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Some of the campaign posters and ads in Poland are eerily similar to American versions.
WARSAW, Poland — Tomasz Nalecz wants to become president of Poland, so he turned for help to someone who has already won a presidential election — Barack Obama.
Obama's assistance came not literally but figuratively — or more accurately, photographically. Nalecz, a member of the center-left Social Democratic Party, put up billboards with his photo in front of Poland's presidential palace on one side of the ad, and a grinning Obama in front of the U.S. Capitol on the other.
The ad has created a bit of a fuss in Poland because Nalecz didn't ask the White House for permission to use the U.S. president's picture. His adviser says that the image is in the public domain.
Nalecz's gambit underlines just how closely Poland follows U.S. political trends and fashions.
“There is an enormous fascination in Poland with U.S. politics,” said Eryk Mistewicz, a leading Polish political consultant.
Obama serves as model for both the opposition and the center-right government of Donald Tusk, the prime minister. Just before Christmas Tusk was interviewed by a 14-year-old high-school student. Obama had done the same a few months earlier with an 11-year-old. Tusk's staff told the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper, that, while the parallel is obvious, Tusk had done similar interviews in the past, so he was not simply copying the U.S. leader.
Poland has long been one of the most pro-American countries in Europe. During the final years of the George W. Bush administration, Poland was one of the few countries in the world where the internationally reviled Bush still had a strong base of support.
The fascination with the U.S. comes in part from a very long history of Poles traveling to America for work, with the result that it has a very large ethnic Polish population, and from the role that the U.S. played in helping bring down communism. While European countries like Britain were tainted in Polish eyes for cooperating with the Soviets who occupied Poland after World War II, the U.S. received less of the blame, although it too acquiesced in Poland becoming a part of the Soviet empire.
When Poland regained its independence in 1989, the U.S. was seen as a model democracy and free market economy, and Poland's most reliable ally.
So over the last 20 years, many political consultants have made trips to watch U.S. elections, hoping to bring some of the same razzmatazz to Polish politics.