A monument in Piłsudski Square in Warsaw commemorates the 2010 plane crash in which Polish president Lech Kaczyński perished along with 95 other passengers. On the eve of Poland’s most dramatic elections since the end of Soviet Communism, a man who claimed to be carrying a bomb clambered to the top of the monument and threatened to blow himself to kingdom come. It made the news that night, and the police evacuated the square, but no one paid much attention, even as the police were leading him from the scene: After all, the whole campaign was conducted in an excitable tone.
Jarosław Kaczyński, twin brother of the late president, has faulted Donald Tusk, then Poland’s prime minister, for his investigation of the crash. He has also charged that reforms Tusk had enacted when he was prime minister between 2007 and 2014 had created a “hell for women” by raising the retirement age. On Sunday, Tusk made his comeback in Polish politics with a stunning victory over the Kaczyńskis’ populist Law and Justice party after a campaign in which Tusk suggested he would hold certain Law and Justice leaders criminally accountable for their policies over the past eight years. Tusk will negotiate an agreement with two coalition partners in the coming weeks.
The United States aside, Poland is the only Western democracy in which each of the two main political formations believes the other is engaged in a diabolical mission to destroy the country and all it stands for. You could even blame Poland for inventing this particular electoral dysfunction. In 2015, shortly before Donald Trump came to power across the Atlantic, a similar uprising overthrew Poland’s business, social, and artistic elites, then as now represented by the Civic Platform party.