2009 is upon us and it’s perhaps time to take stock of 2008 and consider who were the biggest players on Poland’s political scene, who people took most notice of and who was the most influential Polish politician. Several names spring to mind but we can safely whittle the number down to five politicians:
Lech Kaczyński, President of Poland
Janusz Palikot, Civic Platform politician
Radosław Sikorski, Minister of Foreign Affairs
Donald Tusk, Prime Minister of Poland
Lech Wałęsa, former President of Poland and leader of Solidarity
Poland’s President has been on the front pages for the majority of 2008. However, for most of that time, the former head of Law and Justice (PiS) has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Lech Kaczyński hit the headlines for his ongoing war with two other Polish political heavyweights – Lech Wałęsa (his former employer) and Donald Tusk (a one-time friend).
Palikot has become Civic Platform’s (PO) aggressive little mascot, a renegade that the governing party is able to let loose every now and again to take a swipe at the President and the opposition, Law and Justice. Palikot hit the headlines in 2008 by claiming the President had alcohol problems and should have regular health checks to see if he is ‘fit’ enough to govern.
Radosław Sikorski’s comebackability, first from senator to Defence Minister (when PiS was in power), sacking (by PiS) and then appointment as Foreign Minister (by PO) has solidified his position as an expert in foreign policy and high government advisor. Rumours that he could become NATO’s new leader, though far-fetched, could be a sign of great things to come.
The PM has by no means had an easy ride this year. Constant bickering and petty squabbling with the President have not gone down well with the Polish public denting his popularity. Tusk seems to be a man always ready for the race but never managing to get to the finish line. 2008 has been a year of near successes and Poland’s much-needed reforms still seem a long way off.
Wałęsa spent much of 2008 trying to clear his name after a book was published claiming he had collaborated with the communists. Lech Kaczyński publicly slurred Wałęsa and spurned him during Independence Day celebrations by not inviting him to the official do. However, Wałęsa’s year finished on a high note with his own Nobel Peace Prize Anniversary celebrations attended by the world’s greatest politicians, famous personalities and finest dignitaries.