Poland's Kaczynski twins strive for peaks of power

If identical twins Lech and Jaroslaw Kaczynski succeed in their bid to ensnare the two highest posts in Poland in upcoming legislative and presidential elections, they would present their fellow Poles and world leaders with a conundrum. How do you tell them apart?

Jaroslaw is leading the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party’s drive for power in Sunday’s legislative election, and if his party is successful, could become Poland’s next prime minister.

His brother Lech, presently the mayor of Warsaw, is one of the front-runners in next month’s presidential election.

The problem is, even colleagues who have worked with them for years have been known to have trouble telling which Kaczynski is which.

“I had problems telling them apart in the beginning, but now I have learned how to do it,” said Sylwia Kwas, one of the leaders of the Kaczynskis’ campaign committee.

“Lech has a mole on his cheek,” she confided.

Had they been running for office a few years ago, the task of telling them apart would have been easier, because Lech had a moustache back then. Unfortunately, he’s shaved it off since.

But, says the mayor of Warsaw and would-be future president, besides the physical resemblance, “We’re not totally identical.”

Lech is married, with one daughter; Jaroslaw is single, he pointed out.

“But it’s true that, in political terms, we share the same opinions, the same patriotism as our parents, who fought in the resistance in World War II,” said Lech.

He also highlighted one of the political advantages of having a twin.
“You always have a colleague or boss you can count on.

“My brother Jarek,” he went on, using the diminutive for Jaroslaw,” was born first, 45 minutes before me. And, as is often the case with twins, he is the leader out of the two of us.”

So why is it that Lech, not Jaroslaw, is running for Poland’s highest office?

“My brother has always pushed me to the fore. He prefers staying behind the front line, from where he can lead our political party,” the conservative Law and Justice (PiS).

Both have travelled the length and breadth of Poland as they campaign for office.

“But they avoid appearing together in public,” said Konrad Ciesiolkiewicz, a member of their electoral committee, who dismisses requests from journalists to interview the two together.

In their youth, the Kaczynski twins were inseparable, and even appeared in a film for children entitled “The story of the little hoodlums who took the moon.”

They went to the same primary and secondary school, and both studied law at the University of Warsaw. They were together in the anti-communist opposition, and when the Solidarity trade union was born. Both were close to Solidarity founder and former Polish president, Lech Walesa.

Once communism had been toppled in Poland, each was elected senator in 1989 in the country’s first free elections after World War II.

But in the 2005 campaign, being twins has not always served them well.

“At one stage, when we were leading in the polls, people got scared [about having twins as president and prime minister], even though Jaroslaw said he would not take the post of prime minister if we both won,” Lech said.

“And our rivals have turned the fact that we are twins into a political weapon.

“But accusing us of nepotism is utterly ridiculous. Nepotism is when you give posts to members of your family,” said Lech.

“We’ve both worked hard to carve ourselves a niche.”

The twins’ dreams of success seems increasingly unlikely to bear fruit, as polls published one week ahead of the legislative election showed PiS to be trailing dozens of percentage points behind the economically liberal Civic Platform (PO).

And in the presidential election, which goes to a first round on October 9, PO’s Donald Tusk is convincingly leading Lech in the opinion polls.

If the poll predictions are borne out, the twins who once play-acted at stealing the moon will not steal to the fore of Polish politics but will finish in the place tailor-made for twins: number two. - AFP

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