Macierewicz, who accuses his political opponents of “assassinating” President Lech Kaczynski, who died in a plane crash in 2010, have made front-page news.

The tightening race has raised the prospect of a messy coalition-building process following the Oct. 25 election. Seeking to keep the campaign focused on Civic Platform’s track record and quell media speculation that Macierewicz may take a senior cabinet post, Beata Szydlo, Law & Justice’s candidate for prime minister, said on Thursday that she’d nominate former justice minister and lawmaker Jaroslaw Gowin as defense minister if she leads the next government.

“We’ve had enough of the present ruling party trying to create facts that don’t exist, I want to end such speculation once and for all,” Szydlo told a news conference in Warsaw, when asked about whether she agreed with Macierewicz’s comments and could work with him in government. “It won’t be the media or the Civic Platform that will decide who will join my cabinet.”

Smolensk Revisited

Macierewicz was recorded as saying during a meeting in Chicago this week that he was leaving it up to his audience to decide whether Tusk, one of the European Union’s most-senior figures and a former Civic Platform leader, had worked for East Germany’s Stasi secret service.

The lawmaker also said he has a list of those responsible for the crash of a government plane in Smolensk, Russia, that five years ago killed Law & Justice leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s twin brother Lech. Separate investigations by both countries have showed that pilots were at fault in the disaster, which killed 96 people.

As recently as last month, surveys showed Law & Justice winning a majority in parliament after promising to reduce the retirement age and offer more family benefits, policies that may inflate the budget deficit and which have helped Polish bonds underperform their regional peers. Poland’s local-currency securities have returned 1.3 percent in dollars since the end of August, compared with 2.7 percent for Hungary’s, 2.1 percent for Romania’s and 1.5 percent for the Czech Republic’s, according to Bloomberg indexes.

‘True Face’

Support for Law & Justice has dropped by an average of 3.3 percentage points in polls by published over the last two weeks, although a Millward Brown survey conducted for TVN television showed on Thursday that the opposition’s lead over Civic Platform grew to 16 percentage points from an 11-point gap two weeks ago.

Civic Platform has long accused Law & Justice of hiding its “true face” by naming Szydlo to run their campaign, while sidelining power brokers Kaczynski and Macierewicz, both among the country’s least-trusted politicians.

Tusk, a self-declared foot soldier in Poland’s pro-democracy Solidarity movement in the 1980s, was found not to have collaborated with communist-era security agencies by a special court in 2005, as part of a regular vetting process for leading Polish politicians.

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