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HOT POTATOES: A presidential election campaign, in the shadow of a fatal crash

BLAME and sympathy are the twin fuels of Polish politics in the contest to elect a successor to President Lech Kaczynski, who died with his wife and 94 others in a plane crash at Smolensk, near Katyn, on April 10th. Only two candidates matter. One is Lech’s twin brother, Jaroslaw, leader of the opposition Law and Justice Party (PiS in its Polish acronym). The other is Bronislaw Komorowski, the speaker of the lower house of the Polish parliament, who has been acting president since the crash.

Mr Kaczynski’s popularity has shot up since the death of his brother. But it has risen from a low base. His patchy record as prime minister in 2006-07 remains a big weakness. Manic sleaze-busting and a focus on the lingering legacy of communist-era spies exhausted voters’ patience. A mostly hostile media portrayed him as weird and out of touch. His big strength is his personal honesty (until recently he did not even have a bank account). And he can expect a strong sympathy vote, both from the death of his brother and perhaps from another looming bereavement: his mother is critically ill.

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